Reflection February 21, 2020

Minister’s Reflection – Feb. 21/20
Rev. Dave Crawford

“The Case for Fear!”

You’ve heard of the “fight or flight” theory? It’s science, actually. Apparently nature, and tens of thousands of years of evolution, have imbued human beings with this prehistoric and yet still relevant biological reaction to danger or perceived danger. A psychologist friend once explained it to me in this way: our ancestors had to deal with daily threats to their very existence – predators were everywhere and humans were often prey. Over the course of time those ancestors developed the flight or fight response. In other words, with all our adrenalin pumping as a sabre-tooth tiger appeared before us out of the bush, there were only two available choices, neither guaranteed to work – either stand your ground and battle the beast, or flee for your life, run like you’ve never run before! Fight or flight! (Incidentally, those two heavyweights above are in a big fight, their second bout, tomorrow night. I can’t imagine the anxiety that would accompany climbing in the ring with either guy!)

How does “fight or flight” become relevant in our lives today? I can think of a few possible areas: public speaking, getting married, dealing with a cranky boss, a hiking close encounter with wildlife, a pushy neighbour. Moments or situations when the adrenalin rises, our hearts beat a bit faster, we experience fear, and either run and hide or ride out the storm of biology and emotions until it subsides. Flight or fight.

I tend to think fear gets a bad rap these days. Often blamed as the
underlying cause of any criticism of developing cultural mores, or norms
and standards, the designation of some viewpoint as ‘fear-based is
perhaps far too easily used as a weapon to limit open and free discussion,
the term manipulated in order to suppress debate, clamp down on free
speech. Even further, if a particular term can be attached to the suffix
“phobia”, even better. The connotations are openly qualitative, judgmental.
In labelling someone’s rational question, inquiry or blog as“fear-based” or
phobic, that person’s position is immediately relegated to the category of
irrelevant, biased, ignorant, even racist – end of discussion! Fear, in this
popular modern perspective, is just plain bad! Yet perhaps if fear isn’t
politicized, given its due, it may not always be something negative,
something to avoid.

A few years back Miho and I stumbled on a short-lived tv reality show which
was both interesting and hilarious. It was called, “Better Late than Never”,
and featured William Shatner (thespian/philosopher/comedian – 85),
George Forman (former boxer – 67), Henry Winkler (actor/the “fonz” from
Happy Days – 70 years), and Terry Bradshaw (Steelers’ 70’s quarterback –
67), touring Asia together.

When chatting about the challenges of their shared experience of Tokyo
(different cultural ways and the anxiety produced) Forman said that fear
always was part of his success as a boxer in the ring, fear and aggression.
He said the only time he wasn’t afraid was against Muhammed Ali in the
“Rumble in the Jungle” (1974 Congo), a fight he was heavily favored to win
but lost. Bradshaw agreed that he was always at his best as a QB when
under the most pressure, fear creating some of his best football memories.

What do you think? Yes, there’s a lot of fear in the world today, for a variety
of reasons, and not the good kind of fear, if there is one. Yet can fear, under
the right life conditions, be productive? The Bible seems to be of two
minds (at least) on this, with many exhortations, especially in the New
Testament, to “not be afraid”. It’s what the angels sing to the shepherds on
the night of Jesus’ birth. It’s what Jesus says when making a post-
resurrection appearance!
Yet particularly in the Old Testament we come across passages in which it
is deemed proper to “fear” God, to have the “fear of the Lord”, which are
generally poor translations of the Hebrew concept of awe and reverence!
To know awe before the Holy, reverence, a spirit of worshipful supplication?
To adopt those concepts into our daily lives? To view life with awe, to
revere God, even other persons, even enemies? Surely these are not
unhealthy attitudes or habits.

One last thought, but without a conclusion. If we are at some level fearful
about the state of our world, which we believe is God’s world, and is loved
(John 3:16), perhaps that fear can inspire us, along with the call of God, to
seek to make a difference for the good, for our grandchildren’s children, or
if nothing else, for the sake of the world we won’t be a part of but will
entrust to succeeding generations.

Grace and Peace,

Dave C