For the last few days, I have been stuck with this phrase, “Love not fear,” in my head, and this is my chance to explain why. If anything comes of this, here’s how it all started.
Last fall, I was speaking to a group and, almost on a whim, rewrote my talk the night before to organize around a basic 3-point premise:
- In uncertain situations, we make a choice, conscious or not, to approach the uncertainty with hope or fear.
- How we approach said situations won’t determine their outcome, but it will significantly shape the outcome. If you choose fear, you will almost certainly play defense against a potentially negative outcome. If you choose hope, you have the opportunity to attain a positive outcome.
- Every situation in modern life is an uncertain situation. Choose hope.
It was well-received, which was nice, and it did sort of stick in the back of my mind, but I didn’t give it that much thought.
Last weekend, I was at a concert by the Contemporary Christian Music groups Rend Collective and Hillsong United, and the band leader from Hillsong made a statement that just really stuck with me: “Fear is a liar.” As I thought about the basic message of Christianity – that God’s love has overcome all evil, that we have in the crucifixion done the word we can possibly do to God and in the resurrection he has said his love is stronger, that in I John the author clearly says that “perfect love casts out all fear,” that the Bible is purported to include a variation of the words “Do not be afraid” no less than 365 times – I understood that for believers, this is right.
And what sunk in was this: the night before the Hillsong concert, in the very arena, a candidate for president gave a rally predicated on fear as the primary motivation for supporting him. And, quite honestly, while this candidate has been identified as playing off of the fear of voters by the press, the reality is that just about any political candidate would have been guilty of the same charge, because, I realized, our entire political culture is driven by fear – fear of loss, fear of invasion, fear of terrorism, fear of the other party’s secret or not-so-secret agenda. Our media creates this – not just Fox News, but every tabloid show, every 24/7 news cycle driven to make you leave the TV or radio on, every blog that wants you to come back to see what’s next. Our media creates it as an extension of our consumer culture, which teaches us to be afraid of growing old, of growing out of style, of growing unattractive, of growing poor.
And the result is that America, the most prosperous and one of the safer nations on earth, is populated by citizens wracked by fear. Anxiety and so-called “garden variety mental health” issues plague us. Isolation and suspicion prevents us from providing social connection and support that we desperately need in a time of shrinking and far-flung families.
This is a cycle that we need to figure out how to break. We need to overcome our fear of strangers to meet our neighbors. We need to overcome our fear of missing the next news story to turn off the TV and its toxic urgency. We need to recognize that we are one human family and be able to collaborate for our mutual benefit and disagree without distaste. Something has to give.
Love not fear.
Though “hope” is fear’s opposite, the term has been politicized, and I think it’s ultimately insufficient. What we need, as individuals, communities and nations, is to teach ourselves that we are capable of giving and worthy of receiving love that overcomes fear, and we need to put fear back into a reasonable box.
[For those not inclined to faith, you can pass over this part, but I think Christians in particular need to seriously rethink their approach to fear. We have too easily bought in to the culture war dynamic that seems to ignore that God is in control, and that the same God loves friend and foe equally. If we want to truly spread God’s mercy and love, it won’t be by buying into fear; it will be by modeling its opposite.]
So here is my premise: Most of our problems stem from our fear. Love is the antidote.
Here is my vision: A world in which the power of love conquers fear to the good of all.
Here are my values:
- Fear is a lie. Always confront it with love.
- Love conquers fear.
- Everyone deserves love.
- Whenever we think someone is outside of our circle of love and are tempted to make them an object of fear, it’s an invitation to stretch our circle to include them.
Here is the mission I would offer for a Love Not Fear movement: Give people tools to create and carry out fear-beating love, and confront fear in our culture with love.
And if that is too fuzzy, here’s how I’d love to see it happen:
- A non-profit Love Not Fear Foundation that grants programs to address out-of-control fear at the individual, family and community level.
- A Love Not Fear Community that allows individuals and groups to propose, organize and fundraise for small-dollar projects that address the same goals as the foundation.
- A social welfare non-partisan Love Not Fear Action Network that confronts the over reliance on fear as a motivator in commercial and political culture.
- A Love Not Fear Marketplace that empowers creators to sell their own Love Not Fear merchandise to support themselves and the cause.
Not that I’ve thought much about this. I have bought a PowerBall ticket, so when that comes in, you’ll know the game plan. In the meantime, I may use the blog and the Facebook page to highlight examples, good and bad.
I could use some help. Like the page, Follow the Twitter, do whatever one does on Instagram. Take a stab at designing a logo and post it. Identify your examples of fear run wild or love conquering and share them. Or just tell me you’re in.