Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Religion and Fear

Larry Norman died last week. I read about it on many blogs. I am old enough to remember his music and so I kept wondering why I had not liked his music. You need to realize that I love music. All kinds. I listen to everything and actually enjoy it all. I can have my windows rattling with Bach or Mozart just as they could be rattling with the latest Rap from Eminem. And when the whole Christian Rock was born I had all the new records. Sandy, Amy, Keith, Love Song……Lend an ear….to a love song….oooh a love song….(Sing along now) So why did I not listen to Larry Norman?

It wasn’t until I read Brant’s post last week that I remembered why. It was those movies – A Thief in the Night, Left Behind. Larry’s most famous song was the soundtrack to those movies. No wonder why I was not fond of him. He was my introduction to FEAR IN RELIGION.

My introduction to fear in the church came at a very young age. Now that I think back on it I am outraged. What person lets a little kid watch such a movie? Now, I had “asked Jesus in my heart,” when I was 5. It was real to me and I really think that something supernatural was placed in me that night. With the rules of the game, I was safe – I was saved and going to heaven – I would be raptured when it happened. But I didn’t feel safe. I was always panicked anytime I could not find my parents. I forever worried about driving along in a car and the driver being ‘taken’ and the rest of us left to die in a fiery crash. If my parents were even 5 minutes late getting home I had a stomach ache. (Oh, for cell phones)

It is funny. We believed in eternal salvation but you were never sure that if you were to have been found at a dance or a movie theatre or even just thinking a bad thought - and the rapture occurred – would you really be taken? Because of this doctrine I lived my life in fear. Fear of not being good enough and fear of being left to being marked by the Beast and forever out of the grace of God.

I was 25 before I met a kind pastor that blew away this theology in 2 hours one night. I had never even met a Christian before that did not believe in the rapture. We had heard about such heretics in my Bible School but no one had ever told me that true Christian men and women did not all believe the same things. My world was rocked and I cried for the next week. How in the world had I been taught these things without saying that there at least were other ways to view what the Bible was saying? Why was I not taught that this was a new belief of only a few hundred years old? Why was I not taught that it was actually the Scofield Bible’s notes that made this doctrine preached in the United States so widely? For something so fundamentally believed and accepted in my little life, why was I not given all the facts and then allowed to make my own decision?

But that is not the reason for this post. The reason I wanted to talk about this today is because I got very used to fear in my faith. Those in authority used fear to control their congregations. In a podcast from Wayne and Brad last week (Freedom from Fear) they cited an article that said that fear can be the most controlling force in a person’s life.

That got me thinking. I could look back into my childhood and see where fear was used by the church (and I hated it) but I wanted to look forward….after I changed my theology….to see if fear had still been used to control me. How did the whole Charismatic theology manifest fear in my life, and was I still under fear today?

Here are some ways I thought of:

There was a huge fear of the demonic. Fear that you would do or say something that would open you up to demonic forces in your life. Fear against what the ruling forces of the region could do to you.

Fear of somehow losing your destiny – through either making bad choices in a church or mate or life in general or being in the wrong church or camp.

Fear of being out from under authority. Fear that you were not obeying your husband or father and then later on, fear that you were not submitting to the Apostle or Prophet of the church.

Fear of not tithing and/or not giving enough to ‘cover’ your own finances to where God would bless you.

Fear of not raising your kids just right so that they would make the very same choices that you would make for them.

Fear that the world would corrupt us or our kids by contact with it.

Fear that allowing a non Christian to teach our kids would result in God not being in their lives.

Fear that anything we or our kids did, might be a stumbling block to someone.

Fear that if we did not come across as spiritual – that we would be demoted or sidelined or shunned.

Fear of admitting your were broken and not healed yet.

Fear of missing ‘your opportunity’ for healing or deliverance or blessing from whatever service was being held that night or that weekend. (actually this was used to try to get people to EVERY meeting that the church had – even a business or planning meeting…..you could never tell when God would show up and you weren’t there) Fear of not being where God’s Spirit was being poured out.

Fear that someone might actually find out that you were just pretending in worship. Fear of not looking “worshipful.” Fear that there is something really wrong with you.

Fear of not being able to say that you disagreed. Fear that you were somehow evil because you had an opinion that differed.

I’m sure there is more….I am just sickened. I am over 50 and I have lived every moment of my life in Jesus, in fear. From the time I made my first steps toward this life of Faith I have carried a companion with me named Fear.

So today I resolve to dismiss my companion of Fear and replace him. I want a new traveling companion. I hate what Fear has done to my life.

Therefore, I will replace him with……Grace or Wisdom or maybe Laughter. What do you think? Who do you walk with?


Tom Haward said...

I resonate with this a lot at the moment. I have found myself really resenting the fear of hell. I've found myself thinking, "Am I only a Christian because I'm afraid of going to hell?" This type of thinking is distorted in so many ways, not least for demoting grace.

Fear of hell has been having a hold on my thinking as opposed to love of God and love from God.

Unfortunately, teachings about hell and judgement and so forth induce fear and then distorts our view of God, the loving and gracious Father that he is. It causes that resentment to be projected at Him. At least, that's what I've found with my own feelings.

Laughter and light heartedness is indeed a wonderful replacement to fear. That is the walk I would much rather take... whether I am traveling that path at the moment is another question...

Brilliant that you are walking away from fear - many of us need to join you!

Fred Shope said...

I grew up in churches that based most of their teaching on fear. I rebelled, but even in my rebellion, there was fear.

I've chosen grace and love to travel with me in the place of fear.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barb. Good post. I'm going to think about what you've said today.

Mary said...

I never saw that movie (thankfully) but can relate to the teachings of fear promoted within a church. I especially resonated with the ones about demons and tithing.

I'm learning how to walk with the One who already loves and accepts me, remembering that nothing can separate me from His love. It's a process, though.

foretastes said...

The fear of "what will others think of me if I think different?" That one still plagues me. But I'm learning to walk (baby steps) in Grace, Laughter, Wisdom, Love. I think those are just other names for Jesus. They are who He is.

Anonymous said...

In one way or another we all deal with Fear. For some of us it may not be in precisely the same ways you have described but Fear nevertheless.

I certainly like to travel with grace, peace, laughter and wisdom. But I think traveling with love encompasses all of these. In addition, 1 John 4:18 tells us: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." God is love we are also told so the presence of Father casts out fear as well.

Wonderful thoughts on this post! We all need to experience these words.

PJ said...

I have young adults who are in my core group that hate the thought of the rapture and end times, because of those movies shown to them at 4, 5, and 6 years old. Crazy!! I understand and appreciate your thoughts so much, especially as I've not had my thoughts together enough lately to blog, yet, you keep writing what I'm feeling, so I just soak in your thoughts and say to myself, Amen, sister, amen! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I SO relate to this post.
Fear has been my constant companion for my whole life..and I'm finding it difficult to let go of it.
Funny, too, how you mentioned replacing it with other stuff..such as laughter.
Last year, when I hit this wall, I wanted to make a step that walked away from fear...and I bought a plaque that said 'laugh' and put in my room. I want God to teach me how to laugh.
You know the hardest obstacle for me? Other people and their ideas...somehow, that we SHOULD be afraid of some things....
I'm glad I'm on this road though, as it's much better than being afraid....
You go, girl...

Holly said...

Thank God for freedom from fear!

Barb said...

Welcome, Holly. and a bit Yup to your comment!

Barb said...

That is a "big" yup!

Holly said...

Ha! "Bit yup" Yeah, that had me studying for a bit! Thanks for the welcome.

getting there said...

Barb, you post so beautifully! I too have lived in fear for those exact same things. I even considered home school because of fear of someone else teaching my child.. I got past that. everyone of those fears you mentioned are mine.. Hopefully i can let it go like you have!

Barb said...

Getting there, you are so welcome. It feels so good to finally speak of these things that had be bound for so long. You will get free. That is what Truth does for us.

Vincenzo said...

I'm late getting to this post, but I had to comment because of the way most of it resonates with me.

The big one for me was the whole fear of losing your destiny thing. In my several years among Charismatic teachings, the pervading mindset was that everyone had a calling and destiny that God planned for them, and that the choices you make, ESPECIALLY who you choose to marry had to fit in with that calling. For example, people would tell me all the time about the "calling on my life" and that I had to marry a special woman whose gifts would fit with mine,etc etc, puke... In the beginning, it was actually quite flattering as I was supposed to marry a very special girl...according to I was told. Of course, you can see the bondage such a way of thinking eventually leads to, fear of asking a girl out because of that nagging fear of missing "God's best"

Because of this teaching, the christian walk is no longer one of spontaneity and discovery, but a spiritual minefield that one must carefully navigate in order to stay in God's perfect will.

Barb said...

Vincenzo, Thanks for commenting, even if this late. I can actually remember wishing I had heard all this destiny thing because I might have married a different man. It subtly eroded my confidence in my own husband. Of course, by the time we got into this whole teaching we had already been married for years. I knew all the flaws and weaknesses in him by then and figured if I had waited for someone who could compliment my leadership skills, I would have been much better matched for my destiny. This teaching is simply horrendous for what it does to married couples. I had a wonderful husband and didn't even appreciate it until we left. Anyway, thanks again for writing.