Photo: Sir Charles Bell, Essays on Expression*
Terror and horror. Contemplate what is entertaining about fear. We are told Halloween consumer retail is second only to Christmas (~$8 billion in America this year!) Halloween candy and related frivolities are explainable, but the underlying reason for celebrating is awkward. Some of the Halloween traditions originated from a Celtic festival when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts of the dead returning to earth. They believed the lines between the dead and the living were blurred – for real! Read more on the History of Halloween and the commercial absurdity it has become at: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween.
Supposedly, nearly 50% of Americans believe in ghosts! Also, consider the market for the genre of speculative fiction intended to frighten, scare, and disgust: Horror fiction, with well-known authors and producers like Stephen King.
Fear is a real and negative element of human existence, so what does this say about our attraction? I am not sure, but even the most hard-core adrenaline junkies do not celebrate real death, disability, or dismemberment! It is possible to be fully functional in face of fear, but it always takes at least a bit of courage to look fear in the eye and at least consider what it is. Part of the reason we dread (avoid) real terror and horror is because it is always associated with helplessness, something nobody celebrates. Death is ultimate helplessness, and looms ahead for all of us, so we naturally dread it even if we really look death in the eye! It takes some level of “courage” or “denial” to be productive in the midst of the reality of fear, so, perhaps denial is justifiable at some level – but surely not to the point of fooling ourselves or our children. Death and dying are not always fiction! There is good reason to be rational so we can rationally manage risks and consequences.
It seems the Covid-19 global response reveals a dangerous tendency for global human denial of reality. Other indicators of this modern phenomena are the zero-tolerance safety culture and the absurd anti-God activism. The depth and scope of passions being reported related to wearing masks and dealing with vaccination mandates may be indicators we, as a culture, are slipping into a weird loss of awareness of reality! Anger and resentment directed at someone who refuses to put on a mask — or at those who are so fearful they do wear a mask and expect you to as well — both can be unsolicited “knee-jerks” based on fear. They can also be reactions caused by human tendencies even less flattering than fear, but they likely include the underlying “fear-motivation”!
We may say we are, or choose to be, entertained by fear (watching horror or the nightly news); however, observing human potential over-reactions to Covid-19 at anyone who disagrees with whomever, is very telling. These over-reactions at each other demonstrates many are being controlled by his/her fears of the over-all dread of eventually dying. When we come to terms with the inevitability of death, we can use the wisdom to better understand the growing prevalence of covid crisis behavior. An analysis of why we are entertained by terror on one hand and avoid dealing with real horror of helplessness in death and dying on the other, may give us a new and helpful insights to deal with the covid crisis. Feelings of helplessness must always be managed or they become irrational phobias.
Part of human denial may be the consequence and/or the cause of aversion to looking to the Bible for answers to fear management. I have never met anyone who argues the solutions found in the Bible should be mandated by government — as it might mandate use of masks or vaccines! But, this does not mean answers are not given in the Bible — or that they should be avoided by our governing class! “Freedom of Religion” is wonderful! Religious values used to govern come from the consensus of “We the People” (voters) we have to live with, so we are all morally obligated to speak up when we social denial of reality.
A Bible riddle to consider as the basis for the point of this editorial: It is a bit of a “trick” question to urge you to consider why I presume we are “in denial” on this issue of fear. Not including any of the Ten Commandments we all know about, what is arguably the most used commandment of the New Testament. (‘Thou shalt not…’)?It is central and unique to both Judaism and Christianity. There is a very good reason for the common liturgical Latin greeting “pax vobis” (“peace to you”) or “pax vobiscum” (“peace be with you”).
This command has been used so extensively and commonly we respond as automatically as when we hear someone saying “Hello!” The most commonly glossed-over command: “Do not be afraid”! “Fear not…” This theme cannot be missed by anyone tuned to hear it. It is the message of Christmas; “peace on earth, good will to men!” It is everywhere in the Bible.
Check out one passage seemingly written for this Covid crisis:
Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. – Isaiah 8:12
Why do we fear Covid-19? It is the helpless unknown of the discomfort of feeling helpless to prevent it, helpless to relieve the pain, helpless to recover quickly, which ultimately could lead to the helpless unknown of death. It is ultimately the death of the illusion of control we don’t like and we fear.
If you have chosen Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you have a particularly special promise in Psalm 23:4,
Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no reason to fear evil. He is with me; He will comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, paraphrased)
The next time your heart starts to race with the fear of the desolation and havoc Covid-19 seems to be wreaking, consider what you might do to deal with your underlying fear of death and helplessness. Fear is real, fear can keep us alive, but dread of feeling helpless MUST always be managed in order to deter the growth of irrational phobias. Jesus is not just “a” solution, He provided “the” solution on the Cross.
*Photo Credit: Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, as stated at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sir_Charles_Bell,_Essays_on_Expression_Wellcome_L0021920.jpg