Many have lamented that, in the current climate, political and cultural rhetoric within Christian circles evidences a lot of fear. Recently, a journalist doing a piece on this question asked me to comment. Here is my response:
Fear, like anger, most often emerges when we sense the chaos of losing control. When we believe that our power, our authority, our place at the center of the table is threatened, then we launch into maintaining (at least our sense of) control. When those who have an opposing sexual ethic, political narrative or religious commitment seem to be gaining ground, our fangs come out — all the better if we can use words from the Bible to do it.
The Kingdom of God requires that we tell the truth, that we obey Jesus, and that we live as witness to the Resurrection of the one to whom one day every knee will bow. The Kingdom of God never asks us to remain cultural or political control. In fact, Jesus, Paul and the early church were all marked by their refusal to play political games. If we truly believe that the Kingdom of God rules, then we have little angst when any of our human kingdoms begin to crumble. Conversely, if we have angst over crumbling human kingdoms, we might ask ourselves if we truly believe in the kingdom of God.
Barth liked to say that the marks of God’s kingdom were “deprivation and hope.” It seems to me that we are committed to doing anything and everything to resist our deprivation. The gospel invites us to utter deprivation, to come and die. That’s enough to scare anyone — but Jesus invites us into death, all the while saying, “Fear not.”
And how are we as the Church to respond in order to counter all this fear in our world? We need only keep telling the gospel story. We have nothing to protect. The gospel is our only allegiance – and the gospel doesn’t need our protection. And our dishonest or anger-laced response to others actually makes the gospel within us impotent. If we believe Jesus is King, then no other king, no other religion, no other political or historical reality, has any power over us. We truly have nothing to fear. If we are living in fear, it means we do not truly believe God.
The question is not so much how to handle our fear but how to believe and obey God. As the prophet Isaiah told Israel while they trembled against their foes, “If you fear God, you need fear nothing else.” We live in an anxious world, and the only way I can see to speak against that anxiety is to declare that there is One who reigns over the world.