I’m tendering my resignation. Well, that actually sounds like some pre-cooking method (i.e. marinating or poaching), but the point is I’m finished. Not that this will actually work, but a declaration is needed here, so this seems as good as any. No matter what scenario you picture, my point is: I’m done with fear.
It should start with me, of course, but I prefer to point out the flaws in other people first. So I started with my “friends” who posted anything fear-driven on Facebook recently (at least that I could see in the last 24 hours). Any person who recently posted one way or the other about the health care industry was zapped from our cyber-friendship (some of us can make it up over real-life friendship outings later). After all, nobody ever posts “Hey, I’d love to intelligently discuss the pros and cons, so check out this helpful chart I found.” It’s always venomous, the other side is always scheming their dastardly deeds to lure us in, etc. And, being done with fear, I certainly can’t have any of that.
I also altered my reading list. My own fear-mongering started early in college. I found people like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller, which should have led me into new, fresh ways of thinking about and embracing faith. Instead, in my immaturity I swung the pendulum completely to the opposite side and scoffed at all of my “small-minded” conservative friends who still gasped audibly at profanity. If you hadn’t read or weren’t willing to read such material, I labeled you as the enemy and was happy to go to war with those who are certainly wrong.
That reading list has only continued for the last decade and a half. I’m now 32 and pastoring my own church for the last five years and I still think the exact same way. My reading material concerns social issues, (usually) liberal politics, anti-war books and the like. And I all-too-often jump at the invitation to hit the ring–like a rookie pro wrestler waiting for his intro music and pyrotechnics (guess that’s not a good analogy for such a thinking circle as the Rabbit Room readership, but you get my point).
In the process, I “comment” on some online blog or post in a harsh tone I would never use in daily life. My computer brings a level of confidence that’s really nothing more than an obnoxious attitude that needs a quick dose of repentance. I hold on tighter to the issues than my brother and to my beliefs more than my sister. And in the process, I run contrary to the gospel.
I’m also done with fear in my religion. I’m done leading people into the Kingdom of God through a culture of fear: where would you go if you were to die tonight? Not that I’ve ever honestly said those words in my five years of teaching every week, but I’m done with a religion that encourages it. The kingdom deserves more than its only participants backing into it instead of running, participating only out a fear of the alternative. I won’t be guilty of painting it that way and robbing it of its beauty.
Each and every day I see fear robbing me of my joy and my community of its vitality. We’re afraid of the other side of the coin–of a different viewpoint than what we hold. We’re afraid that people won’t accept us or our beliefs, so we bully them into the Kingdom or we make ourselves martyrs for the cause in case we’re rejected (so I still get my reward). We’re afraid of living counter-culturally and defining a modern life of faith, and in the process we neuter the living witness of the gospel. Fear leads to death. And right now, it’s killing me.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.