The Fear Factor in Spiritual Growth/ Crispin Schroeder
Last week I had to do quite a bit of driving which allowed me the opportunity of getting caught up on my backlog of podcasts. As I was listening to one of the recent episodes of This American Life I was struck by a piece of insight that I found in a story they put together concerning the thousands of students from State University in Pennsylvania that spontaneously took to the streets to celebrate the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Sarah Koenig, the reporter who was putting together the story, stated that most of the people she knew in their thirties and forties had the same rather muted reactions to the news of bin Laden’s death that she had—something of an “oh, wow” but nothing that would cause one to take to the streets with such patriotic fervor. She was puzzled as to why a group of people in their early twenties felt so passionate about this issue when they would have only been ten or eleven years old at the time of the 9/11 attacks. So to try to answer this question she interviewed a student by the name of Lexi Belculfine who had taken part in the celebrations that Sunday evening.
When asked why she took part in the spontaneous celebrations, Lexi Belculfine, the twenty year old editor of the University’s newspaper, basically said that folks like her who were ten and eleven at the time of the 9/11 attacks had spent their entire adolescence and teenage years with a very real threat of evil that was connected to this one person Bin Laden. Lexi talked of how her fear began to manifest itself as a fear of planes and flying. She made the case that she was not alone in these kind of feelings as evidenced by the five to six thousand students who took part in the raucous celebration that Sunday evening. Fear had dominated the world they had grown up in and bin Laden’s death was some sense of a release from that fear, at least momentarily.
The celebration discussed in this story seems so very black and white to me– the good guys versus the bad guy(s), US versus them, or as frequently discussed on this blog- stage 2. This got me to thinking of how much fear is a factor in stage 2 part of ones journey and how perhaps the dealing with fear might help folks into a richer experience of Christ. I can’t help but wonder after hearing this story if perhaps 9/11 might have some how contributed to the recent rise of a very black and white variety of Calvinism that many folks in their early twenties have embraced.
Stage 2 expressions of faith seem to insulate folks from fear because there are clear boundary markers on those who are in and those who are out. While I agree with the premise discussed frequently here that our world is going stage 3 I think that some of the most dogmatic stage 2 folks are not necessarily people in their fifties and sixties but rather the generation coming up.
So here are a couple of questions:
- How do you think fear plays into stage 2 thinking?
- How can the church be a place that actually sets people free from fear rather than insulating people from fear?