Today I looked through my Riverside mail slot after a week of vacation and found a significant pile of mail. One piece grabbed the attention of my legal eyes. A glossy, magazine-like, pamphlet that asked (without a question mark), "WHAT IF THE IRS CAME TO YOUR CHURCH TODAY!"
I figure I would say, "hello." Maybe, "is there anything I can do for you?" But the pamphlet cover continued, "FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE YOU WILL BE DESTROYED . . . 28 Years of Ministry Destroyed . . . In Just 20 Minutes – STORY INSIDE!"
Nice! I thumbed through the pamphlet and concluded in one minute that I was on the IRS’s side. In my opinion, the pastor was ripping off his church and the IRS, and they rightfully caught him.
Regardless, two things struck me about the pamphlet. First, ministry can’t be destroyed. I think God’s ministry probably flourished more fervently when the IRS shut down that corruption. I am convinced that neither the IRS nor H1N1 pig flu nor meteors nor the consumption of Wabash River fish can destroy the work that God wants to do and is doing. (Romans 8:38-39)
Second, and more importantly, I am unnerved by the use of fear in media and advertisements. Most sociologists mark such scaremongering by the careful selection and omission of news, the distortion of statistics and numbers, the transformation of single events into social epidemics, the oversimplification of complex and multifaceted situations, and the outright fabrication of events or claims and then deliberate whipping up outrage at the false claims and fabrications. Scaremongering happens when we are collectively led to believe our next door neighbor is going to steal our toothbrush, the government is going to make it illegal to breathe, and Jesus will be mad at us if our prayer is too short before dinner.
Fear! It is a mile thick in our culture.
The Bible talks about two types of fear: 1) fear of God (Proverbs 19:23), which is good, and more accurately a reverent awe of God, and 2) a "spirit of fear" (2 Timothy 1:7), which is not good and in fact harmful to our relationship with God.
Our culture’s scaremongering creates an unholy "spirit of fear." It draws us into an irrational and distracting obsession with improbabilities. We are consumed, preoccupied and led astray by propaganda, exaggeration, and hype. We obsess over things that will likely never happen at the expense of our God that is always happening. We are lured away.
Yet God’s Word remains abundantly clear. "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:9-10)