Friday, February 27, 2009

Fear Not

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Okay. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but that picture above cracked me up. I howled with laughter. Funniest thing I've seen for a while. Some people will find it sacrilegious. I'm very aware that my mindset is quite different from the mindset of a lot of Christians. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my church. I'm fully aware that my pastor would like me to be quieter. I'm fully aware that as a Sunday school teacher, I'm awfully laid back. I don't believe in raising hands. I tell them that they are in middle school now, and that they are becoming adults. They are old enough to discuss things with one another without raising their hands. I do not teach the class so much as they teach each other. We read our lesson and then beat it to death with discussion. They are just getting the hang of discussion. Last year they did not talk in class. They listened to their teacher and did a craft. I'm also aware, despite my atheist roots, and the fact that when I finally did begin to attend church, I was a heathen Episcopalian (joking, people, I'm just joking), the congreation at my church loves me, and they made this known to Tim and me in these last few months. It is a humbling thing to be on the receiving end of this outpouring, and I have learned a lot about love from my people. I love my church and I love the people there. In return, they love my joy.

Have you all heard about 2012? It is reported to be the year that the world will end, according to the Mayan calendar. Nostradamus has also predicted the end of the world in 2012. I've heard that some of the televangelists are jumping on the bandwagon. The buzz appears to be getting louder. People are convinced that the world will end in 2012. In churches, on TV, on college campuses. When I went to Philly to see Dixie, we talked about it over wine. Dixie was shocked. Apparently this news has not been disseminated within the heathen Episcopal church yet. Dixie and Bob are two of the smartest people that I know, so I was trying to explain how I can love the people of my church so much even as I struggle with this feeling that I do not 'fit' there.

A couple weeks ago, a elderly woman in our church got up to tell us that something big was going to happen in 2012. She talked about great spiritual leaders predicting the end of the world. She spoke on the prophesies of the Book of Revelations. She cautioned us all to get right with God before the world ended, and she specifically targeted parents to make sure that their children were being raised in a Godly home, so that they would not be lost. It was quite a stirring sermon, and I'm sure that she earnestly meant to do God's business that day. I listened, and I cringed a little. I am a Sunday School teacher after all and I knew, for a fact, that she had just scared the bejeebers out of every child in that church.

Sure enough, the following week, the lesson was on Jesus calming the storm. The first question from our book was "What are you afraid of?" Eyes grew wide and the answer came. 2012 scared the mess out of every one of them. I'm kind of direct, so we hit it head on, from my point of view. I thought of my friend Peryl, who had died, and of the mother who lost her daughter, and of my own dealings with cancer. I explained to them that every single day the world ended, for people we knew, for people we didn't. God put us here in this time, in this place for a reason, and that as far as I was concerned our top priority should be living the life that He intended. Is the world coming to an end in 2012? No. I don't think so because Jesus himself said that no one knows when this will happen. Ergo, if everyone is convinced it is going to happen in 2012, it seems unlikely that it would happen then since the element of surprise would be lost. In any case, it seems to me that the end of the world falls completely in the realm of 'God's business'. I'm a big believer in letting God handle His business. Hopefully, in the end, He'll be happy with the way I'm handling mine, my business being my life, my own life. Not the life of others. My own life. The end.

I've been kind of wrestling with this issue, and was curious about how other teachers were handling the topic in the classroom. I was advised not to discuss it. I'm watching to see how this unfolds, but I have to tell you, the most often repeated phrase in the New Testament is 'Fear not'. I think that a church full of fearful children would grieve God something awful. I can't be a part of that. I won't be. Anyone else out there dealing with this?


Redlefty said...

I'm with you all the way, of course.

My church is better than most I've attended within this denomination, but there's still an element of fear-based logic there. Just last Sunday a man approached me about some legislation coming up locally (education, evolution... that fun stuff again) and he was consumed with outrage and fear. After I listened to him, his point was actually solid but it was completely lost in the torrent of his fearful delivery.

Fear is a decent short-term motivator. But it's hardly the way to fuel a Christian life.

Danielle Michelle said...

As a person who's been seeped in religion since birth - I think it's horrible when something we turn to for comfort and faith in good times and bad has to have such fear and anxiety surrounding it.

I agree with you. How could this be part of the 'master' plan? Why would we be given so much hope to have it taken away? Perhaps people should be taking a closer look a little closer to home. If people want to believe in prophacy, perhaps thay should relate it to how our living standards and moral values are going down the drain and concentrate on what they can do about that- instead of what they cannot do!

Mrs. Spit said...

A little bit - I've noticed that since the tribulation books came out, the world seems to be a bit more obsessed with it.

I think there's a few things going on. Christians are running scared. Our churches, especially if you are main-line protestant are emptying, if your an Anglican/Episciopalian, your church has been self destructing in the most public way over gay marriage, and we get this sense that if we can just scare them enough, God will become relevant in our world again.

I suppose part of my answer is that I think the end times stuff in scripture is written in a poetic language for a reason - so that we don't know. In some senses, we should always be living as if we can go home at any time, earth isn't our true home, and whether it's death or the rapture, we should be ready to go home.

As for when, I've always loved the verses in 1 Cor 15 - that it will happen in an instant.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Kelly said...

Funny picture.... also quite beautiful.

As for the 2012 stuff. Baloney! For one thing, I don't see the Mayan civilization still around, so why should I put any stock in what they predicted?

You hit it on the head with the statement about Jesus saying we won't know when the time will come. People have been seeing "signs" since the Resurrection.

Live for today, don't worry about tomorrow. Trust God in all circumstances.

Oh...and as far as talking to the kids about it in SS, if they are expressing fears I think I'd have to reassure them with scripture about no one knowing the time.

Bob said...

Well there is fear and there is fear. Fear that is scaring people to death, telling them something terrible is going to happen (of which they have not actual knowledgte) is not healthy, in my opinion. A healthy "fear" (of, say, a tornado or a tidal wave) of something catachlismic makes sense. I have never thought scaring people into faith was the right way to go. Too many "fear nots" in the Bible. And it clouds our judgment

Mary Paddock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Paddock said...

Profound picture actually. I'd like to have a poster of that.

God was pretty clear about the fact that nobody will know when he's going to return so 2012 doesn't worry me too much. I spend very little time worrying about the end. I'm full up with keeping my act together in the present and I think that's kind of what God wants.

MuseSwings said...

I love the picture of the good shepard! As for 2012 whatever. I've seen several TV programs on the subject but I haven't heard it spoken about at church or even discussed amoung my friends. I say what happens, happens. I'll stay right with the Lord, and hopefully, have time for a really great shopping spree the day before.

MuseSwings said...

BTW - besides the Mayans and Nostradamus, there's a meteor that is supposed to have excellent potential to put our lights out around that same time.

Bush Babe said...

Loved loved that photo... where do you find these things Deb?

I'm afraid I shall be shot down as a heathen with my comment here... y'all know I have this Mother Nature/God thing happening. They share the load, as do human beings, for our fates. There is plenty for us to worry about in the world and I think we waste WAAAAYYY too much time and energy trying to get the Ultimate Answer. Why are we fixated with this question? I love the part of religion (of most religions) which demands we treat each other well, that we look to something outside ourselves to draw peace and strength from when our internal selves aren't up to the task. But I walk away from the Fear Factor part of the bible. And the Fear Factor of modern-day zealots and witchdoctors.

I agree Deb. Let's LIVE as He would want. Life is short and the gifts are many. Let's not look that gift horse in the mouth!!

Here endeth the sermon (sorry).

Kim said...

I'm glad to hear you hit the topic head on with the kids. There is no reason to scare the bleep out of them or anyone else for that matter. Religion based on fear does not sit well with me at all.

Debby said...

BB - I'm convinced that everyone has at least one good sermon in them. It does us no harm to listen to it.

Musey - Well. The meteor may save us all.

Mary - hadn't thought of profound until you said. I went back and looked at the picture, and, you know? You are right.

Bob - fear clouds our judgement. That's probably the most sensible thing that I've heard today. It does. And the 'fear nots'...I convinced that they were put there for a reason.

Kelly - the thing that I remember is 2000. There were people convinced the world was going to end at the stroke of midnight 1999. Oh. And I took a poll. I asked all Mayans to raise their hands. No one did. You're right about the Mayan civilization.

Redlefty, Mrs. Spit, Danielle - I really believe that there are things that we do not know, and that it is intended to be that way. People who profess to understand the mind of God seem always to me to be the farthest from Him. I know that this woman is a good person, and believes in God to the same degree as I do. I wonder where this will lead.

Pam said...

I'm with Kelly and Bob. I don't buy the 2012 garbage for one second. Live in today and trust God with tomorrow are my feelings exactly.

Yeah, I remember all the so-called hysteria and breath-holding over 2000.

Hey, even my computer worked on Jan. 1, 2000.

Love the photo!

Lavinia said...

I heard something, vaguely, once, about 2012. It's all hooey. I just looked it up on the internet and its laughable. None of it holds up under any sort of scrutiny whatsoever. Jesus said NO ONE knows the hour or day of his return. He didn't say "no on except Nostradamus". Actually Nostradamus and his so called prophecies have been by and large discredited. The man had a vivid imagination and gift for words but not much else.

Debby said...

I believe, Lavy, that it is hooey. I discussed this first with Cara. It was going around the college campus. I'm just surprised that this talk has been given any kind of creedence from the pulpit. I was wondering if anyone else in this vast wide world is dealing with the same kind of talk inside the church walls. I was wondering how widespread this fearmongering is.

Dave said...

So in 2012 the world will end for Christians and the heathens will go on like nothing happened! Yeah, right! Remember the prayers that conclude by saying." without end, Amen."? I'm being facetious Debbie. - Dave

I'm Julie said...

Debby do you ever read Annie Lamott? I think you would really enjoy her books on faith. She has your sort of sensibilities - both reverent and irreverant.

God loves us all. Even us goofballs.