Friday, October 28, 2022

Putting our Fears into Perspective

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October is the month for monsters, especially here in the Salem area of Massachusetts. All Hallows Eve is big business: the scarier the better with perennial familiars, the Witch Museum, the Psychic Faire and Witches Market, the Haunted Happenings (proudly promoted as “the largest celebration of Halloween in the world”[1]). Salem has featured everybody in any way related to Casper and Wendy,[2] from noted author Mary Victoria Price, Vincent Price’s daughter, to Elvira, the well-endowed creation of actress Cassandra Peterson. Horror film crews have made Salem their Mecca. For circa $30 each, anyone can have their wits, dickens, and living daylights all scared out by taking one or more of Salem’s multitudinous walking tours, featuring “History and Haunting,” “Witch Trials,” “Mysteries and Murders,” “Spook Specters,” “Explore Canada” (Wait! That one was a pop-up…I think…), a number of Ghost tours, including the “Dead of Night Ghost Tour” (for this one and the “Curses and Crimes Candlelight” tour, make sure to pack an extra candle in case the first one snuffs out…), for the eclectic, there is also a ghost tour featuring “Voodoo and Vampires” (not really native to Salem, but who cares?), the “Self-Guided Smartphone Ghost Walking Tour” (Are you really alone? Or is ATNTrouble or Verizoooon haunting your steps?), the“Satanic Tour” by Salem’s Satanic Temple, with its documentary “Hail Satan?” (Question mark, indeed!), and local favorites, “Bewitched” (you remember the TV show? No? Oh…), “Witch Trials,” and “Witchcraft Hysteria” tours, and on and beyond.[3] And, of course, the most terrifying of all for locals throughout the entire month: trying to find a place to park in town, since Salem “is excited to welcome more than a half-million visitors to the parties, parades, vendor fairs, walking tours, museums, attractions, and special events.” [4] (Salem’s normal off-season population is 43,450, so do the parking math before you drive in...)

For those who don’t want to shell out $30, Massachusetts provides free of charge a terrifying gubernatorial election, where the major political parties are offering to replace our present excellent governor Charlie Baker with a Democratic candidate who summarizes her campaign thusly, “The choice in this election couldn’t be more clear,[5] Healey told recently. The Healey-Driscoll Administration will be focused on delivering results and will always protect abortion access and personal freedom.That’s it? That’s the central focus and concern? Promote abortion and promise to deliver? Hardly an encouraging choice for pro-life Massachusetts voters.

“On the Republican side, Geoff Diehl, a former state lawmaker and Donald Trump booster, said Thursday he believed a return to required mask wearing, particularly for children, would ‘disrupt their much-needed return to normal living and education practices. The people of Massachusetts are smart and capable of making their own health decisions for themselves and for their families, including whether to get vaccinated [![6]] or to voluntarily wear a mask. There is no need for government to keep interfering in our lives. Enough is enough,’ Diehl said… ‘Any further mandates will harm families [How is that?] and, at this point, we can’t afford that in this state. We will also put unnecessary impediments on small businesses which are only now getting back on their feet from the devastation of the last year [This must be a misquote!],’ Diehl said.” At the same time, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday revised its masking guidance to advise that everyone — including those who are fully vaccinated — resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces in areas where the Delta variant is fueling ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ COVID-19 transmission.”[7]

As of October 27, 2022, the current daily report of new Massachusetts Covid cases is 1,202, according to the New York Times.[8] The Massachusetts Government on its Covid Interactive Data Dashboard, which updates once a week, also reports: “There were 7,408 new, confirmed cases reported in the last seven days, bringing the total to 1,902,403 total confirmed cases.”[9] Since the town of Hamilton, where we live just north of Salem and where we have a Gordon-Conwell campus, boasts c.7,764 residents, this means that every week the rough equivalent of our entire town comes down with Covid. Currently, I see hardly anyone wearing a mask (and last week a store owner was suspicious of me wearing a mask, figuring I must be up to no good, trying to keep my identity hidden), I don’t think this candidate has any idea how dumb approximately 8,000 of our citizens can be each week (and these are only the serious cases that are reported – everybody else contracting Covid here these days just stays home for 5 days and then goes out freely inflicting themselves on the unsuspecting public[10]).

And what I’ve just presented are only two examples in our small state of the real “monsters” most of us face – in this case, unsuitable leaders and at-risk health conditions. There are a lot of issues to be terrified about in real life, especially for those who live incautiously. Put the imagined and the real together and it’s easy to live terrified all the time.

But that’s not how God created us to live. Providentially, Jesus provides an assurance that God cares about our fears and our circumstances. John, Jesus’s disciple, in what is called his first letter, 1 John 4:18, tells us literally that “fear is not within love, but perfect love throws out fear.” What does he mean? John has just told us earlier that the Triune God, the One and only living God, truly loves us and has sent Jesus to deal with our problem of fear and its causes. God the Father, John tells us four verses previously, has sent this other person of the Triune Godhead to become God’s incarnated Son on earth in order to be the Savior of our world.

God is greater than anyone in the world. With God’s help and our precautions, we can withstand the real reasons for fear in our lives. We certainly need a Savior, because, as Jesus warned us all, we often violate God’s commands and deserve punishment. The real danger, he told us, is incurring God’s punishment. As Jesus put it, literally, fear “the One being able also soul and body to destroy in Gehenna [hell]” (Matt. 10:28). This is not God’s preference or desire for us. God wants us to accept Jesus as God’s providential gift to us. When we make Jesus the ruler of our life, we are invited into a relationship with God. In that relationship we are forgiven of what we have done wrong and can live obeying God’s commands, relying on the astonishing, omnipotent love that God has for us. God is the primal Source of love. While much still exists in this fallen world to fear, now we are connected to the greatest Resource of all, the omnipotent power in the universe, which is far stronger than anything or anyone we fear. God’s perfect love is greater than the sources of our fear.

When we enter into a relationship with God through the Savior Jesus, we need no longer recoil in terror of God’s punishing us or of the growling of the worldly monsters of fear who rise up before us. Forgiven by God, we now have the favor of a dragon-slayer stronger and more effective than any of the monsters that cause fear. Our greatest protection of all is the forgiving love of God, which nothing can defeat. We can face any terror face on, because God’s perfect love puts fear into perspective and helps us conquer each fear we encounter.



[2] For those born after the mid-1900s, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Good Little Witch were Harvey Comics celebrities.



[6] As it is, hardly anybody obeys mask mandates, without taking away protection as we enter flu and virus season. See my blog, “Would Luke, the Beloved Physician, Give and Take Covid Shots?: