Friday, August 05, 2005

Does Christianity Preach Fear? p11

Selling Fear

"Preaching fear has always been more lucrative than promoting skepticism"
~Author unknown

This series has been examining the claims that Christianity preaches fear. Part one looked at the biblical understanding of the Fear of the Lord. Part two looked at the reality of fear in our daily lives. Part three and four examined the claim that Christianity preaches fear as a method in which to control people. Part five examined the claim that preaching about Hell is Christianity's attempt to create fear.

Does Christianity profit by scaring people? Do Christian organizations profit by sensationalizing fear? Do those who claim they are born again Christians actually profit from selling of fear? We will examine those claims in these next three articles.

Selling Fear

Does fear sell? The answer is absolutely! Selling fear is a profitable business. If you doubt this, then I invite you to visit your local video store and check it out for yourself. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that people love to be scared, particularly if the plot is based around spirituality; good over evil, light over dark. People love to see the good guy defeat evil. There are thousands of movies, TV programs, video games, books and etc, that are based on the premise of good over evil; Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Cinderella, Wizard of Oz and etc, etc.

The above picture is of The Joker, the menacing character that Jack Nicholson plays in the 1989 movie Batman [1]. While I did not find this movie all that scary, the plot is centered around good overcoming evil. Batman, the good protector of Gotham City is out to destroy the evil Joker and restore everything back to normal. Its the classic good guy defeats evil story. Not that scary for us adults, but for the kids, that’s another story altogether. Personally, when I think of a really scary movie, what comes to my mind right off the bat is the 1973 mega hit The Exorcist. I'll discuss more about this movie in the following article. The concept that fear sells is nothing new.

Throughout this series, I have offered many examples that are evident in our daily lives that center around fear in order to bring awareness. Obviously, fear is a part of the human reasoning process. While there are many examples of this, one of the most reasonable is - Fire. Is selling fire or smoke alarms a profitable business? Is this product something that is worthy to have in our home or office? If someone makes the claim that these things are not essential to life and property (safety and protection) then what can be said? There are many things in daily life that preach fear to us while we remain completely aware to what those are. But I'm willing to bet that The Joker is not one of them!

Do you purchase insurance? How much do you spend to insure your most valued possessions? This should be enough to convince even the most ardent critic that fear sells! If you have a smoke alarm in your home, that is proof positive that fear sells and you too have bought into the notion that there are things that are to be feared.

So, what is the difference between proclaiming the truth of eternal damnation to that of smoke alarms? The difference is, those who claim that Christianity preaches fear do so because they reject the thought of a place called Hell. They do however realize that fire is something to be feared and respected. It is evident that the realization of fear is a requirement for something to be respected. If you do not fear a fire in your home then just forget about the smoke alarms! If you do not fear The Joker invading your home town, then chances are pretty good that you'll forget all about Batman!

Sensationalizing Misery and Poverty

The basic claim from the critic today is that Christianity sells fear, especially concerning the end of the age, Armageddon - The Great Tribulation. Is the critic accurate with the claim that Christianity sensationalizes the end of the age? The quick answer is, of course not. People sensationalize misery and fear, while Christianity offers hope and escape from those realties. I will address the Armageddon claim in more detail in the next article, but for now lets take a look at the claim of sensationalizing misery.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1Timothy 6:10
The important thing to see in this verse is that it centers around those that claim they are Christians, yet do not follow the word of God. Instead, they use God's word for personal gain, presenting themselves as pious and religious people who use Godliness (goodness) to hide their true desires. Their intentions, motives and actions are easily discerned through their life witness (2Tim:3:10).

The doctrine of faith is belief in Jesus Christ, for forgiveness of sin. The true born again Christian does not desire the riches of this world, nor desires to profit from the misery of others. Christianity is set with the example of Jesus Christ; servitude - through love and benevolence (Rom:6:18).

Did you know that the doctrine of wealth through the profit of misery is not found anywhere in the Bible? Well, actually, that is not totally true. The rulers of Israel sold their people into slavery by corrupting God's word to please their wickedness and idolatry (Zech:11). It is not against the will of God to be rich or to posses wealth. In fact, God has placed many people in such a position (1Cor:12:28). Maybe the parable of the ten talents comes to mind (Matt:25:14)?
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 1Timothy 6:11
What Paul is saying here is the same that Jesus has already made clear: the desire and want for money is the root of all evil - for it comes from the heart. Christianity preaches that which is to be feared, that which resides within the heart! The New Testament describes this as covetousness, and is one of the first signs of someone who has turned away from the faith and corrupts the doctrines of Christianity with that of his own doctrine (Col:2:22). These are false teachers, and we will know them by their words and deeds - their works (Matt:7:16).
And Jesus said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Luke 12:15
Clearly, want and desire for material wealth is covetousness and is an outwardly sign of those who do not accept salvation though Jesus Christ alone. As Christians, we are not concerned with what people claim they are, for we know already where they stand - with the world (Matt:8:22). Nor are we to be concerned with the claims of the critic that Christianity sells fear. After all, what is Christianity? It is no more than one who believes and follows Jesus Christ (John 10:27). The true born again Christian is looking for what is true, that which is revealed through God's word, that which is evident in this world. A true Christian compares these truths to the light of the scriptures. The Holy Spirit will be our teacher, our helper, our guide.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1Thessalonians 5:21
Christians in fact are instructed to carefully consider all things and prove that which is good. Ministries or individuals that are selling materials, making plea's for donations, or promising to do a variety of things must not be taken at their word. Christians must always check the facts, first (Matt:10:16). This means that you will need to personally do the work of finding out what these organizations or individual’s stand for, what they claim is the doctrine they follow, what they believe. Then, check out what they say they will do with what they have actually done. It is obvious that people will claim one thing and do another. It is up to you to research these things.

There are many excellent organizations, ministries, and untold numbers of people that follow the word of God in the attempt to help those in need [2]. As well, there as just as many, if not more, that are out to make the big money, pretending to be Christians in order to profit for themselves, by appealing to the heart and soul, corrupting the word of God to fit into their earthly desires to achieve wealth. As I said earlier, profiting on fear and misery is nothing new, nor should it come as a surprise to anyone that they would come looking as men of God. Its not so difficult to make a determination if an organization does what it claims. Common sense is the main thought here.

It is true that those who claim they are Christians use fear to promote misery and suffering in order to profit their personal pocket books. I think this is quite evident. Who has not seen the pictures splashed across television screens of starving children and the plea to support that charity so those poor destitute children might not meet such a cruel death or a dismally bleak life. Whose heart is not moved when we see such things? Is the human heart compelled to offer a few dollars in order to save a dying child (Rom:14:17)?

The claim that Christianity sells fear is quite bogus. People sell fear because people buy fear. Christianity teaches that which is to be feared (Ex:18:21, Ecc:12:13, 1Pe:2:17) The word of God is not sold to the highest bidder; it is a free gift of God to all mankind. The difference is - do you know what the word of God declares? Or, are you simply motivated by the sensationalism of those who covet, having pierced themselves with many sorrows (Matt:6:20, Mark 8:36, Rom:2:5,6).
For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. Mark 9:4
In the next article, we will continue with the subject of selling fear and why people are so easily fooled by those who claim they are doing the work of God, when in fact, they are false teachers, liars and deceivers. This is what happened to Israel and is recorded as their testimony through the Old Testament, for our benefit in this day and age. There is nothing new under the sun.

Copyright Wendell Leahy
published by


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