I was reminded a few months ago when I visited Ginter Park Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., of the numerous scriptures in which the phrase “Fear not” appears. Some counts suggest that phrase and similar phrases appear 365 times — one for every day of the year.
Upon reading some of the lectionary passages for the second Sunday in Lent, I could not help but notice the treatment of “fear” in these texts. From Genesis 15:1: “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’”
In Psalm 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”
To be perfectly honest, society has me a little scared lately. In an election year with primary season fully underway and now the prospects of a Supreme Court nomination, it seems I might not be the only one.
As I sit staring at the cursor on my computer screen, I do not even know how to convey my thoughts without someone twisting them into a partisan plot of disparaging or supporting one candidate or another.
Some combination of the media, political candidates and other sources of information have ratcheted our levels of fear and anxiety to overwhelming proportions. Those with political power fear that they will lose it and those oppressed by political power fear that they will continue to experience oppression.
Much like Bill Horton, we are holding our fate in our left hand.
On his 1987 album Tunnel of Love, Bruce Springsteen sings of Mr. Horton in the song, “Cautious Man.” I am grateful to my friend Andy Tooze for introducing me to a lyric from the third verse of this song in which Springsteen sings:
On his right hand Billy’d tattooed the word love and on his left hand was the word fear
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear
The grip of our left hand is tightening and we are a creating a system that tells us that this is only way we can hold our fate.
Black bodies are shot and killed with no repercussions, and our grip continues to tighten. Politicians propose we carpet bomb our enemies abroad, and our grip continue tighten. We build walls of distrust and hatred between one another, and our grip continues to tighten.
I will admit that my left hand is starting to cramp. I cannot tell whether society is gripping fear or fear is gripping society.
It seems we need to do a better job of holding our fate in our right hands lest we forget in whose hands we are held.