Pondering is one of my favorite activities. Something I have heard or read gets lodged in my mind and doesn’t go away for awhile.
One of the most thought-provoking episodes to come my way this year was sparked by a statement from Christian ethicist Bill Tillman in an Oct. 19 news story from Associated Baptist Press. The article was about how many evangelical Christians — who supposedly have a commitment to truth-telling — are in the forefront of spreading rumors such as the never-ending one about the late atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair trying to kill religious television.
Although the legend is blatantly false (and O’Hair has been dead for about 15 years), the rumor mill is still rolling. But the comment that caught my attention has far greater application than the sole issue of truth-telling.
Tillman, a professor at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, Texas, said: “I suggest to my students, ‘Tell me something about your fears, and I will tell you something of your theology.'”
That idea seems so ripe for picking. How is our theology shaped by our fears?
Fear is a particularly strong lens through which we see life and define truth: Fear of losing our cultural dominance, fear of scientific discovery altering our belief system, fear of persons whose values and lifestyles vary from our own, and fear that we may find truth in an unfamiliar place. Or more frightening, fear that something we have long held to be true, may not be so.
Although one of the messages of this season is “Fear not!,” there is no doubt that we do fear. And what we fear may say more about how we interpret God and God’s world than about anything else.
Nothing is more foolish than to suggest that we see through anything other than dark glass. Recognizing those distorting lens through which we view life can go a long way in clearing our vision and casting aside some of the fear.