I am amazed and appalled at how much our society is motivated and influenced by fear. The fear-mongering is equal parts an excuse for entertainment, a public service gesture, a political ploy, and a marketing strategy.
Currently a popular television program is called “Fear Factor”. The program consists of competition between teams of individuals who participate in scary or simply gross activities. It has a sizeable number of viewers who enjoy the vicarious thrill of watching others in fearful situations.
What makes fear such an emotional high and a national obsession? For one thing fear is a standard marketing strategy. If people can be made fearful, they will buy a product to deal with that fear. Fear growing old; buy our age-defying cream. Fear being over-weight; use our diet pills. Fear being weak; join our health club. Fear the criminal; buy a security system or move to a gated community. Fear terrorists; send someone’s son into a fearful war to alleviate those fears.
If the world is such a dangerous place, then it becomes everyone’s duty to warn others. It becomes a moral obligation to spread a little fear.
Of course, the media revels in this fearful atmosphere. They get to be the great public benefactors in informing the public of all the dangers. They can spout statistics, make projections, and generally spread alarm. It all feels so good and, more importantly, it sells like hotcakes. Apparently there is no thrill like a “good scare.”
Admittedly, knowledge can prevent some tragedies, and precautions can be appropriate. However, to my mind, we Americans are “fear addicts”. We want a risk free, problem free existence, but uncertainty is an integral part of the physical realm. No amount of fearfulness is going to change that reality.
Lastly, I question the role of theology in our fear fixation. Is fear a part of the prevailing doctrine? If so, that implies God is pushing fear too. I John 4 says perfect love casts out fear. God’s love is therefore the anecdote for fear; He is not its cause.