For The Wages Of FEAR Is Also Death? Not Yours, But Of Those You Fear.
I’m going to let you into my thoughts. In this endeavor I feel like I assume all the risk, and perhaps none of the reward. However, I’ve invested a lot of time into these thoughts. You may not agree with them or even like them; then perhaps you should, in your effort to avoid cognitive dissonance, stop reading this right now. Thank you though if your willing to dive into the water with me.
I believe in Jesus. Not “white” Jesus, with golden hair flowing and perfectly trimmed beard. I believe in the Word incarnate, fully God and fully man, whom “The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” THIS Jesus redeems and restores, and holds the “keys to death and Hades”. The other “Jesus” biggest quality is that, unlike the lamb on the throne, he’s not scary. It’s easy to understate the importance of this difference, and how often our preference is for the safe Jesus.
Fear is not new. In Genesis, after eating from the tree in the middle of the garden, and when asked by God, “Where are you?” man’s response was “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” When Jesus’ disciples were in a boat, with him sleeping through a most vicious storm, their immense fear made them question the Alpha and Omega himself as to whether he even cared for their lives (to which he responds “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”)
Truly fear and faith are at odds, and it’s not at all limited to the past or to the bible. The struggle of fear and faith seems to be a part of everything around us, and it feels like again and again, faith is not the victor. Man, it’s like faith doesn’t seem to ever stand a chance to fear. Yesterday the story of Terrence Crutcher dominated social media spaces. It’s a now FAMILIAR story of an unarmed black man (unless his black skin is a weapon) murdered by a police officer. His apparent crime? That depends on how you feel about crime and law and blackness.
His car was disabled and he needed help. He broke no laws; there were no warrants out for his arrest. His response to being approached by police officers was a now expected one, he put his hands up, perhaps without even being ordered to. It could not have been lost on him that others, in similar circumstances, have died from any perception of resistance. It didn’t matter. He needed assistance, and received bullets instead. Thanks to multiple videos of his execution, we can see this was not at all an escalated situation; yet the end result was that of an armed standoff with a terrorist.
There is another perspective, however. He was approaching his disabled car, with those black hands up. Some believe that he died only because of the threat he posed, supporting it with questions like “What if he reached into the car and pulled out ____?” Some believe it was the officers who were actually in danger, and fired their weapons (one taser, one firearm) out of protecting themselves from this large black man, who they themselves described as a “big bad dude” without knowing a single thing about him. Terrence bled and then died on the pavement, given no medical attention, while the offending officer was consoled. She may soon be commended, as this is the trend.
That perspective believes that what Mr. Crutcher received was DESERVED, because of his failure to “comply”. This term, comply, is completely subjective, however, because complying in these cases is always absolute. Any deviation from any of the perceived details of compliance is perceived as punishable by death. Pivoting to lack of compliance is to focus on the victim, and to once again blame the dead for their own death. I believe we need to pivot back to the living, and to another subjective thing, the FEAR. Terrance Crutcher actually died because the officers were afraid a large black man. Fear implied that his situation, being broke down in the road, on his way back from community college, constituted a crime. Fear escalated the situation from a man with his hands up to an armed standoff, except with the officers being the only armed party. I believe this fear to be irrational (my eldest son is afraid of shadows at night). And like the incidents before his, there was no faith in his humanity, no faith in his worthiness to live, to thrive and to merely exist, no faith in his intentions, and no faith in his future.
Fear wins yet again, and like sin, the wages of fear is also death except it’s the death of others. I understand the effects of fear personally. I am a big black dude, and I have been for quite some time. My children will be big black men someday. I’m sure it could benefit me to lose some weight, although I used to think only impacted my blood pressure. In our society, we are afraid of black men, the perception of blackness, of black people in general regardless of their sex (Korryn Gaines), their age (Trayvon Martin) or their size (Tamir Rice). It can be a minute fear or a substantial fear. And I deal with the fear of others every single day. You just may not have noticed.
When I’m in the office, I often make a sound to announce my presence when walking behind a co-worker in the hallway. I know from experience that when they notice me they’ll be afraid of the big black man approaching them, in his starched shirt and trousers, belt and shoes matching. I’ll recognize the fear response from the shiver I see run down the spine, from the jump, from the increase in walking pace. I’ll see the wheels turning in the head, and the split-second recognition that this face is one that is recognized, and is safe. They’ll smile and acknowledge my presence, the crisis now averted.
This very thing, or something similar, happens at work and during the drive to and from work. It happens at Publix and at Winn Dixie. It happens at my children’s school, and at the park. It happens at the Hub, and it happens at Crucible. It is as normal to me as it is unnoticeable to others. Imagine what what those seconds of fear, arbitrary to a single person but multiplied over time, what that does to a person’s psyche? I’ve lived days, perhaps weeks or months, maybe even years of the collective fears of others, experienced second by second.
Honestly, I cannot bear to see another video, to read another story, to hear another tale of what is now visible black death. It’s triggering. I have to rehash feelings over and over again, to examine my soul and manage my own fears. And I hear the words of Jesus asking “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I used to think that the answer was easy. Of course I have faith, right? Truthfully I am losing faith in people. I’m beginning to believe that fear is more powerful than faith, and when people, even those whose lives are devoted to the cause of Christ, are faced with the choice of fear or faith, we will chose fear, because fear will allow us to rationalize our desire to not experience discomfort. Choosing faith challenges the things we think are right, the things we want and what is considered status quo.
I have more thoughts, but they are pointed and they are specific. I’ll choose not to share them here, not out of fear their impact, but out of faith that for those care, and for those who, in Jesus are allied with us, will understand what I’ve expressed here and will feel challenged. Sometimes when we share, when it comes to topics like racial issues in our society, the discussion becomes less about what’s correct about what is being expressed and becomes more about what we disagree with, about what challenges our thinking or rather about what makes us feel uncomfortable. I’m truly certain that this is impossible to avoid and if you’re still reading this, you may disagree with at least something I’ve shared, because of how it makes YOU feel. I get it.
But please, choose the scary thing, and put yourself at risk. Listen keenly to the voice of the drowning. Jesus is on the water, asking you to come, daring you to get out of your boat. He’s challenging you to ignore the wind and the waves, to forget the fears that causes you to sink, and instead to have faith, just a little, and to defy the “they way things are”. Walk on water, for our sake and for yours and prove this world to be wrong. To remain in the boat, to remain silent, to feign ignorance, and to eschew your discomfort to protect the status quo is to be complicit in the violence you have the choice to ignore.