Friday, April 19, 2013

Life, Death, Fear, and Violence

Terror is a synonym for fear. We understand that, right? A terrorist is a fear-monger by definition. Their weapon is not a gun or a bomb, but fear. The goal of the Boston Marathon bombers was not to blow up runners at the marathon, but to flood the city and the nation with fear. I know it's unpopular, incredibly unpopular to say so, but it sickens me that our government and media continue to play into this notion of fear. They are as much fear-mongers as any terrorist.

Yes, they aim to save lives not take them, which makes them different. I'm just not sure life and death are the terms by which we should live our lives.

I have a different perspective, I know. My faith affirms resurrection, that no matter how or when we die, it is not the end. Our bodies will be raised from the ground and remade. Our lives will go on forever, albeit with a little speed bump of death in the middle. Because of this belief, life and death are less important as motivators. I'm not claiming anyone should agree with me or should be forced to risk their lives against their will - what I am saying is that the response to this tragedy and the attempts to catch the bombers is not monolithic.

I'm merely stating a very unpopular opinion I happen to believe in deeply. I'm not attempting to influence anyone or represent anyone - I'm not even making a claim to a "Christian" position, although my thoughts are formed entirely from my Christian faith.

There are a lot of things to fear in life. There are lots of things we have we don't want to lose. There is pain and loss and those things make us feel terrible. We don't like feeling terrible. It makes sense to avoid them - we are evolutionarily hard-wired to avoid them. If I ran into a deranged terrorist on the street, I'd probably run like hell.

That doesn't mean I think it's the right thing to do.

I'd much rather ignore fear than protect my own life. The idea of sitting at home, disrupting my life while the city cowers in fear sickens me. If I were in Boston today, I'd be out walking the streets simply as a refusal to live in fear.

I'm happy the Boston PD announcement said, "if you value your own life" before listing the requests they made on residents. I just don't think my life is worth more than my integrity. I don't know how I could preach and believe what I do and still act out of fear. I suppose that's what grace is all about, because Lord knows I couldn't live up to my beliefs.

I'm not really afraid of death, but I'm terrified of pain, intense pain anyway. I've always chocked that up to being a rich, lazy, spoiled American - and there may be some truth there. Of course it could also be because I've never really experienced intense pain (maybe those are the same thing). Special Ops forces in the military go through training in such things. They endure pain to prove to themselves they can withstand it.

As a Christian, I should be engaging in something similar. Enduring difficult situations to better prepare yourself for them in the future. Practicing non-violence in routine situations, so it's easier to react without violence when things get hectic. Athletes exercise muscles to make them stronger and more capable in difficult situations. We fast from food and other things we don't believe we can live without to prove our resilience and our frailty.

I have to believe facing and ignoring fear is part of that process. As a parent, I'm terrified that my daughter will get hurt, physically and emotionally. But that's going to happen anyway - and I'm just doing her a disservice if I become so protective she never has the opportunity to face pain and learn from it.

Just as there is a fine line between being protective and negligent that parents have to negotiate - I imagine there's a fine line between facing fear and just being stupid.

You always have to ask the question - what is worth dying for? Some people are lauded for defending their home against intruders. The things we own are worth the fight and, sometimes, the life of a criminal. Someone else's life is worth my own - that's more than honorable. Should we also consider than refusing to let someone hold fear over us might be worth our lives, at the very least?

I'm certainly in a minority position - and I'm ok with that - but I object to the people who are supposed to protect us operating on the same fear as those they intend to stop. I'd love to hear things framed not so much in terms of "what you should do," but "if you value your life." It gives people a chance to decide.

We just have to remember that some people put less value on their lives than others.

I'm not willing to kill for anything, but I am willing (I hope) to die for what I believe. "There is no fear in love. A perfect love drives out all fear." 1 John 4:18. I'm not sure I'll ever mine the depths of that truth, but I do believe it.

1 comment:

Marsha Lynn said...

Thanks, Ryan. You are not entirely alone on this.