Following the tragedy of the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, faith leaders met at Christ Church Cathedral on August 27, 2014 to pave a way for a seminar. The invitation that Sub Dean Manoj Zacharia sent out stated, in part, the following: “In light of emerging realities, we feel that we need to have an open and frank discussion on “fears”.
I suspect that there are similar concerns and initiatives around the country – and there ought to be – especially when one takes into account tragedies like the killing of Trayvon Martin or Renisha McBride, the Michigan girl who knocked on the door of a homeowner only to be shot in the face and killed.
In all these incidents, fear is a major factor – not the only factor – but a very important one. In incident after incident the killer claims – justifiably or not – that he was afraid, of course, for his life. I am thinking right now of an episode in Alan Paton’s novel, Cry the Beloved Country when Kumalo’s son, Absalon is sentenced to death for killing a white man during a home invasion. When asked why he shot the homeowner Absalom simply replies, “I was afraid”.
Perhaps, no injunction is as prominent in the Bible as “fear not”, or “do not be afraid” for at its deepest, fear is not the opposite of courage; it is lack of faith. Yet, in spite of all the successes and achievements we have amassed as individuals and a society, at the deepest level, we are in the grip of fear.
We will not be completely free until we overcome our deepest fears. We will not rise to the finest expressions of humanity with fear in the background. We will not overcome many of our social ills as long as fear is a driving force – even subtly