Why "Faith Over Fear" Isn't Helpful




Over the past few years, I've seen a lot of, shall we say, interesting things posted by people professing to be Christians on social media. 

Aside from all of the conspiracy theories, thinly veiled racism, misogyny, homophobia, Christian nationalist rhetoric, and the like, I have seen a particular phrase more than a few times.

The phrase is Faith over Fear.

I first saw this phrase crop up during the pandemic as a great many Christians publicly opposed safety measures, vaccines, etc.  But it pops up occasionally on my social media feed whenever there is a calamity, tragedy, or worrisome event. 

The intimation of how this phrase is used by some people is that true Christians should never be afraid.  

This phrase is usually posted on social media; typically as a response to a political or social issue where the person posting has stated a position and is defending it in religious terms. 

Interestingly, the Bible has 365 instances where God-fearers and Jesus-followers are encouraged not to "be afraid." The folks using the phrase Faith over Fear have a leg to stand on, in a manner of speaking. 

But the problem with a phrase like this is that it supports the notion that Faith and Fear cannot co-exist.  In other words, you won't be afraid if you have enough faith. 

The fact of the matter is that people of faith are frequently afraid.  The exhortations in the Bible to not be afraid are directed at people of faith, who are, in fact, afraid. 

These biblical exhortations are God's encouragement to the faithful, who naturally felt afraid when fear was warranted.  The biblical messages are reminders that we can be freed from fear, but they don't say we shouldn't ever fear. 

You can have faith and still be afraid.  Some fears are healthy, in fact. 

I don't have to remind anyone reading this today that there is a lot to fear in our current culture.  Not to mention the many things in our lives that are also fear-worthy.  

Millions of people suffer from anxiety in our world, most of whom have no control over it without counseling and/or medication.  

To hear the phrase Faith over Fear is like a slap in the face to those who can't help their fears and require treatment to be able to function.  

It's also a dangerous thing for some who need treatment but then think that if they just had enough faith, they would be able to overcome their fears without it. 

In her book, Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! author Kate Bowler wrote a variation of the Beatitudes that reflects the idea that we often hold faith and fear in the same space and why that's helpful: 
Blessed are we, the anxious, 
with eyes wide open to the lovely and the awful. 
Blessed are we, the aware, 
knowing that the only sane thing to do in such a world
is to admit the fear that sits in our peripheral vision. 
Blessed are we, the hopeful, eyes searching for the horizon, 
ready to meet the next miracle, the next surprise. 
Yes, blessed are we, the grateful, 
awake to this beautiful, terrible day. 

Here's something we all need to hear... 

We can have faith and still have fear, and we can also have hope in the midst of that tension.  Sometimes, being able to name the fear within us is powerful because it's there and needs to be confronted. 

Naming our fear also takes away some of its power and enables us to find the strength to look to the horizon for signs of hope.  

So consider yourself blessed today if you are anxious, aware, and afraid. It does not mean you don't have faith; quite the contrary.  It simply means embracing your current reality and reminding yourself that "this too shall pass." 

There are miracles and surprises aplenty if we are willing to lift our eyes and look beyond where we happen to be. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and always. Amen.  

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