What God-fearing Christians are actually afraid of

I am beginning this blog with a biblical quote, and quoting the Bible is something I never do. (I’m also doing it on Easter, which is something I never observe.)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

Having grown up in a southern Baptist church, I probably heard this scripture read a few times. It may have even been the topic of a sermon, I don’t know. The reason I came across it today is because I searched for love and fear before beginning this blog entry. Perhaps I’ve read too much Eckhart Tolle, but I’ve come to believe that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is fear. Fear manifests itself in many ways, including hatred, judgement, anxiety, neglect, and anger. Fear, as the Bible suggests, is incompatible with love.

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Perhaps Mr. Tolle put it this way, or perhaps I’ve just noticed it myself, but most of our mundane activities are rooted in some level of fear. We lock the doors at night, we put on our seat belts in the car, we wear protective clothing, we try not to poison our bodies. We may love the decor in our home, but we live under a roof in order to protect ourselves. And while many of us love our jobs, we have those days when we go to work simply to pay the bills, to not get fired. Almost all of our actions are preventative in nature. We’re afraid of the consequences of not taking them.

Then there is the kind of fear that spawns emotions like those mentioned above, and anger is a big one. It angers us to see people doing crazy things behind the wheel of a car because we’re afraid their behavior might cause an accident. When others hurt our feelings, we may become angry because underneath we’re afraid a relationship might be in jeopardy. We also become angry when we feel that others are standing in the way of our rights, something that has aptly been demonstrated in one hell of a Holy Week.

Thank you, Memories Pizza.

I admit it. I was outraged by the owners saying they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding. But why? No one serves pizza at a wedding, and if I knew their Christian beliefs were so deeply held (which I think I would have since they apparently have lots of Christian memorabilia inside the restaurant), I wouldn’t ask them to do anything for my wedding. In hindsight, I realize my anger stems from a fear that children are being taught this ignorance, my fear that the extreme right will never allow me to live in peace, and my fear that what people refer to as religious freedom–which has been protected in this country for twenty years–is suddenly getting out of control.

We live with some kind of fear every day, and a good amount of it is healthy. But a lot of it is destructive, like that of the pizza parlor owners. People who subscribe to any strict, unflinching religious beliefs are afraid. And for Christians, their own Bible says that fear is torment and that it cannot co-exist with love. So when they lash out with claims that the destruction of their religious freedom is at the top of our big gay agenda, I will ask them, “What exactly are you afraid of?”

It’s quite simple, and it’s something that psychologists have explored. It’s an existential form of ego death. In other words, most people with deeply held religious beliefs are afraid that they might be wrong about them. What’s more, they don’t even know it, just like we don’t always recognize the fear in our anger. And as more and more people, especially enlightened Christians, come out in support of marriage equality, those Biblically-selective ones (you know, those who will pray for homosexuals just before they eat a bowl of Leviticus-infused clam chowder) are going to become more afraid.

So there is fear and there is love. I know that a good many God-fearing Christians will refuse service to me if they can. That being the case, I’ll go to the God-loving ones to order a large pepperoni with cheese.

Read what one Christian says to do if gay people ask them to bake a cake.

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