Love and Fear:
Have you noticed that fairy tales are back – and really dark? I was watching TV one recent Sunday evening and was struck by how many commercials I saw for fairy tale movies and TV shows. There were trailers for the TV show Grimm and for the new movies Jack, the Giant Slayer and the Disney prequel Oz, the Great and Powerful. All of them seemed even more violent than the original Grimm’s tales.
Since I was curious, I watched an episode of Grimm. The show is about a Homicide Detective in Portland, Oregon, who learns that he is descended from a long line of Grimms who fight supernatural forces. Grimms can see beneath the surface to the evil forces beneath. That woman in the neat business suit – through his eyes we can see that she’s really a zombie. The man walking his dog – a werewolf.
The underlying message that I took away was that you can’t trust the world around you. Even seemingly innocent and normal people may be hiding horrifying hearts. In the show, (spoiler alert!) the main character doesn’t know that his superior officer is also one of the evil creatures. Whom can you trust?
Bruno Betelheim in his book The Uses of Enchantment popularized the theory that fairy tales serve the purpose of helping children – and adults – work through their fears. Is that why we have this plethora of re-worked fairy tales? Are we working through our national or cultural fears?
And there certainly is a lot to be scared of today: the economy, global warming, guns and violence, future global shortages of food and water; terrorism, corporations with the rights of individuals. And there are the eternal, more individual fears of failure, being alone, illness, suffering, and ultimately death.
Think of all the ways that fear constrains our lives and our world. So much of political debate, for instance, rests on one group convincing others to share their fears. And as the world gets scarier, it’s hard not to respond from fear. Fear is about scarcity – that there’s not enough food, clean water, or land, only so much money, success, power, or love – not enough for everyone, so you might as well grab yours while you can and not worry about others’ needs. But is that really how we want to live?
Jesus’ life and teachings offer a different model. Jesus was human. Like us, he knew fear. But he didn’t let it trap him. He could have reached for power, money, and prestige, but he held onto his vision of a world of justice and equality for all. He did not let fear stop him from speaking truth to those who held power over him, but continued to proclaim and live by that vision. Nor did he resort to violence to get his message across. For violence is always a product of fear. He lived out of love.
The Unitarian Universalist minister and author Forrest Church wrote in his book Freedom from Fear: Finding the Courage to Act, Love, and Be, “Love conquers fear because [love] cannot die.”
What would it mean to live free from fear, to live out of love as Jesus did?
– Rev. Pamela M. Barz, Unitarian Universalist Chaplain