Today I want to talk about fear. But first I want to talk about Farscape, despite having just allowed myself a rather self-indulgent birthday post on the subject.
As an antidote to the mind-numbing stress of orchestrating an international move, I allowed myself a brief break Thanksgiving afternoon to watch a light-hearted first season episode of my all-time favourite series. Part of why I love Farscape is that (particularly if one happens to be an overly analytical type like myself) the show lends itself well to repeated viewing and obsessive attention to seemingly indifferent details. This is particularly true of protagonist John Crichton’s development over the course of the first season, as he gradually shifts from an optimistic all-American hero to a psychologically tormented wreck of a human being (good times!). And for all that Farscape features its share of battles and explosions, it’s worth noting that John does not touch a weapon for much of the first season. Not until the episode I watched Monday afternoon — an episode that comes about 3/4 of the way through the season. It’s the first time we see John with a pistol strapped to his thigh, and for the rest of the series he pretty much never takes it off (he even gives it a name at one point). So what changed?
I don’t want to delve too far into the details of a TV series most people reading this post have never seen. Suffice it to say that in the episode immediately preceding the one I watched, John undergoes some series trauma. He realizes not only that he is in physical danger (he has known that since the series premiere), but that he is in psychological danger as well. He cannot trust his own mind. He is not safe. You do not have to be a science fiction nerd to get where I am going with this: John’s attachment to his weapon is rooted in deep psychological fear and distrust of both himself and the world in which he has found himself. Admittedly, as a die-hard fan, I can say John has good reason to be afraid. All the same, in his attempt to preserve his life and his sanity, he leaves a lot of destruction in his wake. The series never presents him as a “hero” in the traditional sense. He is just a crazy man desperately trying to survive.
We have been talking a lot about guns in recent weeks (and months, and years…). I think of issues around gun control and gun safety on a daily basis as I prepare for a move to a college campus in the U.S.A. I think about Amanda having to go through drills for an active shooter situation when she goes to school in a few short years.
I am afraid. And I also know that I do not have as much to fear as other parents–parents of black children who are more likely to be killed by police officers than they are by a random mass shooter (who is almost certainly going to be a young white man).
But that recently re-watched episode of Farscape reminds me that fear cannot be the answer. Fear is what convinces so many people that they must old on to their military grade weapons. Fear compels us to protect ourselves and our own at the expense of others. Fear leads to more guns. More violence. Fear cannot be the answer.
What is the antidote to fear? Well, according to our own tradition “perfect love casts out fear.” That may sound a bit trite or overly simplistic, but it also happens to be true. Faith and hope call us to move forward in hope, not be held back in fear. Whether that is fear of violence to ourselves that makes us want to protect ourselves at any cost or fear of the unknown that causes us to view those unlike ourselves with suspicion–the answer must be to love others more than ourselves. Fear looks to our own interests. Love looks to our neighbour. I think I have a sense which is the Christian virtue…