Perfect Fear, Marilyn Robinson and the Kodiak Shootings

Two men are dead in Kodiak, and no one, likely, but the shooter knows why. And no one seems to know who that shooter is. It's hard to hide in Kodiak, with only 14,000 people and no other towns to drive to . . . but whoever it is, is hidden, or gone. People are mourning, and anxious. It is only fitting.

We've all heard the words, "Perfect love casts out fear." Marilyn Robinson, author of Gilead, winner of a Pulitzer and the Orange Prize for fiction recently spoke at a large conference in Michigan, which I attended. Her keynote was on fear. 

There's an increasing normalization of fear in our culture, she noted.  "Our anxieties create us."  She asks,"If we are a Christian nation, why is there so much fear?" On any given Sunday, 40% of us are in church--others not in church cultivate their faith as well. I am asking with her, does "perfect love cast out fear"---or not?

The list of our fears as Americans is too long to recite, but she is talking specifically about our fear of personal danger, and our fear of the larger culture, believing that mainstream culture is madly conspiring against us.   

She is right. We live in good times. "Bad news and terrible events have always happened in history, but by world standards, we live in a low level of threat. Yet we're huddled in psycho-emotional bomb shelters. This is not the siege of Paris!" Robinson reminds.

For some it is---the families of the two men killed. They are under siege, and will be for a long time. The rest of us have to make a decision about these other fears, the fear that we're being singled out, the fear that we'll lose our American comforts and security, fears about people different than us.

We need to be watchful and real about the presence of evil---people are murdered every day. But one way it vanquishes us is through fear. Perfect fear---fear that is fed and nurtured by the media---will do this work in us: it will cast out love. If we allow our fear full reign, we will lose whatever fragile love we hold. 

I want to be willing to risk love for people different than me. I hope to do as Marilyn instructs us: "Risk love for any human being you encounter."  

As we do this, we will discover, as I have already, that even imperfect love can cast out fear. 

Let's be fearless---this day!