There has always been a clear element of fear in religion, and this is evidence today in people’s reaction to even things that I write. Most Christians have been brought up in an environment that is dominated by the belief that only the people who believe a certain way will be “saved” — will go to heaven, and that all others will go to hell. And so, the gut reaction of some Christians (many really) to things that I write is FEAR that letting their minds wander beyond the safe boundaries that have been defined by their church might open them up to ideas that will lead them straight to hell.
The primary effect of this seems to be some sort of mental and emotional paralysis which makes people want to cling to what is familiar, to what seems safe. The practical effect of this is that people tend to stay in the religion in which they were raised and never go beyond its safe boundaries, AND THIS leads me to ask the question; how is it that Jesus gathered followers? In other words, if all people at the time had taken the same fear-based approach to religion that we see in modern Christians, how did the early Christian movement ever get off the ground?
Well, the people that Jesus encountered were mostly Jews, and they had been brought up with much the same approach to religion as what is seen with most Christians today. They thought then that if they just followed all the prescripts of the Jewish religion that they would be safe. Yet, if they strayed beyond that, then they were guaranteed to go someplace pretty awful. And so, following someone like Jesus, who preached a rather bizarre, unorthodox message, carried a rather severe penalty. And this leads me back to the question; how did Jesus acquire followers if all of the people that he encountered in his day were paralyzed with fear like we see with most Christians today?
Well, what happened is that the people who were not afraid of leaving “the safe zone” were gathered to Jesus. Yep. What I’m saying is that in order to follow Jesus, one had to be willing to boldly go where no Jew had gone before, and that was pretty scary stuff for Jew. And so it is today, that in order to find a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings than what is offered by mainstream Christianity, one has to be willing to boldly go where few Christians have gone before, and this takes some work, the overcoming of fear being a large part of it.
Jesus was always giving his followers things that could expand their consciousness and their “kingdom” knowledge base, and this is important because fear is largely based on a lack of knowledge. You fear the unknown, meaning; that when you have profound insight into something, you often see that your fear is irrational, which makes the fear just go away.
Fear can become a closed mental box for people though, a kind of spiritual catch-22. I say this because you usually fear something because you have a lack of knowledge about it, but at the same time the fear has the paralyzing effect of making you afraid to even look for knowledge and insight beyond what you already know. It’s a bit nuts, really. So once the fear has entered the psyche, it prevents a person from finding the knowledge and insight that can set them free from the fear, and the fear then feeds on itself.
So, how do people overcome fear? Well, they must be willing to look at it, to confront it and seek greater knowledge and a higher perspective, which almost always empowers people to see the irrationality of the fear. Someone once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” I think it was FDR. Anyway…
It sure seems pretty clear that Jesus wanted his followers to feel free to be able to expand their knowledge and to expand their consciousness and to even be part of the ongoing quest to expand the total knowledge and consciousness of humankind, and this means that fear in his followers had to (and has to) be extinguished.
It’s really too bad that so many modern Christians have grown up in a church that has so heavily focused on the potential for “burning forever in hell.” Man, does that ever mess up psyches. The leaders of the Jewish religion in Jesus’ day were pretty skilled at scaring people too, but Jesus set himself apart from the religious establishment of the day by taking an approach that is not based on fear. Jesus’ intention as a teacher was simply to impart truth that would set people free. I like his way.