Posted by: Philip Rushton | August 13, 2012

Finding Hope In Our Culture Of Fear

Yesterday, I referenced Barry Glassner’s book Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. This concept of a “culture of fear” has become a common term among sociologists and other thinkers in recent years. Glassner’s thesis is that journalists, politicians, and advertisers have sought to leverage influence over the public by overstating fear, and dwelling on the negative. His book is full of examples of how news headlines, political rhetoric and public perceptions are out of sync with actual statistics. For example, in his chapter on crime, he talks about how in the mid 90’s 2/3rds of Americans believed that crime was soaring and on the rise, when really it was declining and was lower than normal. Glassner has similar examples that relate to economics, the likelihood of terrorism, and health problems.

To be sure, there are real risks and fears out there. We should not deny fear and suppress it. The problem is that our culture has taught us to dwell on fear and has created unnecessary fear. With the rise of 24 hour news channels, we are inundated with constant bad news. Glassner has an interesting perspective on 24 hour news channels. He talks about how extreme tragedies (like the Colorado massacre) are given so much airtime that they create a sense that these extreme and extraordinary events are actually normal. We dwell for so long on these events that it creates a sense that we are in imminent danger of experiencing them ourselves, when really these events are quite unlikely to repeat themselves day in and day out.

In light of this we reflected yesterday on Psalm 16. Here David gives voice to his fear. “Keep me safe oh God, for in you I take refuge.” David cries out for help because he is in imminent danger. This is an important step. David is honest and he often laments about his suffering.

Yet, there is an other aspect to how David confronts his fear. Instead of dwelling in fear David also dwells on the hope he has in God. He turns off the negative news feed and refuses to let it be his 24 hour reality. I highlighted five sources of hope that David clings to when life seems out of control. And in true Baptist fashion I alliterated them!

David dwells on God’s presence. “You are my Lord.” “Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.” “You fill me with joy in your presence.”

David dwells on the gift of other people. He is not alone in his journey he has others who are with him in his trial. “As for the saints in the land, they are the glorious one in whom is all my delight.”

David dwells on God’s provision. “You have assigned me my portion and my cup.” “Surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

David dwells on God’s pathways. “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me.” “You have made known to me the path of life.” While David is not spared from his trial, he is given guidance in the midst of it. He finds a way through hardship through God’s word.

David dwells on the perspective of eternity. David avoids the ‘tunnel vision’ that is our tendency in crisis. He looks beyond it and has hope that there will be something beyond this current challenge. “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay.” This is particularly apt for us as Christians. Peter quotes Psalm 16 in Acts 2 saying that this hope beyond the grave is now fulfilled in Christ!

As a follow up to yesterdays sermon, I thought I’d provide a few questions for you to reflect on.

What is causing you to be fearful right now?

Of these five sources of hope that David dwells on, what one do you need to recover today?

How might these promises of God help you in your time of distress?

May we be people of hope in a culture of fear!

Yours, on the journey! PHIL


  1. Barry Glassner just became the president of my alma mater, Lewis & Clark College. Small world…

    But yes, I think we are programmed to respond most to fear and sensationalism right now…and I wish I knew a way out of it. Even Scripture deals a lot in fear in many places…

  2. Thanks Phil.

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