The recent death of Jack T. Chick, the founder of Chick Publications, set off a wave of reflection in my mind and heart.
As I have written previously, in my college years and for some time afterword, I because part of the evangelical community. I did so in large part because the college I went to, Oberlin, did not have much in the way of a social life, and the student Christian fellowship was willing to provide me with one. But I also did it in no small part because I was adrift at that point when it came to thinking about life after college. Doubts about my abilities led to fear.
And fear, as anyone who has ever looked at a Chick track knows, is an emotion that evangelical Christians are only too happy to exploit. Fear of going to hell, fear of displeasing G-d even if you don't go to hell, fear of being an outcast in the community--you name it, and they have a way of wrapping fear around it. Chick tracks are notorious for using fear of hell as a motivator for preaching the Gospel. They are described in the Times article as religious pornography; frankly, I'm not in a position to disagree with that assessment.
In my case, fear only led me to feeling more and more adrift in life. It was only when I found the love of my life, and build both a family and a career around her, that the drifting ended, and I began to find the real Stephen Rourke.
So that's my message to all of you for right now, when it comes to spiritual things. Fear of whatever it is you're supposed to be afraid of is highly overrated. Fear simply produces more fear. Fear is not a path to a better life; fear is a path away from it.
I know it's a cliche, but love really is the answer. Too bad Jack T. Chick never found an effective way to put that into a tract.