“Papa tell me a story” is a common request when Facetiming my 4-year-old Granddaughter Addison. “Papa use the faces!” So it begins. I pick an emoji face that covers my face and start the story. “Once upon a time there were 3 little pigs (the pig emoji face covering mine) …” When I get to the big bad wolf, I am reminded by Addi not to forget to put on the wolf face for that part of the story. “I will huff, and I will puff, and I will blow your house down.” “Papa you’re scary” Addi always states. I respond, “Baby girl, Papa doesn’t want to be scary.” Addi quickly replies, “Papa it’s a pretend scary!” As I finish the story with “happily ever after” it doesn’t take long before I hear, “Papa tell me another story, this time use the dragon face.”
America is addicted to fear. Peruse Hulu, Netflix, Primetime or any of the other movie channels and at any given time of the year you can find a large selection of thriller, suspense, or horror movies available. If you’re a Roku user there are multiple free channels committed solely to horror movies. As Halloween draws closer, a non-horror movie fan would be hard pressed to find something else to watch. For some, the thrill of being frightened by even the most graphic movie is a place of the familiar. It appears that the scarier the movie the better. Can this fascination and love affair with fear have potential influence on our perspective of fear in a culture of fear?
Frank Furedi in his book How Fear Works explains that media is not the primary force in the culture of fear we see in America. But “the most important contribution made by the media is not so much how it frames and communicates a specific threat but it’s role in popularizing and normalizing a language and a system of symbols and meaning for interpreting society’s experience.” Furedi unfolds the idea that the concept of vulnerability can be correlated with human fragility and reflects a loss of the belief in humanity having the ability to deal with adversity. We are inundated with films and other media sources that educate the viewer to see “aggression as a natural feature of the human condition.” Eventually we begin to see all of humanity in a suspicious light of aggression.
Bill Murray, in the Movie Groundhog Day, plays Phil Connors, a weatherman who gets stuck reliving the same day over and over. It soon dawns on him that if tomorrow never comes that there were no consequences to the choices he made. As the movie unfolds, the viewer sees a slow transformation taking place as Phil explores the possibilities of living a life without consequences. After an unknown number of repetitive days, Phil begins to see that a life without consequences is better viewed as a life with unlimited potential. Phil eventually learns to speak French, play the piano and falls in love with his co-worker. When the transformation from a self-centered jerk to a more caring person is complete, the time loop ends.
According to Frank Furedi, once we understand the dynamic of the “culture of fear” we can begin to dismantle its influence. At first it may appear that we are stuck in a time loop with little hope of changing, but like Phil Connors, once we realize that the “culture of fear” is not cast in bronze, choices can be made to alter the process creating a less fearful culture. According to Furedi “A loss of faith in public life and in people’s decision-making capacity is one source of the current practices of the politics of fear.” Lamentation 3:22-23 reminds us “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” We may not have been given the gift of reliving a day over and over until we get it right like Phil Connors in Ground Hog Day, but God does allow us a fresh start every day with the guarantee that His mercy will never stop and He will always love us. This, in and of itself, is grounds for hope in the possibility that we can change.
 Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the 21st Century, (London, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), 19
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