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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Papa, Tell Me a Story

Written by: on September 28, 2020

“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.”[1] 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.[2] We are inundated with films and other media sources that educate the viewer to see “aggression as a natural feature of the human condition.”[3] 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.[4] 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.”[5] 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.

[1] Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the 21st Century, (London, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), 19

[2] Frank Furedi, 201-02

[3] Frank Furedi, 202

[4] Frank Furedi, 237

[5] Frank Furedi, 245

About the Author

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Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

10 responses to “Papa, Tell Me a Story”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, I grew up as a child who was essentially afraid of everything. In our Zoom session the other night when we were sharing our poems, one of the lines mentioned growing up in a haunted house. My parents would always tell my brother and I stories about the ghost, Bobby, who was a Vietnam veteran that was killed in action. These stories became ingrained in me and I was terrified of going upstairs alone at night for fear that Bobby would get me.

    It didn’t help that my dad also loved shark movies like Jaws. Those movies put the fear of God in me when it came to the ocean and after watching Deep Blue Sea with my parents when I was in elementary school, the ocean was out of the question when we would visit Florida.

    However, now I love horror movies. I don’t know what switch flipped, but I find them fascinating. I was recently watching a lecture on The Great Courses about psychosocial horror films and victorian horror novels and one of the things the professors pointed out was how these movies provide a lens into the depths of the human psyche. We’re fascinated by them because they reveal something about the darkest parts of our soul. When I began to like horror films, to me it was like I was conquering part of those fears I had as a child.

    …that being said, I still have to sleep with the TV on when I visit my parents.

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Dylan,
    I grew up on “B” movies; Old school
    Godzilla and monster movies. Just because of the poor special effects it was easy to to distance myself from what was real and what wasn’t. Currently the special effects, surround sound, 3D, big screen and other things appear to create a challenge between reality and fiction. Could the current addiction to reality TV shows be part of this fear culture we live in? Are our personal lives so bad that we need to watch other peoples brokenness and stupidity so we feel better about ourselves?

  3. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    You highlight an important component here- 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.”

    People often found comfort in God’s sovereignty, that at the end of the day God knew what God was doing, and even if we didn’t like it, it would be ok. Prayer and wise counsel helped people make decisions- again trusting that God’s spirit was leading in a particular way. Following God is scary, but there is comfort that at the end of the day, Someone else is actually carrying the weight of the world. To walk without faith in God, means people have to carry the weight of the world themselves. Every decision has an outcome and if all goes south, then that falls squarely on the person deciding. So no one decides anymore. Many are paralyzed to just make a simple, informed decision. There’s too much info and too much pressure to always be right. We were never meant to live this way-which is why things are so side-ways. I wonder if our fascination with horror films is in someway a projection of our internal fears, countered with the hope that in someway, the good guy wins in the end.

  4. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    You may be correct. In some ways horror films may be our way of trying to make sense of the evil we see in the world. A way to control something that we truly can’t control. With the secularization of culture and the sacred being pushed to the fringes or into the private parts of life finding comfort in God is often left to the individual apart from the community.

  5. mm Jer Swigart says:

    The idea that we fetishize fear is one that hadn’t considered in my reading of Furedi. I think you’re right though. Fear is a thing reality that has become so common that we haven’t just grown accustomed to it…we’ve become addicted to it. We need the fear to expereince a sense of convition & direction.

    This sounds like a prison of our own making.

  6. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Good use of “Groundhog’s Day.” That movie depicts the natural outworking of nihilism, where Furedi’s analysis is rooted in moral nihilism.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Shawn,

      I think we all at some time or another go through this mindset that nothing matters, life is what it is. The purpose and meaning of life eludes many. At times it is through this meaninglessness that God steps in and gives us meaning.

  7. mm John McLarty says:

    I think it’s interesting that even the church has used the language of fear for it’s purposes- churches will host a “hell house” or “scared straight” programs and use the power of fear to manipulate one’s faith decisions. The media is an easy target, and certainly culpable, but this has been around far longer than media. Somewhere deep within us is an addiction to the adrenaline rush of fear. I wonder where that came from?

  8. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Influence of Hollywood. Man, this kinda determines culture. These days, Netflix and Facebook. I can’t say that something like TikTok has any kind of an effect, seems to be full of brainlessness, as far as I’ve seen.

    Perhaps a bit of brainlessness from the constant cranial pressure of so much else mental and full of socialisation and enculturation could be beneficial?

    I love the idea of a daily fresh start (ref. Groundhog Day). However, I’m not sure of the idea of making the most of the situation as it is. Can you help me to understand? Are you proposing a paradigm shift concerning the culture of fear? How do we see it and respond to it differently (less anxiously) while exemplifying a stand in opposition to it?

    I so appreciate how your posts encourage deeper considerations and different ways of seeing things, Greg!

  9. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris,
    1 John 4:8 tells us that there is no fear in love nut perfect love casts out fear. Psalms 56 Tells us to trust in God when we are afraid. Each day we all have choices. Our choices often dictate our direction in life. Flower nectar is a natural by product of flowers. A bee takes that substance and makes one of the sweetest things in nature, honey. A hermit spider takes the same substance and turns it into poison. The same substance yet a different response. We have a choice each day whether to walk in the love of God that casts out all fear or to allow fear to control us.

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