Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Overcoming Both Fear and Fearlessness

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The terrorist attacks in Paris, in the heart of Europe, created very deep pain for all of us and we commonly condemn the criminal acts, while we have prayed for the victims of these actions. One cannot transfer a covert war amid civilian people, when they have made it a standard program to be carefree from every evil. Whatever arguments they use to support such outrage cannot eliminate the brutality of the event.

However, the aim of this article is not to stress the nonnegotiable good of freedom and respect for others, but to comment on aspects of the subject which can be specifically summarized in the words fear and fearlessness, and how to overcome them.

During those critical initial days many people advised to dispel of fear. Almost all those who spoke on this issue talked about how in the face of this tragic phenomenon of terrorist acts we should dispel all fear, because frightened people are not free.

When we talk about fear, we mean psychological fear and existential fear. Psychological fear is "the feeling of anxiety linked to a specific and real danger, as opposed to stress which is generally an emotional reaction linked to an expected or imaginary danger" (Anastasia Chountoumadi - Lena Pateraki). Existential fear is the fear in the face of death. People think that with death they enter into a situation of total isolation and so they are seized with fear and terror, with the result that they end up in "common forms of life" (Heidegger, Wittgenstein).

In both cases the fear of death creates terror in man and therefore he tries to forget his death, occupying himself in the ways offered by society, namely, living within the passions of sensuality, ambition and desire through the world of sensations and feelings.

Thus, modern "opinion leaders", politicians, sociologists and theologians, from the first day these heinous acts of terrorism occurred - which we condemn - tried to motivate people not to fear and to move about in freedom. It is a slogan devoid of content, since people cannot easily get rid of the fear of death that exists within them with a slogan; they cannot get rid of their selfishness with moralistic wishful thinking; they cannot be liberated from the fear of death which is closely tied to their mortal, corruptible and passive body with simple slogans. I wonder: In the end can one get rid of the fear of death and be enclosed in the "common forms of life", which is the operative cause of this fear of death?

In contrast, to get rid of the fear of death one must be liberated from self-love, which is the source of all the passions, and this is done by the synergy of God and man.

We have fashioned a society of bliss, we have created a world of practical atheism and idolatry, we are swimming in a world of the senses and passions, all of which create the fear of death, all of which enclose us within death, and then we suggest to people to get rid of the fear of death. At least, if in the vacuum created by this so-called riddance of the fear of death we put the life in Christ, this exhortation and urging can be fulfilled, but to get rid of the fear of death and remain in the world of pleasure is really a meaningless slogan that is not believed even by those who suggest it.

The strange thing is that the jihadists who seek the death of others and of themselves, with their own suicide, do not fear death, due to the hatred they have for an unjust society, for a life of bliss, but they are also taught from their religious beliefs that after death they will enjoy a blissful life which they lacked in their biological life.

Those, however, who propose for frightened citizens to eliminate the fear of death, both psychological and existential, let these same powerful of the earth propose also that those who lead Christian peoples to eliminate their fearlessness which characterizes the way they govern nations. I speak of two great truths.

The first is that, unfortunately, many in leading positions speak and act fearlessly in supposing that modern people, especially our youth, must learn all religious traditions, and to behave naively for the "religious rights" of others. Those of us who study other religions know well that they are anthropocentric systems with strong passions, they violate people, and even lead them to "suicide on an existential level." Islam, despite some positive elements it inherited from Christianity, has many elements that create fear and astonishment. Hinduism and Buddhism destroy the human element, "stupefying" people with so-called transcendental meditation. The love of Christ cannot be compared with the fear caused in humans by other anthropocentric religious systems. Yet many supposedly progressive people want to teach young children who are Christians, even before they know the height of Christianity, the anthropocentric views of other religions, and in this way they bring about religious and mental confusion.

Of course, a person can deal with and learn about the basic principles of other religions, after having previously been molded and initiated in the value of Christianity. Also, people must respect the "religious" rights of others, but they must be firm in the superiority of Christianity and learn of the greatness of Christian love. I often think that we Greeks, with our superficiality and inactivity, commit serious mistakes, for which we will suffer many consequences as people and as a nation.

The second truth is that Christian Nations must eliminate behavior that is distinguished by a lack of fear of death, since they create major problems in the area of the Middle East, without moral restraints. Many argue that the war raging in the Middle East is about energy and that "Christian" Nations act without fear. To secure their "black gold", they affect certain balance centers in these nations that alters the balance and creates wars. Patriarch John of Antioch officially argues that "jihadism" is an imported situation in Syria, that it did not exist there, where Christians and Muslims lived in harmony. The questions are: Why are large populations moving from the Middle East? Why are Christian churches being destroyed, and the percentages of Christian peoples in these regions being altered, who held the balances? Who is responsible for these operations resulting from a lack of fear, ie fearlessness?

Therefore, it is good to advise others, and the Europeans, to eliminate fear, even in the face of terrorist acts, but at the same time to cut themselves off from self-sufficiency, self-love and blissful happiness, which create the fear of death; to choose leaders of Christian Nations with spiritual maturity and not with nubile views; as well as to rebuke the heads of Christian Nations, when in the name of profit they commit crimes against the Christianity they profess.

We condemn terrorism and violence in its various forms, but we must also rebuke the life of bliss and hedonism, which create the fear of death. We must urge people to be above fear, but also propose to the leaders of peoples to eliminate their terrible fearlessness before God and the people and ultimately against history.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἡ ὑπερνίκηση τοῦ φόβου καί τῆς ἀφοβίας", November 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.