I saw the headline today. It was posted on Facebook: “‘Thief in the Night’ Filmmaker Russ Doughton Dies.” Suddenly, I remembered the fear Doughton’s films created in my young heart as I watched his films in the church of my childhood. The aim of his films were clear. He, and others like him, created films that would scare people to Jesus.
Certain images of Doughton’s films still play in my mind forty years later. The freeway scene still crashes in my mind: driver-less cars careening after “the rapture” takes people from behind the wheel. The spinning mixer-bowl toward which a child cries, “Mommy?!” still makes me dizzy. I was terrified by the images.
Some say that these films were effective, that their influenced caused me (and others) not to stray from faith in Jesus. They may be right. I was afraid of being “left behind.” Faith-based fear chased me for many years.
I remember a certain late night on the road. Flashes of light in the clear fall sky convinced me that I had been left behind. It had been a reckless night with friends. The Northern Lights appeared as a menacing sign of “the rapture.” Their display should have been an experience of wonder and joy in the marvelous work of God’s creation. Instead, I was scared.
Fear. Scaring people to Jesus. Threats of being left behind…? Bleh!
The freedom of Christ proclaimed in the gospel sets us free from sin, death, and all forces evil – from fear. God’s perfect love casts out fear. At the same time, it reorients us and turns us toward the world to proclaim the gospel, the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
Fear is not good news. Threats do not set us free. Creating a situation of fear in order to proclaim freedom through Christ is abusive. Such strategies stand in sharp contrast to the love of God at work through Jesus Christ.
Photo by Louish Pixel. It is used under (cc BY-NC=ND 2.0) license.