Thanks to Karen Spears Zacharias and the folks at Zondervan for sending me a copy of Where’s Your Jesus Now?: Examining how Fear Erodes our Faith (Zondervan 2008).
I learned of this book through John Frye’s blog where he did a review of this book. His review interested me enough that I stepped out and asked the author if I could get a review copy to put up on my blog. Well, it was only a few days later the I found it in my mail box. So, I was glad to get into it strait away.
Where is your Jesus Now? is a series of essays Zacharias wrote in exploring the intersection of faith and fear and how letting fear control one’s life erode faith in God. She starts out with an essay about a guy named Eric Shannon who while a religious man ended up becoming an extremely controlling husband and father to the point that he developed a cult mentality that in the end cost him his life and the life of others. The question becomes how did a guy who was raised in the church become such a control freak and one willing to kill even his own mother if it came too it (though he didn’t but was killed in a shootout with the Police)? Fear. Eric Shannon and many others talked about in the book, even conservatives like Ann Coulter, let fear of differences and possibly even acceptance control their lives and how they interact with others. In the first essay Zacharias writes of Eric Shannon:
Eric’s Fundamentalist beliefs [he some how ended up following a strict form of legalistic Judaism] gave him the one thing he was searching for – justification. With God on his side, who could stand against him? Eric felt it was his right to intimidate others. He did so without fear of retaliation or repercussions because God was his defender. It was Eric and God against the world. Eric trusted no one, particularly not anyone affiliated with any government agencies [before he was killed they took his kids away - the shoot out was when he was trying to take them back]. [brackets mine] (13).
In doing this review and reflecting on this book from a pastoral point of view, I think acceptance is as much an issue as fear in this book. People who live in fear often long for but yet fear acceptance and so tend to isolate themselves and reject others. Does this make sense? Zacharias later shares:
In his paranoia-fueled fervor, Eric Shannon went in search of a God of retribution, and he missed the God of redemption altogether. But Eric isn’t the only one who has been waylaid by fear and despair. Lately it seems far too many of us are inclined to exploit faith as Eric did, relying on it as justification to disdain, dismiss, and destroy others. I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it too. (25)
With this the tone of the rest of the book is set: what is it that drives people to reject and control others and in many ways try to control God? Fear and despair. When we let fear control us we begin to lose faith and trust in God. When this happens life gets messy and it gets messy fast.
In my personal opinion, this book is in many ways prophetic. It’s prophetic in the OT prophets sense. The kind of prophetic speech that made the religious leaders nervous and embarrassed. Prophets are like a burr under the saddle – you just can’t get comfortable when they are around. Even so, Zacharias is witty, funny and a good story teller (one could easily laugh, cry, get angry, cheer or be silent and maybe even want to throw it at the wall when reading this book) – these things keep one distracted from the fact that the reader (either conservative or liberal) is constantly shifting in his or her seat because of the burr under the saddle. What is the burr? That at some point we need to let go of fear and lay hold of love and acceptance. That life isn’t just about us but about following the Lord and accepting others as God has accepted us. Let go of fear and lay hold of a God of redemption, forgiveness, and acceptance.
I highly recommend this book to those wanting to explore such issues.