Two items in this week’s Denver Post caught my eye. First, the price of gold is at an all time high, over $1000 per ounce. Everyone but me, it seems, is buying gold to keep at home or in a safe-deposit box somewhere. The internet reminds me that $24,000 of gold fits into a paper tube about the size of a roll of quarters. Wow. Makes me want to melt down those heirloom, precious, gilded baby-booties from my great-grandmother. Probably worth something now. (I won’t, but it does make one think. And she’s dead, anyway.)
A second item jumped out of the newspaper: the shelf supply of ammunition for rifles and handguns is at an all time low. Stores can’t keep bullets in stock, and manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand. If seems as if Americans, and others around the world, are stock-piling both gold and shotgun shells. We are weighing in metals: gold, brass, and lead.
So what’s the connection? Why do people want to buy gold? Why do people want to store bullets? I offer a simple answer: people are afraid today. Our levels of trust in the economy, wall street, the government, the state of world peace, the neighbor across the street, et al, is preciously low. Commentators on CSN or Fox will tell us it’s a confluence of 9/11, a vicious political season, corporate corruption, cancer rates, or the recession. I add to the list “too many frightened commentators telling us why we’re afraid.” Regardless, people are scoring higher on the fear continuum. We’re sliding the bell-shaped curve to the right: from concerned to nervous, to beyond worried, to highly anxious, and then pinning the needle at flat out terrified. A kind of paranoia is sneaking into the world of Sears and Sam’s Club. Webster’s Dictionary defines paranoia as a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others. Yep. It’s here. Buy gold and bullets, baby. We want something we can hold on to and feel safe.
I asked my doctor the other day during a routine check-up if people seemed more fearful to him. After setting down the H1N1 needle, he peered through his full-face mask, touched me kindly with a double-gloved hand, and offered that over half of the patients he treats now are suffering from anxiety-aggravated disorders. Really. Fear is the new disease du jour. And then he told me to triple my vitamin C intake and avoid airplanes. Mindless of the sweat forming on your brow and mine, the truth is that fear is epidemic.
So, should we be into piles of ingots and ammo? If so, when do I have enough? When the tube is full, or the closet is full, or the basement is full? Eugene Petersen, a favorite author of mine, defines faith as “paranoia in reverse.” I like that, and I need an extra helping of anti-paranoia today. Forget H1N1 shots. It is faith which is the only lasting cure for fear. In his day, Jesus spoke words of faith to the fearful men and women who looked out their first-century windows at a war-torn, chaos-filled world. Looking into their eyes, wide-like-saucers, perhaps, he said,
“Don’t worry. I want you to be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve overcome the world.”
It is a person’s faith which mitigates their fear. It used to be faith in a system, or a company, or a pension plan. Now it’s rotated to faith in Kuggerands, and Smith and Wesson. Focus it where you like: it is still faith at work quelling our fear. The most powerful faith occurs when you trust a person who actually has some power to influence your problems. For example, we feel better when the teacher says, “Don’t worry about your grade. You’ll get an A.” And sometimes I need to look into my children’s eyes and say, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine. Trust me. I’m your Dad.”
Faith is the answer to fear. And the bigger the Person we trust, and more power they have to influence the matters of our life, the less our fears emerge. To the point: my friends, we need an inoculation of anti-paranoia. We need to look up, child-like, and take heart. We need to place our faith, again, in a good God who sees our world clearly. Instead of predicting the next dire turn, or watching Fox News predict it, we need to look to our faith. The Creator is bigger than the metals he created. This is paranoia in reverse.