At the time I write this, many in the United States are under some kind of “lock-down” order. But, thanks to the internet, people are still able to communicate with each other. And people have differing opinions on which medical or scientific projection about our current pandemic is most likely to prove accurate. And they write to each other about them…
We might be doing so “under the influence,” if you will, of angst: “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25 ESV).
What concrete effect might be the result of one’s heart being weighed down by anxiety? It is one of many emotions that might affect one’s manner of speech. Consider the following culled shotgun blast of proverbs from Proverbs (and one from Ecclesiastes):
Now these passages tell us of a attitudes that are sinful (envy) or often irrational (anger, fear) and show us how they affect communication. The woman of Proverbs 29:22 argues because she is afraid (“fretful”). And when someone communicates under the influence of a powerful emotion he often elicits a powerful emotional response. Anger stirs up anger. It goes viral. It is a social contagion.
Remember, when Israel went to war they asked everyone who was afraid to leave the army:
And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, “Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.”Deuteronomy 20:8 ESV
Fear is a social contagion that can cause social unrest and rebellion against leadership.
The possibility that Proverbs presents to the “son” (see my book on how much of Proverbs is Solomon speaking to his ideal son) is to put out a counter virus involving two steps:
Without a group of people who have heard the call of wisdom and who order their lives to model that wisdom, society can only slide into chaos.
There is an episode of the Twilight Zone that vividly illustrates the process. A strange object in the sky, inexplicable electrical anomalies, and a heritage of end-of-the-world fiction all combine to make people fearful. And anxiety makes them lash out in anger and then violence.
Instead of mysterious lights in the sky and tech failures, our fear is triggered by seeing empty store shelves and hearing reports of another celebrity self-quarantining, and more deaths. We have plenty of apocalyptic science fiction feeding the fire in our minds.
Whatever might happen (and I don’t know, just like everyone else who isn’t God), Proverbs has one solid piece of advice: calm down.
Or, as is more traditional to say: “fear not.”
Mark Horne is a member of the Civitas group, and holds an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the executive director of Logo Sapiens Communications and writes at www.SolomonSays.net. He is the author, most recently, of “Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men” from Athanasius Press.
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