Be Not Afraid

Bathrooms. Bathrooms, bathrooms, bathrooms. Every time I come on Facebook, all I hear about are bathrooms. Every time I watch the news, all I hear about are bathrooms. It’s to the point where I am having dreams about bathrooms when I go to sleep. I have never cared about bathrooms, nor been interested in them, nor taken an inventory on who exactly is going in or out of them. A bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom.

I’m sick of hearing about bathrooms.

Why are we so afraid of bathrooms? When I was growing up, it was all about germs on the toilet seat. I was told not to sit when I went to the bathroom in public, which always resulted in a disaster. Let’s just say there is a reason we are supposed to sit, and not hover, over the toilet seat. Then it was that you could get AIDS from a toilet seat (you can’t). Or an STD. Or, my favorite, hemorrhoids. Or people were putting pushpins on the toilet seat so you would get hepatitis. Then it was sexual predators outside of men’s bathrooms. Then it was getting kidnapped in the bathroom, because there were rumors that someone was hiding in the stall. Then it was they weren’t clean. It was always something.

Now, thanks to HB2 in North Carolina, people are afraid of bathrooms for a whole new reason: perverts who are going to pretend to be transgender and use the bathroom under an anti-discrimination policy that did not pass. Instead, we were left with the opposite: HB2, which effectively ended discrimination laws of all forms in the state. If someone wants to sue for discrimination now, they will have to do so on the federal level. While everyone was busy fussing over their fear of bathrooms, all the state laws which protect workers, the elderly, women, men, minorities and yes, the LGBT community were dismantled. Now if a male boss wants to go into a bathroom in North Carolina and assault his female secretary, she has no protection under the law, thanks to the law that so many people think allayed their fears about sexual predators and their access to unassuming bathroom-users.

But, I guess my question is, what is really at the root of all this? Now I see people sharing, liking, posting, and discussing the matter of bathrooms and genders and paranoid fears of predators, justifying their support for a bill that isn’t even in their state and they don’t even understand, and what is the root of it? Our all-American fear of bathrooms in each and every form. They don’t have these problems in Europe. In fact, most bathrooms in parts of Europe are unisex. Even when I was a kid, most of our bathrooms were unisex, especially at school when we had in-classroom bathrooms. We never had a problem, not a sexual predator, nor gender questioning children (at least that we knew of). Most of the bathrooms I have been to in church are also unisex, and I have never heard of a problem in one, although I have heard a lot of fictionalized accounts of such based on the fears people have about them. I am well over thirty years old and I have yet to ever meet anyone who was assaulted in a public bathroom by a complete stranger. Rape and sexual assault statistics state that over 90% of rape and sexual assault victims are attacked by people they know. Date rape is on the rise. I have never met someone who got a disease, an illness, an STD, or anything else from a toilet seat, even if it was dirty. The people popping around, hoping for a shot to assault someone in a bathroom? Doesn’t exist. In fact, maybe instead of being so paranoid, we should stop giving them ideas with our over-active imaginations.

The root of all this bathroom/gender mess is fear. Sure, we talk a good game in the church about not being afraid and avoiding our social anxieties. We talk about overcoming our fear of what others think and our fears that relate to negative thoughts or practical fears, such as failure or personal well-being…but we don’t talk about the big fears. If anything, I think the church has a way of promoting and deliberately instilling fear within its people. Preachers want their people afraid, because fear keeps them coming back for more, looking to their leaders as if they have all the answers and investing in that church, whether they are comfortable with the message, or not.

If anything, the nature of fear perpetrated in our churches re-emphasizes the fleshly issues and ideals that we hold close to us, that we hold onto in defense of being about ourselves and trying to protect ourselves with our own emotional insecurities. We are afraid of the world, of the people in the world, of people who are different, people who don’t sound or look like us, and people who don’t engage like we do. We are afraid because they seem to be against us or our values, and they aren’t at all, not in any sense, what we seem to like, look like, want, feel, or think.

“Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:17, NIV)

We like to justify our fears, and if you listen to what people say when they state their oppositions, they always have a reason that sounds, at least on the surface, justifiable to non-suspecting ears. We’re afraid it’s the end times, and so conditioned for fear, we are afraid every time we watch the news or see something, anywhere, about current events. We’re afraid of aliens coming in and taking our tin foil hats. We’re afraid the government is going to come and round all of us up and take all of our churches. We’re afraid of persecution to the point where we claim we are being persecuted when we aren’t. We’re afraid of Muslims, because they are going to come in and take over our culture and force us all into their cultural submissions. We’re afraid of immigrants and refugees, because they are going to take all our jobs. We are afraid of gay people, because they are going to force everyone to be gay. We are afraid of sex education, because it’s going to make people have sex. We are afraid transgender people are going to make everyone want to be a different gender. We are afraid of divorce, because we think it is going to ruin marriage. We are afraid of women, because they are going to be better than the men at what they do. We are afraid of minorities, because they are going to take over the establishment. We are afraid of Wal-Mart. We are afraid of the Illuminati. We are afraid of celebrities. We are afraid of the music industry. We are afraid of everyone and everything. They aren’t new fears. If you read sensational news story books, like The Late Great Planet Earth or New World Order, they were all saying the same mess, years ago, none of which has yet to come to pass (and since they said it would by certain time frames, that makes them false prophets…but we hold on anyway, because they threw in a few Bible verses). Afraid, afraid, afraid. And the church, as a whole, perpetrates, encourages, and even promotes these fears, invalid as they are, because it makes sure that people will hold on to something, even if what they are afraid of…surprise…isn’t really real.

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Consistently in the Scriptures, I hear “Be not afraid.” Whether it was a command not to be afraid of a genuine perceived enemy, a real enemy, for one’s livelihood, for one’s ministry, or for one’s welfare, God consistently tells us to not be afraid. We can’t evangelize the world if we have already cursed everyone and everything in it that is different from us. If we see everyone who comes up to us as an enemy, as a minion, as evil, we aren’t going to be able to engage with them for the sake of the Gospel. Whatever someone is doing is irrelevant, because before God, we are all still sinners. It doesn’t matter what the sin is, it doesn’t matter if we can see the sin; that sin is somewhere in there, and we need to stop being so judgmental that we can’t see the image of God in people, regardless of who they are or what they have done. No matter what you feel is sin or not sin these days, if you can’t see God in someone who is different from you, then you aren’t Christian enough. The church encourages us to hold on to our hostilities and anger at other people, and it calls us to, in what is perceived to be a defense of the Scriptures, stand on a perceived concept of Christianity that is just not very Christian. Yet somehow, some way, by truly walking with God and laying down our oppositions to other people, we are able to see people…friends…even hope for the lost…if we will stop being afraid long enough to allow God to take over control.

Too many of us just aren’t there yet. We want to use our fear to justify where we are. We want to use our fear to keep others out and see enemies walk down the street instead of people who need to hear the Gospel. It keeps us comfortable, it keeps us safe. It makes sure that the sins of the church go unnoticed and that we can say the world is just giving us a bad rap. They aren’t. They are right when they say we aren’t living up to what we should be. We get defensive when it comes up but they’re right. They are seeing through our protests, our hatred, our embittered behavior, long enough to say that we aren’t willing to give up the control we maintain through fear so maybe we can make a difference in this world.
There’s a much higher price that we are paying for our fear, and that’s our own lack of healing. Nobody has to accept, agree with, or believe in anything they don’t want to believe in, but there is no reason why we should be in such a state of fear, running from perceived enemies that don’t really exist. If in every person that passes you see a perpetrator, that is a dangerous place and world to be in…and I truly know (and believe) that is not Jesus’ will for you in the grand scheme of things. It’s time to get free…free from the fear of the unknown, the different, and the things that happen that we cannot change.

Be not afraid! People, it’s just a bathroom. It’s not a battle ground. If I have to go to the bathroom, I don’t want to deal with the governmental pervert at the door who is going to decide which bathroom I should go in (and gee, what about the fact that preoccupation with that is kind of strange?). I don’t like that we are using fear to teach our daughters to be discriminatory and that yet another generation of paranoia sweeps through the bathroom. That person you feel you are fighting isn’t the real enemy; control is, and fear is the weapon used to keep you fighting the wrong enemy. In the Kingdom, no fear should live here: not of people, not of enemies, not of social anxieties, not of finances, not of any of it. We need to have enough trust in God to realize that the Kingdom of God is here, close enough to touch, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18), because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

© 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

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