Can’t Get Saved Through the Lizard Brain

1977 was a scary year.
There were the infamous “Son of Sam” murders.
The fuel shortage was on everyone’s mind. 
Inflation was up. Johnstown Pennsylvania
had enough flooding to kill 75 people.
Elvis Presley died in August.
Hollywood found a supernatural hit
with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Worst of all, there was a born-again Christian 
in the White House in the form of Jimmy Carter.
That alone was a sign of the end
according to the evangelist who came to my church.
I began to lay awake at night
trembling and counting my sins.

Fear sells. And it sells more than insurance. It's been selling religion for centuries--since the dark ages when the church burned people at the stake to get them to conform. Pressure doesn't leave room for a personal relationship with Jesus. This is why evangelistic meetings bring crowds into the church, but six months later most of them have disappeared. The preacher activated their amygdala or lizard brain, but when they calm down, they leave. 

I sat in the back row at church watching scary dragons and listening to my options between dying as a martyr or dying prematurely from a nuclear bomb without my salvation intact. All I could do was pray, “Dear Jesus, please don’t come until I have sex.” Seriously. There is no sex heaven according to the preacher. He said we should sell everything, move to the country and get ready for the horrible events which were about to happen. The room was so dark I was able to chew off all ten of my finger nails without anyone noticing.

Within months my family moved to a non-accredited school where we kids did more child labor than studying. The teacher said it didn’t matter because Jesus would come before we grew up. We were also forced to sport the dreaded end-of-the-world dress code. Those who didn’t conform were accused of being in Babylon. I loathed wearing a dress over my pants while I worked in the garden. I took refuge in the opportunity to freeze in place whenever a car passed by–hoping to be mistaken for a scarecrow.

Our “school” taught external behavior with little opportunity to think about a heart change because the entire community was built on fear. We canned and dried fruit and worried that we would have enough food for the time of trouble. We discussed hiding in the mountains. We worried about nuclear war. We were afraid to get tattoos on our wrists and foreheads and wear the “Mark of the Beast.” As I memorized religious writings for the time of trouble, I wondered how many verses it would take to be ready.

We were told to be perfect like our Father in heaven and stop sinning. This prompted me to stop chewing my fingernails, give up bubblegum and quit reading the Sunday funnies. Despite how much I prepared, news headlines still caused me to lay awake at night with my heart in my throat worrying that Jesus would come and I would be labeled a goat.

Scientists tells us that fear floods the amygdala causing us to engage a “fight or flight” response. Meanwhile the thinking center of our brain is put on hold while we are running for our lives. How much thinking can you do when you’re running for your life? It’s considered bad council to choose a car, house or spouse in such a state, so why would we try to get people to build a relationship with God, based on fear?

Fear sells. And it sells more than insurance. It’s been selling religion for centuries–since the dark ages when the church burned people at the stake to get them to conform. Pressure doesn’t leave room for a personal relationship with Jesus. This is why evangelistic meetings bring crowds into the church, but six months later most of them have disappeared. The preacher activated their amygdala or lizard brain, but when they calm down, they leave.

I have friends and siblings who tell me they get nauseated whenever they go near a Revelation meeting today. Some of them are agnostic or atheist because the picture of God they were shown as children only causes them to flee as far away from the church as possible.

Have you been following God because of fear? When people spend a lifetime being scared into following God, it’s almost impossible to trust God. Are we running to Jesus because we trust him or because we are afraid of the seven last plagues and Armageddon? If you are a parent, do you want your kids to love you out of fear? God doesn’t either.

There is no fear in love. 
But perfect love drives out fear, 
Because fear has to do with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
-1 John 4:18

The only thing that can take away fear is love. Jesus came to show us what love looks like. The people who knew him were not afraid of him. The same Jesus, who healed outcasts, forgave criminals and held little children can also calm the worst hurricane whether it is swirling around us or in our hearts. This same Jesus who is our Friend is coming back but he doesn’t want us to be worried, he even says–

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
-John 14:27

Jesus is coming; don’t you want to be ready? This question has been repeated over and over throughout my lifetime. Sometimes it’s been said to manipulate me into doing what others wanted me to do. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of snake oil salesmen trying to sell me my salvation.

I don’t want to be scared into trusting Jesus, I want to trust Jesus on His own merits–not because the stock market is crashing or violence is rampant, but because I have engaged the thinking center of my brain and made a logical decision to trust God because he is faithful and loving and fair.

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid
But a spirit of power and love and self-control.
-2 Timothy 1:7


2 thoughts on “Can’t Get Saved Through the Lizard Brain”

  1. This is me, I’m afraid. I’ve always been afraid, and I think I know nothing of actual love. I feel like I can’t tell the difference between the two and my family doesn’t understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Carlee,

    I’m sorry it took me so long to respond, I was on vacation for part of July.

    From your comment, I don;t have a lot to go on, but I would like to reassure you that you are the object of God’s love and because of that you should not be afraid of him. God honors all who try to live loving lives. Sometimes we grow up in families who misconstrue love and it makes it harder for us to recognize what love is actually like. There is a word picture in the Bible of what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:

    Love is patient,
    Love is kind.
    Love does not envy,
    Love does not boast,
    Love is not proud.
    Love does not dishonor others,
    Love is not self-seeking,
    Love is not easily angered,
    Love keeps no record of wrongs.
    Love does not delight in evil but
    Love rejoices with the truth.
    Love always protects,
    Love always trusts,
    Love always hopes,
    Love always perseveres,
    Love never fails.

    If you want to know what JEsus is really like try substituting his name in place of Love. If you read the gospels, you will see that the words above all describe the way Jesus treats people and that includes how he treats you too!

    One way to know for sure that someone is not acting out of love is if they use their power over other people–whether to control them or scare them or abuse them or demean them all of these methods lack love.

    Jesus is the best picture of love adn when you know his love, these unloving people can no longer scare us.

    May you always know true love!



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