Whom Shall I Fear? – When Doctor Who Gets It Wrong

I love Doctor Who.  The show is clever, and exciting, and funny, and full of interesting characters and worlds.  It also has many beautiful quotes and messages that I appreciate, such as the inherent dignity of humankind, the value of each individual life, selfless sacrifice, courage, and the faithfulness of true love.

That said, although the show displays God’s truth many times, sometimes it preaches atheistic and humanistic messages…almost like the writers are trying to shove them in, which is disappointing (who says only Christian storytellers are preachy?).  As with any story, it’s important to have discernment as I enjoy it, because I find some of the messages are actually antithetical to Scripture.

After watching “Listen” (Season 8, Episode 4), this prominent quote from Clara rankled at me:

“I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is all right. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you, fear is a superpower? Fear can make you faster, and cleverer and stronger. And one day, you’re going to come back to this barn and on that day you are going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay. Because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can you make you kind. It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed or in the dark so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this. You’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay, because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m going to leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.”

This strikes me as a desperate attempt to bring meaning and beauty to something unpleasant that is actually a result of the fall.  Why are we so often afraid?  What purpose does it serve us, to be afraid like we are?  Clara suggests it is a good thing to have fear, that we should acknowledge and even embrace our fear as a constant companion, and that fear bonds people together.  “Fear can make you kind,” she says.

Really?  Not in my experience.  I disagree with Clara’s words on a couple of levels, and here is why.

Fear divides us from one another

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18

While love is faithful and kind, fear causes us to be unfaithful and unkind.

Fear is what holds me back from reaching out to others who look lonely.  Fear is what silences me when I should stand up for what is right or warn someone about the danger of a wrong path they’re going down.  Fear is what causes me to mistrust people and assume bad motives.  Fear of judgment from others is what causes me to be angry at my children for misbehaving in public.  Out of fear I might distance myself from friends who need help, or who have fallen out of popularity (“What if someone else thinks I’m like them or that I approve of their actions/beliefs because I am spending time with them??”).  Fear is what makes me lock up my heart and try to be “strong” through detachment, to protect myself from disappointment by simply not caring at all.

I have been in all these places, and sometimes still am in a few of them.  But God is teaching me the much better way of love.  Perfect love casts out fear.  True love is not hindered by anxiety or dread.

If fear ruled the day, there would be nothing but division and selfishness.  By itself, when it “brings us together,” the results are never good: lynchings, mobs, blind hysteria, hate, bigotry.  Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is never the right motivation for making a choice.

When we come together and accomplish great things or defeat great evils, it is not because of our shared fear, but because we are rejecting that fear to stand up for a right cause.  Fear disperses people to the safety of their homes.  Courage is what bands us together against evil.

Fear indicates a lack of trust in the Lord

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 40:10

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” – Psalm 27:1-3

With the number of times the Lord tells us, “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear,” and other similar directions in the Bible, we could argue that embracing our fear as a good thing is actually disobedience to God.  He is with us.  The immortal, all-powerful Creator of the universe is by our side.  Fear can be a form of unbelief, not wholly placing ourselves in His hands or trusting Him with our well-being.

Is fear our constant companion?  Well, yes, sometimes.  But God is a bigger and greater companion!  He is far more present than any present danger – He dwells in our hearts.  As Christians we can cling to that assurance with complete trust, whether we battle everyday, trivial anxieties or full-blown, crippling anxiety disorders.

Fear need not be our constant companion!  We don’t have to live with it, because God is with us.

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” – Psalm 91:4-6

However, if you don’t have Him to lean on, all you will have is your fear.  I grieve to think this is perhaps what Clara means here…the empty, lonely fear that plagues the soul of every human being separated from their Maker.  She can attempt to make it beautiful, but in the end, if fear is kept around as a companion instead of ousted, it will not bring you home – rather, it will swallow you whole.

Some things I appreciated about the quote

I like the neat take on adrenaline, that it makes you faster, stronger, etc.  That is true, and what an amazing thing that God has created our bodies to respond that way to stressful situations – that we have renewed strength to fight or flee, whatever it takes for survival.  Adrenaline is an amazing thing!

A friend (who has not seen the show) heard a small piece of the quote, and she mentioned that it seems to be saying that on the inside, we’re all afraid…therefore we are all the same underneath and this enables us to be companions to one another.  I am not sure you can take that away from the whole quote in context, but it’s a meaning to consider.  I do like that interpretation.  However, I’d still disagree with Clara’s theory that fear can make us kind.  Love and kindness push away fear, and break down boundaries.  Love never fails.

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What do you think of this quote?  Has fear ever benefitted you?

Do you watch Doctor Who?  Enjoying this current season?  (No spoilers, please!)

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6 Comments

  1. Perhaps she means that by the doctor coming to terms with his fear he will be able to better identify with those around him that are afraid- which could make him better able to protect those around him- keeps him from being reckless!

    Reply
  2. Jared

     /  October 2, 2014

    It would appear from the observation of my life that I learn best with fear and pain. Not concluding this Is right. Only stating my diving board. Was pharo called to fear? Ninava, Saul, Isrial, Juda and all that are unregenerate? Even with craven fear.
    Not so with the believer, our fear is not a craven fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Pro 9:10 psa111:10 or The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge pro1:7. This is to say that there must be the right kind of fear in us as believers. “Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect man, one that feareth God, and shuns evil Job 1:8 and take his faithfulness and integrity Job2:3 “he still holdeth fast his integrity” in the ot the fear of God appears as a mark of God’s people and is enjoyed as the sum of piety. Well what about the nt? “And His mercy is unto generations and generations of those who fear Him” Luke 1:50. Wait is there more? “Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” 2cor7:1. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭22‬) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (‭I Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭17‬)
    The fear that they have and the fear we have is very different, but I think before we cast off any and every fear we make sure we discern what kind of fear it is. Sorry for the short response, I’m on my phone :p

    Reply
    • Ah, good distinction, Jared. I didn’t talk about the fear of the Lord here, but that is an appropriate and necessary kind of fear – the kind that motivates us toward repentance and obedience. Thanks for bringing that out! I considered mentioning it in my post but decided not to by the end. God definitely uses fear in us for good purposes, too, to teach us and shape us in our walks, as you mentioned. (What I was talking about in my post was merely fear of man or monsters, or lack of trust in the Lord…unholy kinds of fear, which I think the episode is dealing with.)

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  3. I can’t help but think of The Village, which is a fictional account of many cults: fear driving people to live secluded, sequestered, and backward lives, not knowing that sin and evil came from their very midst! The Giver is like that too.

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