Skimming through the racks of old T-shirts in my parents’ closet, my eyes briefly land on images of a Lynyrd Skynyrd album cover, various NASCAR racers and Ducks Unlimited magazine covers, before moving onto the next.
My mom tells me of the infamous “No Fear” T-shirts of the 90s, which had distinct slogans implying that if you weren’t willing to try, to play hard, you shouldn’t play at all, and you should have no fear. The slogans often said anything from “Fear has killed more men than time” to “A brave man is not a man who is not afraid, but one whose will is stronger than his fear.”
All were intended to inspire fearlessness in the wearer so that more goals could be accomplished without paying attention to the typical worries that hold so many back.
The themes of “No Fear” can be interpreted in multiple ways. Because the brand was an advocate of extreme sports, many chose to believe it represented contempt for societal norms and encouraged the lack of fear of death. However, it could also represent having no fear when the time comes to standing up for your beliefs.
This interpretation brought to mind the Bible story of “The Fiery Furnace,” where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon demanded that anyone who would not fall down and worship the golden statue would immediately be thrown into a white-hot furnace. When three Jewish administrators refused to break the First Commandment, Nebuchadnezzar gave them the ultimatum once more, demanding to know who is the God that would supposedly deliver them out of his hands.
The men refused to denounce their faith, replying, “... But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”
Enraged, he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual and had the three men cast in. When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fire, he saw four men walking unharmed among the flames — the three young men and the Son of God.
Since the beginning of our faith, Catholics have faced similar (although hopefully nowhere near as dangerous) situations. We are continuously questioned about our faith, whether the inquiries concern the actual existence of our God, if we truly believe that Christ is present in the Body and Blood, if we worship statues or the saints and so many others.
Recently, however, with the rising number of sex scandals occurring within the Church, Catholics across the globe are being criticized for supposedly allowing these wrongdoings to take place while continuing to support their “corrupted Church.”
This is not simply a test to see who is a true Catholic and will continue to side with the Church, and who is a fair-weather friend who transitions to another denomination in an attempt to save themselves. No, we have been granted an opportunity to prove who we really are, and what we really support.
Instead of leaving the Church or attempting to bury our heads in the sand, Catholics should be more active than ever. We should be giving more funds to charities, leaving on more mission trips, volunteering more of our time to the less fortunate and working together to present to the world a united front of the sons and daughters of God who long to serve his people.
Just as in the old Tom Petty song, when he sings, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down,” when you are surrounded by those putting down your Church, your faith, will you hide the truth? Or will you be fearless and claim it as yours?
Katherine McWilliams is a senior at St. Joseph School in Conway. She attends St. Joseph Church.
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