A little over a year ago, scientists in the United States discovered a gene in mice called stathmin, the absence of which leads to fearlessness. Imagine that! Genetically deficient mice staring down hungry cats, wondering what these large, hairy, whiskered fellows with pointed ovals for pupils and fur on their tails (of all places!) slowly approaching them were doing. Only don’t imagine it for long—such mice are likely to have very short lifespans. The lack of fear in mice—and in humans—is a bad thing.
Two years earlier, the same scientists had discovered another gene, this one called GRP, the absence of which made mice more afraid than usual as they were learning what to be afraid of (cat-shaped mammals, I’m sure, being high on the list). Since mice who are very frightened freeze, the absence of GRP would seemingly be no better at preventing mice from becoming cat morsels than the absence of stathmin. Too much fear in mice—and in humans—is also a bad thing.
But how much should we fear? What things are worth our fear? What should we do when so many parts of our culture seem interested in playing on our fears? And what has learning to fear the right things the right amount to do with Christian faith? The writers in this issue of @ This Point have been thinking about these questions and have provided the rest of us with a series of essays—both profound and provocative—to help us live faithfully in a fear-full world. We are all indebted to Scott Bader-Saye, a bright young professor of theological ethics at the University of Scranton, for his lead article as well as to C.T.S. professors Bill Brown (Old Testament) and Barbara Brown Taylor (Spirituality) and to Rick Ufford-Chase, the outgoing moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for their own original thoughts in response to Scott’s essay. Many have already learned much from these four; these essays will, I hope, expand the numbers of their grateful students.
Beyond their essays, you will find a series of curricular materials and an annotated bibliography in our special section for educators, From This Point Forward. Thanks, then, also need to go to recent C.T.S. graduate Jihyun Oh for the curricula and current M.Div. student Marissa Myers for the annotated bibliography.
Whether you are individually reading the essays and reflecting on the questions at the bottom of each article or using the essays in concert with the curricula for an adult Sunday School class, we hope you find this issue helpful. Please, use this journal in ways you see fit and at your pleasure: it is meant to be a service to the church by the faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary. Please, feel free to share your own thoughts on this issue’s topic via the “Readers Response” section of the journal. And please, if you find this edition of @ This Point helpful, forward a link to friends, family, and colleagues. One of the wonders of an electronic journal is the ease with which it can be shared.
One final note: a small change in the list of editors below our masthead signifies a big change for the rest of us who work with the journal. Marissa Myers (she of the annotated bibliography) has joined us as Associate Editor and, in so doing, has taken on a great deal of the work—both necessary and onerous—that makes this journal possible. On behalf of the Board of Editors and my co-editor, Kathy Dawson, I’ll take this moment to publicly thank Marissa and welcome her into the new project that is this journal. Her hard work and imagination have paid off richly in this edition and will do so even more so in the spring edition, where we’re planning all kinds of exciting surprises for you.
And now, on behalf the entire Board of Editors as well as Kathy and Marissa, I invite you to read on—to “Read it and Reap!”