We all know that sex sells. Companies have used sex to sell everything from cars to cabbage. But sex seems to be yielding its throne in the marketplace. Fear may be surpassing sex as the emotion of choice for marketers who want to control commerce and politics.
Life insurance, annuities, real estate, technology and political candidates are all marketed through the advertising of fear. Fear sells. Marketers call it “shockvertising.” It is sometimes referred to as “fear mongering.” Nedra Weinreich, who teaches social marketing at UCLA says, “What all of these campaigns have in common is that they try to instill the fear of what might happen if you do not support their causes.” As we enter a presidential election year, I expect the fear campaigns will intensify. Politicians know that people vote their fears.
We have always lived with fear. Those who grew up in the 1950s learned as children to “duck and cover” beneath their desks in the event of a nuclear attack. (How much protection that would have provided, I don’t know.) Many of us lived through the cold war, the star wars arms race and 9-11. Those who are entering their teens have never known a world in which people greeted one another at the airport gate and walked freely through the terminal without security lines.
The wild swings in the stock market are evidence of the fear and panic gripping our world. Fear may be one of the primary reasons corporate executives are sitting on record cash profits rather than creating jobs and investing in the future. We are in danger of becoming a fearful people.
God does not desire that we live fearful lives. Jesus spoke a great deal about fear and how to overcome it. Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. … Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? … Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12).
When a distressed father received the news his daughter was dead, Jesus said, “Stop fearing. Only believe.” When the disciples were on the sea, struggling against the wind in the dark, Jesus came to them and said. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).
It is important that we not fall victim to the fear tactics of market manipulators. It is important that we find a faith that frees us from the paralyzing fears that can rob us of power and love and a sound mind.