2 Easter – April 7, 2013 – The FUD Factor and the Followers of Christ
FUD! Do you know what the FUD factor is? FUD is an acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Advertisers use it to shape our buying habits. They cause us to doubt our own abilities to decide what we eat and drink, where we live, what we drive and how we dress.
Sometimes governments, religions and schools also employ the FUD factor. They use it to maintain control over citizens, church members, students and faculties. If you question laws, traditions or teachings you could be labeled disobedient, a dissident. You might even be punished, expelled or excommunicated. Even these institutions are subject to FUD.
Today’s gospel is John’s version of the first days after the resurrection. The story is about people who were experiencing FUD. The women and men who followed Jesus were afraid that the authorities might arrest and punish them. Jesus’s mother was among them. They were uncertain about their future. Perhaps they had doubts about Jesus and what they should do next.
The other three gospels do not include this story about Thomas. They imply he was with the disciples on the evening of the resurrection. Together they experienced an appearance of Jesus. Earlier testimonies pictured the Risen One in more spiritual, not physical, terms. So, what is the purpose of this gospel about Thomas needing to place his hands into the physical wounded body of Jesus?
The gospel was written for Christian Jews who also suffered from FUD. After the destruction of their Temple they doubted their identity. They were afraid of being thrown out of their synagogues. They too were uncertain about their future. The purpose of the story was to answer the skeptics, “can you prove to me that he actually rose from the dead?”
We are not much different today. Being overwhelmed by FUD is part of being human. Most of us have been afraid and uncertain at some time in our lives. Maybe we doubted our abilities. Think of when we were little children … sitting at the top of that playground slide deciding whether to let go; standing at the edge of a swimming pool hesitant about jumping in; riding our bicycles for the first time without training wheels.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, FUD does not go away. Will I fail in school? Why am I afraid of starting a new career? Will I be able to live alone when I get old? Am I making the right choices about my life? We live in an age when mistrust and suspicion is a cultural past time. Collectively many people do not trust politics, religion, schools or professional sports. Most often many of us do even not believe in ourselves.
Some say that doubt is a good thing. Peter Abelard, a 12th century musician, philosopher and theologian, said, “by doubting we come to inquiry and by inquiry we arrive at truth.” Eventually, the early Christians came to believe in themselves and that they could turn the FUD factor into a positive experience. The first reading today lists their early accomplishments.
The Easter season is less about an empty tomb and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Joseph Ratzinger writes, it was not about a dead person coming back to life. Rather, it was like a radical evolutionary leap in which a new dimension of life emerges … creating for all of us a new space of life.  This is something beyond our ability to grasp.
Easter, then, is about how you and I can rise up. It is about learning to take leaps in life, turning experiences of fear, uncertainty and doubt into kernels of truth for ourselves. Embracing the FUD factor, then, is to embrace life with all of its imperfections and then move forward. Like our ancestors in faith, we can imagine new possibilities for ourselves and others. We can practice the virtue of hope.
1 Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011, 274