Monday, January 05, 2009


"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Yoda (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

The movie Frost/Nixon is a captivating piece of political history, and warning for all of us on the dangers of fear, which lead to a life of deception, pride, and arrogance.

First some background: In the years following the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon escaped public accountability for his actions by getting a full pardon from Gerald Ford. In fact, Nixon was even planning a comeback to the political scene after the dust settled on Watergate. This film, Frost/Nixon, shows how, over the course of several interviews with British talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), the former president (played here by Frank Langella) - who hoped these interviews woudl bring about his exoneration - was actually brought to justice.

At the core, the biggest flaw of Richard Nixon was an overwhelming sense of fear. Throughout his life, Nixon feared losing control to others who might have been more talented, gifted, or charasmatic than he. Fear was the basis of the Watergate break-in, and it was fear that further fueled the corrupt cover-up in the years to come.

Like Yoda predicted, fear led to anger and anger led to hate and hate led to suffering. For Nixon, this meant not trusting anyone and hating nearly everyone. And because of the political deception and corruption that resulted from his paralyzing fear, the nation suffered immensely and lost all faith in institutions (a lack of trust that still remains with many Americans today). And when Ford pardoned Nixon, it closed a chapter, but still left unanswered questions and unresolved justice.

In the years following, Nixon took David Frost up on his offer for over twenty hours worth of interviews out of a lingering sense of fear - fear that he might never be liked or beloved again in the minds and hearts of the American people. He felt these interviews would give him a new image, and would also pave the way for his comeback.

David Frost also seemed to suffer from fear - fear of being labeled forever a funny talk-show host and eventually falling into obscurity once the popularity from his talk shows faded away. His fear led him to care more about getting sponsors for the telecast and looking good for the camera than believing in himself as a serious investigative reporter. And because of this fear, his first few interviews with the former president went poorly (in large part, since Nixon was more skilled at manipulation than Frost cared to admit).

But in a late night phone call between Frost and Nixon, as depicted in the movie, the British interviewer finally realized what kept him and Nixon from achieving their respective dreams: they were both overwhelmed with fear. When Frost made this realization, he got down to work, put aside the fear, and believed in himself.

When Frost got past his fear, he succeeded. Sadly for Nixon, he never got past his insecurity and failed to get the comeback that he always dreamed of having.

The reality is that, no matter if we are politicians or talk-show hosts, or if we are everyday men and women in regular jobs, we all can fall prey equally to our fears. Fear often keeps us from getting to our life goals and fear, if unchecked, leads to mistrust, anger, deception, corruption, manipulation, pride, and selfish arrogance (as it did for Richard Nixon).

Fear is something that each of us - no matter how famous or average we perceive ourselves to be - has to deal with. What will make us infamous in God's eyes is how we handle that fear.

I find it interesting that one of the most common phrases in Scripture (if not the most common) is the admonition: "Be not afraid." If something appears over and over again in the Bible, it's a sure bet that this is important.

Yoda, too, was right. Fear is the first step towards "the dark side" (or in our Christian terminology, "sin"). If we can overcome our fear, we can not only avoid doing sinful acts, but we can experience life more fully. Jesus and the multitude of other biblical figures who tell us "be not afraid" understood how abundant life could be, if only we get past our fears.

So let us pray for ourselves, that we might overcome our fears and insecurities in life, or at the very least, learn to manage and live with them. Then let us pray for those who are trapped by fear all their lives, that they, too, might find ways to manage or vanquish their anxieties and worries and embrace the confidence God has in store for them (and for all of us).

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