For a long time now I have frequently pondered the meaning of the recurrent biblical adage: ”The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”, and for a long time I found it very difficult to penetrate its meaning. But now, by approaching it from the other side, I begin to understand it so clearly that I can almost touch it with my hands. For what is increasingly taking place before our eyes can be summarized in the words: the fear of men, that is, the absence of the fear of God, is the beginning of all foolishness.
Today, since the image of God has been subjugated to the laws of advertising, the fear of God has all but disappeared from the catalogue of virtues. If he is to have advertising appeal, God must be so graphically depicted in exactly the opposite way that no one can possibly find any reason to fear him. That would be the last quality that would appear in our representations of him. In this way, that reversal of values that was the real sickness of pre-Christian religious history spreads more and more throughout our society and even in the midst of the Church. For even in ancient times there was a widespread belief that one did not have to fear the good God, the real God, because from him, since he was good, only good was to be expected. There was no need to worry about the good God; the evil powers were the ones to fear. Only they were dangerous; consequently one must do all in one’s power to win their favor.
In this maxim we can see that the service of idols is an apostasy from the service of God. But we are surrounded by this idolatry. The good God does us no harm; we need offer him no more than a kind of primitive trust. But there are all too many dangerous powers around us with whom we must try to come to terms. And that is what people- high and low- are trying to do both inside and outside the Church, no longer with eyes fixed on God and his standards, which, after all, are unimportant, but with eyes on the human powers if they want to be even halfway happy in this world.
They no longer strive for what is, for the truth, but for appearances- what people think of them and how they describe them. The dictatorship of appearances is the idolatry of our age; it appears also in the Church. The fear of men is the beginning of all foolishness, but the fear of men rules uncontested where the fear of God is absent.
From Internationale katholische Zeitschrift Communio, 16 (1987), p.265