Stockholm Syndrome in the Church

Trapped by Religion

Internet Archive Book Image from Rawson et al, “What the world believes…” (p. 102)

A common theme throughout much of my writing is the detrimental effects of religion on society and on individuals.  Most people believe that religion is a necessary corollary to a belief in God, but this is not the case.  Religion is nothing more than a human-contrived attempt to appease a God who is presumably angry at humans for breaking His laws.  Religion is a burden that binds people in rules and regulations and guilt.  It is idolatry in any form, its practices attempts to pacify a false image of God.

My perception is that most Christians (about 75% by my completely anecdotal and in no way scientific estimation) do not enjoy the religious stuff to which they subject themselves.  They follow the form of whatever denomination seems most likely to satisfy God’s demands.  They attend their weekly worship services out of a sense of obligation, believing they must endure the drudgery because that is what God expects.  The remaining 25% seem to enjoy the religious stuff—truly believing that they are doing something for God.  They feel a sense of fulfillment by participating in the worship service.  Regardless of their feelings, the religious become enslaved by their religion which stifles fellowship and spiritual growth.

Amazingly, those enslaved by religion are religion’s most ardent defenders.  It is very much like Stockholm Syndrome, the name given to the phenomenon seen in some captives who, after a protracted time in captivity, begin to intellectually align with and defend their captors.  Whenever someone points out the futility of Christian religious practice, Christians are quick to confront the objector.  The initial reaction is almost always defensive and is accompanied by an admonition for the dissenter to get right with God.  After all, God clearly says in His Holy Written Word that thou shalt go to church every Sunday and place thyself under the authority of a Man of God.  When the dissenter points out that religion is little more than a societal placebo that is completely antithetical to Jesus’ teaching and example, the orthodox tend to become angry.  The expression of this anger, which is restrained a bit in America because of the nearly universal appreciation of freedom of religion, is usually limited to labeling the nonconformists as heretics, Skeptics, or backsliders.  This should come as no surprise, as for the last 2,000 years, the religious have been reading from the same script, their anger frequently culminating in violent persecution of dissenters.  This has been the rule rather than the exception.  For example, Luke records quite a few instances in the book of Acts of adherents of the Jewish religion stirring up people against Paul when he brought the message that reconciliation with God was attained through Jesus—not religion.  This led to repeated attempts on his life.  This trend has continued across most religions throughout history, and Christianity is no exception.  No big deal, though.  Better to quash the dissenters than give up control over the masses.

A crystal-clear example of this mentality can be found over at PJ Media in cleric Daniel Phillips’ response (entitled “Barna’s Mythical Creature:  The Church-Rejecting Jesus Lover“) to a Barna Group study of those who consider themselves followers of Christ but who have been disillusioned by the institutional church.  The derision he holds for those who love God but not religion is evident, as vitriol fairly drips from every paragraph.  Long on rhetoric, short on logic, the article is full of logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks, and assumption-based reasoning.  Consider this portion in which he brazenly isolates and distorts a single verse from Hebrews in order to justify the stranglehold the clergy maintain over, you know, plebeian Christians.  Emphasis in bold is mine.

I am here assuming as proven that church involvement is necessary if one believes and obeys Jesus. My target in this post is establishing the more fundamental truth that believing Jesus is fundamental to being a Christian, and that Biblically-understood faith issues in obedience. Of course, obeying Jesus will necessarily mean that we will be personally involved in a faithfully Bible-teaching local church, as I’ve shown at length elsewhere and often. I have never yet seen an attempt to dodge this obvious truth that did not reek of selfish, unteachable, blind arrogance, coupled with an accountability-averse unwillingness to obey the clear sense of such of Christ’s commands as Hebrews 13:17.

I find coercive attempts at persuasion such as these to be reprehensible as they distort the bible, incite guilt, and prey on people’s fears.  Christ’s message was one of love, hope, forgiveness, and freedom.  Those who have chosen the path of life and freedom should expect this sort of reaction from those who are enslaved by religion and those who have a vested interest in perpetuating an institution that provides structural support for their fabricated authority.  I would encourage you to stand against this insidious teaching and continue to offer hope and freedom to those suffocating under the stranglehold of institutionalized religion.

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