Stockholm Syndrome Your Neighbor

By Jaime Nava

Some forty years ago, a bank in Sweden was the scene of a hostage situation. Four bankers were held for six days and covered in explosives by a couple of longtime criminals. After the captors were themselves captured by police, the four victims did something unusual. They defended the two men who held them against their will. Some say one victim was engaged to one of the criminals while another started a fund to boost their defense in court. They all had kind things to say about the two criminals in interviews that followed. Although it had been happening long before that year (see abusive relationships), the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined. For some reason, the victims felt connected to their abusers. Although it varies, there are some general commonalities to this syndrome: (1) The victims are in peril, (2) There’s no easy escape, (3) They had witnessed either some small kindness or a softer side of the abuser, and (4) They take on the abuser’s perspective. It’s a way for the mind to survive in an unbearable situation.

Christians are now held captive by culture. Bakers are crushed for their intolerance in the name of tolerance. Florists are crushed with the load of judicial activism. When Christians remove the American flag from the sanctuary, there is hell to pay. Vice Presidents yield the teachings of the Church on abortion to appease the appetite of the media. Popular thought sits under the arse of the sexual revolution.

In this state of captivity, we find that some Christians, congregations, and even entire denominations have Stockholm Syndrome for our culture. As culture dictates what is okay for Christians to say or think, we see strange things Christians do. There’s a strange solidarity that Christians have toward their captors. For example, the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) had to apologize for a paper recently delivered at their Midwest Conference. Effectively the paper supported marriage (I’d say traditional, but in reality, marriage is really only between a man and a woman). In the process, it said things about homosexuality that I’d say a Bible-believing Christian would find more in line than not. How did the president of the SCP respond?

“I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne’s keynote are not those of the SCP itself.”

The president and others of the SCP have made the conscious decision to support the culture over God’s clear Word. They have taken the tack of those who think that love means tolerance (Tell your wife that you tolerate her and see how that turns out). The clearest example are those liberal denominations which are more like battered women who are grateful for their assaulters. They bend over backwards to a hostile culture. In the process, they perceive any usual battering as their own fault. It reminds me of that one movie where the guy wears all those bumper stickers. In the end, he had a confessional at a gay pride parade. He confessed the sins of those who claimed to bash homos in the name of Jesus. Like the SCP, he was trying to show love, but was actually revealing love for a hostile theology to which he was held hostage. Was it touching to some people? Sure. Are people jerks who do jacked things in the name of Christ? Yep. Should we apologize for what Scripture says? No. We speak the truth in love—truth and love.

Christ Washing Peter's Feet, Ford Madox Brown

It seems that Christians simply cannot speak the Law of God’s Word anymore. When sin is condemned, it makes people mad. But you see, so many Christians have fallen in love with the culture that holds the Church hostage to its whims. Instead of standing for what Christ teaches, we try to show love for folks who are antithetical to the Church by allowing their hate of God’s Word to go unchecked. We apologize for Jesus. We are embarrassed by our fellow Christians who condemn those things that Scripture clearly condemns. We feel bad for those meanies. We distance ourselves from them. We speak of their unlove while looking down our nose at the level of grace we show for others.

Look, I get it. The Church is here to deliver the goods. Christ and Him crucified is to be proclaimed. The Gospel must predominate. Doi. When there is no Law, though, there is no Gospel. If there is nothing from which we repent, then there is no need to be forgiven. The healthy need no physician. Am I right? Sadly, there comes a time when sinners are removed from the Church because they refuse to give up their deep sin. Ultimately, we cannot neglect part of God’s Word for another. We cannot blind ourselves of active depravity lest the Gospel be cheapened. May it never be.