The Chains We Revere

You can take it as axiomatic, that wherever you find hope in short supply, you will find fear has already begun to forge the chains of bondage. Stockholm syndrome comes to mind – because since this 1973 taking of hostages, we’ve come to recognize a discernable psychological pathology, of how those put in such extreme, life and death circumstances, will almost involuntarily develop an unusual attachment to their captors. It is an example of how fear’s natural inclination is to cower in response to the threats of an imposed will — assuming that compliance is the safest alternative. Because in such circumstances, if hope is nothing more than an idle wishing for a different outcome – then hope is lost.

But even in the 18th Century, Voltaire observed – “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere” His thesis seems to be, in classic Enlightenment terms, that it’s merely a matter of intellectual deficiency that makes people amicable to their chains – as if making a different choice, was a simple matter of getting your mind right. But given that Voltaire, a rather flamboyant atheist of his time, fundamentally believed that human existence to be in a perpetual state of survival hostility, set against the backdrop of an indifferent universe — one would think he could appreciate how people without a transcendent hope would choose to make peace with any overwhelming threat of imposed will . . . that in fact, he too had chosen to accept the chains of his own making.

In the book of Judges we find a reoccurring pattern: Israel straying from God, being oppressed, and then calling out to God for rescue. This is the pattern of the book until we get to chapter 13, with the birth of Samson, where Israel is being oppressed by the Philistines . . . but has chosen not to cry out to God. So by the time we get to chapter 15 where Samson takes refuge from the Philistines with the men of Judah . . . and then the Philistines show up. And here’s what the men of Judah said to Samson: “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us? . . . We have come down to bind you that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” (verses 11 & 12)

It is obvious from this text that the men of Judah had already made peace with their chains, and they had no real interest in the freedom of God’s redemption that Samson represented. Like their forefathers before them, who frequently entertained the idea of returning to their slavery in Egypt, while wandering in the desert – the certainty of their oppression somehow seemed preferable to them, than any reckless notion of waiting for God to provide. This is why I say – when hope is absent, fear always rushes into the vacuum . . . so that with hopeless resolve we end up negotiating the terms of our surrender to whatever power seeks to enslave us.

A culture that no longer finds its hope in God will always be susceptible to the fearmongering manipulation of forces seeking to subjugate it into compliance. And it doesn’t matter whether those forces are political or religious — or even in a more personal way, take on the shape of addiction and anxiety. Without the transcendent hope that can only be found in God . . . such a culture will remain in the chains of its own making. So I say, stand fast in your faith, knowing that your hope is sure and can withstand the shifting sands of circumstance. Therefore give no foothold to fear in your heart . . . and just let those chains fall knowing that when Jesus sets you free — you are free indeed! (John 8:36)

. . . and be free — up in the bright sky

One thought on “The Chains We Revere

  1. Nice essay! It seems to me this observed phenomenon is our image of God as impacted by Adam’s fall. Cowering in response to an imposed will rather than (absent the fall) freely loving a perfect will. So thankful for the new creation in which we can function in faith, hope and love!

    Liked by 1 person

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