one of my (ryan’s) favorite artists is derek webb. there has been no other artist that has deeply impacted my theology as much as webb. as a natural byproduct, lyrically and theologically, he has shaped the vision for eikon in various ways (i would love to talk about this more in the future and already have a really incredible sermon series idea based on one of his albums that i’ve been fleshing out for quite some time).
i’ve been following him on twitter
and he’s spoken quite a bit about laying down tracks for his upcoming album, stockholm syndrome
. when i heard the album title, i was very intrigued and it got me thinking about the possible lyrical direction of the album. i don’t know where he’s going (although i have a pretty good idea), but it made me think about an issue that is part of the motivation and vision for eikon church.
if you don’t know, stockholm syndrome refers to a psychological phenomenon that describes the behavior of kidnap victims, who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. the name comes from a botched bank robbery in 1973 (in stockholm, naturally) in which, after 6 days of captivity, several victims resisted rescue attempts, refused to testify against their captors, raised money for their legal defense, and then one actually became engaged (!!) to one of her captors. it’s quite the bizarre phenomenon, but has been documented semi-regularly since that time (including, famously, the case of patty hearst in 1974).
the idea is that it begins as a defense mechanism out of fear. in order to avoid invoking anger or violence from their captors, victims become comfortable and endeared to the kidnappers. commonly, as well, the kidnappers will engage in small acts of kindness to further endear themselves to their victims. usually this process occurs over 3 or 4 days and as the stockholm case shows, can last for a lifetime.
through a theological and ecclesial lens, i can’t help but to see the analogies within the church (the church universal, that is). i’m somewhat cautious about using the words “new” and “different” when describing what we’re doing at eikon, simply for the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not doing anything that is “new” or “different.” we think what we’re doing, more accurately, is a continuation and fulfillment of what’s been going on for the last couple thousand years. what is “new” and “different,” though, is found in the context of what, to a large degree, has been seen in the american church—in the american christian subcultural form of the church.
i think the church has fallen victim to the stockholm syndrome.
let me offer a couple quick qualifiers. first, this isn’t just to point the finger at others. it’s also to point the finger at myself because we all have some role to play. secondly, this isn’t indicative of all churches. there are certainly a lot of great and biblical and christlike churches (even here in little rock), but it speaks to a much larger subsection. finally, this isn’t intended to be an indictment of the church as a whole, but rather to point out an area we collectively need to work on. in our case, the way we’re working on it is to create a new community of faith that begins with the kinds of values i’m talking about.
with that said, to draw some analogies, the church has been taken captive. our captors—exclusivity, theological and social elitism, a disregard for issues like justice and equality, suspicion of those who doubt and question the status quo, the us vs. them mentality, the false dichotomy of the sacred and the profane, a consumeristic jesus industry and subculture, the myth of salvation as a cure-all method, the rejection of intellect as a partner of faith, clergy abuse of power, a false power and priesthood dichotomy between clergy and “lay people,” and the list could go on—have stunted the growth of the church and masked the beauty and redemptive nature of the story of god.
i won’t spend a lot of time retracing the history of the church (i know you’re all thankful…) :), but a look at just the last 25 to 30 years in the church reveals a lot about the captivity. the rise of fundamentalism and the religious right, i would argue, isn’t representative of what the church in the new testament looked like. as these things rose in power, there tended to be a lot of the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bathwater. many of those involved with the emergence of these things sought to truly revive and “clean up” the church, but ended up taking things to the nth
degree. instead of simply striking a healthy balance, for example, between the importance of faith over works, the church decided to create a tension between those two ideas where those who engage in the work of social justice (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison…you know, the things that jesus talked specifically about
…) were viewed with suspicion and thought to be unconcerned with “true” and “orthodox” christianity.
i would argue that what happened was that instead of the church standing up against these captors, the captors endeared themselves to the church by misusing scripture and using power to create a climate of fear of rejection and heresy. again, i don’t believe that these captors were acting out of completely foul intentions, but it quickly spiraled into something wholly different than the church as found in scripture.
so, at eikon, one of the things we want to accomplish is not to simply reverse all of what’s happened over the last 25 years in the church, but simply to strike a balance that i believe was present before the captivity. we want to do and be church in a way that looks like jesus.
it isn’t necessarily “new” or “different”, but something that creates an ancient-future context.
in christ, we’re longer captives, but free people. thus, eikon will be a community that reclaims the freedom in which the church thrives and grows.