Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 6, 2020 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The Shawshank Redemption is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s about a banker who was charged with the murder of his wife, when it wasn’t him, and sent to prison. He befriends another prisoner, Red, who acts as the narrator of the story. In one scene, a prisoner, Brooks, who had been there for nearly 50 years was released on parole and he couldn’t handle life outside of prison, committing suicide. When the other prisoners got word about it, they couldn’t understand why, and Red explained it perfectly. Brooks had been “institutionalized.” Red said, talking about the prison walls, “First you hate it, then you get used to it, then you can’t live without it.” Brooks was a well-known respected person in the prison, but outside the prison, he was a nobody and it made him snap. But the truth Red speaks about being “institutionalized” extends far beyond the prison system.

We humans are creatures of habits and we love institutions. We love to build ourselves concrete structures that define what we do and where we go and when we do things. But we are prone to something with that: we get so attached to a process or a way of doing things that it becomes “institutionalized” and we don’t know how to think outside it. Traditions are the same thing in this case. My pastor describes a tradition as “something you do without knowing why you do it.” There are many institutions and traditions we do where we don’t know why we do it and they’ve become a “prison” without walls or guards.

Remember when I wrote about Brainwashing a few months ago? Institutionalization IS a form of brainwashing. It gets you used to a system to the point where you are dependent upon it, and to the point that you cannot comprehend getting the services from any other means. A great example is the welfare system. Once a person gets onto welfare, it is easy for them to get “institutionalized” with it, and they cannot comprehend life without it: a life of actually doing quality work, earning what you get, and truly living freely. (That is not a blanket statement, as there are many people who truly don’t want to be on the system but cannot make ends meet at that time.)

Public schools are another example. Yes, I am a public school teacher, so I can talk about this first-hand. Did you know that the “summer vacation” was scheduled in so kids could join their parents and work the harvest for the farms? Now we do it just to do it. I love my fellow teachers and I love my administrators; they are doing the best they know how to do. However, the school system has failed. When I was in college, 85% of incoming freshman had to take remedial math courses. The schools are turning out people who are literally uneducated and illiterate all the time, just passing them on to keep “failure rates” down and so they can get their federal funding. And when parents pull their students to go to “charter schools” or private schools, the main public schools whine that they are losing money by these “competition” schools. But do we have to do school THIS way? The arguments for shutting down the Department of Education have nothing to do with shutting down education but actually getting the government out of it and to revive what it actually should be: training and equipping students to be independent thinkers and able to live and operate without being dependent upon the state, and to be able to test what they are hearing. It’s the complete opposite of what students are getting now.

Science itself has become institutionalized. Two weeks ago I spoke for a mini-conference about radiometric dating and I quoted John Woodmorrappe from his book The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods where he points out how “Deep Time” has been institutionalized and so thoroughly that no one ever questions Deep Time itself or the methods that showcase it. They’ll examine every detail about conditions etc. but never the methods themselves. An example is when soft-biological tissue was found. No one ever thought to ask, “Are these fossils really millions of years old?” Instead they asked, “Wow, what could have preserved it this long?” They never question the ages.

Guess what? The church isn’t immune to this either. Voddie Baucham has an intriguing interview in which he suggests we abolish the “youth ministry” programs as we know it because they obviously aren’t working, and they have produced a very dangerous side effect. Parents have abdicated their role in raising their children, giving the spiritual lessons over to the youth pastor, and expecting the 1-3 hours the youth pastors have with the kids to undo the 40+ hours kids spend each week in the public schools. Parents need to be involved, yet the churches not only are not encouraging this but they get on parents’ cases (including church staff) if their kids aren’t in the youth programs (Baucham gives anecdotes about this). Youth ministry has been institutionalized, and doing anything different is a strange concept.

Beware that COVID right now is “institutionalizing” us with all the masks and social distancing regulations. The whole “new normal” is exactly this: institutionalization. I know MANY people are frustrated with these rules and know they are utterly ridiculous, however, they have been institutionalized enough themselves to not know how to operate outside the system or how to question it. As our president Jason DeZurik has been saying, “The way forward is back.” For our country to return to what it was, we must go back to when the government did not have such overreach. The only way this can happen is if we as a nation return back to God and get elected leaders who also fear God.

Now, do not hear what I am not saying. I am NOT calling for antinomianism or anarchy or a free-for-all. I know more than many others the necessity for structure, but structure should not exist for the purpose of structure. Jesus constantly got on the Pharisees’ case for this. Yet, Jesus still gave commands, even though they are easy and light. The difference is why are they there: because of man’s traditions or because of God’s order? When we follow Jesus, He gives us freedom. Freedom to do so much more than we could possibly imagine, but it’s not whatever we want to do. We must have boundaries. A common analogy is if you want to swim the ocean you are free to do so. You can go wherever you want, but you lack the resources to get anywhere. Instead you need to confine yourself to a ship and you can sail the ocean. But it takes a master navigator to get you to certain places that you can’t get to on your own. Jesus can get us there, but to get there we have to let Him direct where and how the ship goes.

The rich young ruler and Matthew the disciple were both very wealthy men. One was institutionalized; he could not figure out how to live his life outside his system of a lavish lifestyle. The other gave it up in an instant. Jesus did not come to set up an institution (the church Jesus envisioned is not an institution), but a Kingdom. This Kingdom does have structure and order, but that order comes out of the headship of Christ and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, not an institution. And often we’ll be asked to “break the rules” (man’s rules, not God’s) just to get us out of institutionalized thinking and into an even greater freedom. As Jesus told Simon Peter after calling Matthew to join him in The Chosen, “Get used to different.” The life of a Christian means we need to “get used to different.”

I used to be very institutionalized. My worst tantrum as a child was when my babysitter put me to bed 30 minutes LATE. It threw me off my schedule. That said, my journey with Christ has been amazing, where for 20+ years now, I’ve known nothing but my general direction/calling and what I am doing at this moment. Tomorrow, it can all change (this year has been a LOT of change), but if it does, I know the faithfulness of my God and it will be challenging, but it will be an adventure worth taking. Let’s break free from our “institutions” and instead enjoy life with true order and structure found in Christ.

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