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Release the beast

Release the beast

Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

In 2013, The Purge was released, which was the first in a series of dystopian action horror movies that also spawned a TV series on the cable USA Network. The primary premise of the franchise is that America was in a near-state of collapse economically and morally until a set of politicians established a new annual national holiday where all crimes, including murder, are legal for a 12-hour period.

The thought was, if people were allowed to "purge" themselves once a year of all the evil and hatred that they kept bottled up inside them, society would happily live together and thrive for the remainder of the year. The slogan used that encouraged everyone to participate in the annual event was, “Release the beast”.

The recent violence and lawlessness that has accompanied the worldwide protests over the George Floyd incident have caused some to comment that society now resembles the movie’s storyline (minus the legality of murder). With intense criticism coming down on the police, the presence of law enforcement has been restricted by some politicians in numerous locations, leading to widespread crime. What used to be a soft stance toward crime by various political and media groups has changed to be one of literally encouraging it.    

Outside the desire for racial equality, from a Christian perspective, I believe there are at least three underlining and driving factors fueling the violent upheavals occurring in America. I’ll tackle them in reverse order, from the least concerning to the most, although in my opinion all are contributing to a downward slide for the country.  

The misappropriation of language

God reveals Himself to us in multiple ways, with one of those ways being the written word. This implies that language contains within it a way of communicating objective reality.

Opposing that is Conventionalism, which is a philosophy that says our fundamental principles of life are grounded on agreements in society, rather than on external reality. Part of conventionalism is linguistic relativism, something pioneered by Swiss linguist Ferdinand Saussure that says words have no objective meaning.

In short this means that we all may use the same vocabulary, but a radically different dictionary when it comes to understanding words and things in general.

For example, the terms "graffiti" and "vandalism" are generally understood in their meaning, context and application. However, during the recent turmoil that has gripped the country, those words have been jettisoned and in their place is something referred to as “protest art.” Seattle mayor Jenny Durkin, in describing the occupation of a section of downtown Seattle by protesters, some of whom are armed and denying entry to people, has called the scene a “block party.”

Another misappropriation of language is semantic overload where a term or phrase is hijacked to mean more than one thing. For example, everyone agrees that “blacks lives matter,” but some say that unless you support the Black Lives Matter movement and their agenda[1], then black lives really don’t matter to you.

A misunderstanding of human nature

One of the protesters residing within the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ or CHOD) in Seattle told a Wall Street Journal Reporter, “If there is no police, there is no problem.” Such a view is not only breathtakingly ignorant of humanity’s history, it fundamentally misunderstands human nature at its core.

Christianity teaches, and life confirms, that human beings are born sinners and depraved. By nature, we call evil good and good evil and prefer darkness to God’s light (Is. 5:20). The Bible tells us that any attempt on our part to say otherwise is an exercise in self-deception (1 John 1:8).

We naturally recoil at the thought of being "depraved," but Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, reminds us that even the most sophisticated individuals possess the innate ability for evil when he says, “The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment, or as the Nazi liked to say "of blood and soil."  I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz were ultimately prepared not in some ministry of defense in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of Nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”

The misinterpretation of God’s constraints

John MacArthur addressed the unrest in America in a recent sermon and reminded his listeners that God has given us four constraints that are put in place for our good and well-being, but all of which are currently under attack.

MacArthur says that each person’s conscious is the first and personal constraint that acts to govern our behavior. However, the Bible tells us that our conscience can become seared (1 Tim. 4:2) and disabled by lies, which then allows our depraved nature to take charge.

The family is the second and parental constraint where children are commanded to be brought up in the instruction of the Lord. History has shown that when the laws of a home are allowed to be ignored and broken, those who leave that home are destined to negatively encounter the laws of the state.

Government and law enforcement are the third and societal constraint. Those who say that they can disobey laws today because they “only answer to God” overlook the fact that the Bible calls those in authority (e.g. the police) a “minister of God to you for good” (Rom. 13:4). They also fail to recognize that the police aren’t the ones who created the failed urban policies that have locked people into generations of poverty, failing schools, fatherless homes, bad lifestyle choices, and deep lack of respect for authority.  

The last is the Church, which acts as a spiritual constraint. However, few need to be reminded that the Church in America has been aggressively evicted as a source of personal or cultural leadership where behavior is concerned, even though the Bible says, “By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil” (Prov. 16:6).

Sadly, society has devolved to the point where they see each of God’s constraints in a negative sense and view them as uncomfortably restrictive so they do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). However, the Bible tells us the opposite is true – that God's laws are intended for our pleasure and safety. While Scripture compares living in sin to being imprisoned, David says, "To all perfection there is a limit, but the laws of the Lord are boundless" (Ps. 119: 96).

Resisting the purge

When you misappropriate speech so you lose the objectivity of language and mislabel reality, misunderstand human nature and believe humanity needs no policing, and misinterpret as bad the constraints God has given humankind to maintain well-being and order, a societal chaos results that manifests in the ultimate but negative kind of freedom: anarchy. The beast has indeed been released.  

Ironically, because this process is so emotional it ends up producing restrictions on freedom. It’s a fact that when people can’t control their own emotions, they start trying to control other people’s freedom.

The nihilistic philosopher Frederick Nietzsche warned that a universal madness was destined to break out because God had bled out under humanity’s knives. However, contrary to the German philosopher’s belief, I’m thankful God is not dead and believe His power alone is what’s able to transform the beating heart of a society like ours that’s currently experiencing deadly and frightening arrhythmias into one that is healthy and good.


[1] The BLM movement agenda includes, among other things, a rejection of the conventional family, a neo-Marxist economic policy, and anti-Christian policies on gender, sex, abortion, etc.  

Robin Schumacher is a former software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.

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