In modern history there exists the story of an obscure figure who, despite some suppression, refuses to be forgotten. That man is Wilhelm Reich. Certainly, he is not a well-known figure and there are few disciplines in which he is impact continues. Yet, every so often his story, writings, and ideas resurface and at the surface of those ideas was his ideology that opposed any morality that was compulsory and against one’s natural instincts. Despite ridicule in his day, this foundational principle that guided his work is not far off from modern motivations and therefore is worth considering.
Reich was born in March of 1897 and after serving in the first World War in the Austro-Hungarian Army attended the University of Vienna. Receiving his degree in medical and psychoanalyst studies, Wilhelm Reich garnered the attention of Sigmund Freud who publicly advocated for him. While his background found him involved in many aspects, it was in the area of sexual therapy that he is most remembered for, to the point that some consider him to be the father of the sexual revolution. That title may be a bit extreme, but his influence in that realm is certainly noteworthy. His obsession combined with extreme views resulted in a loss of respect in the scientific community, with some not only distancing themselves from him but labelling him as a psychopath. He would die in prison after continuing to sell machines of his own invention that the FDA did not approve of. And so, the story of Wilhelm Reich is one that continues but does so in an almost nebulous manner. It’s not merely Reich’s views and impact of his time that are notable, but instead the foundations that formed his thought and how that same manner of thinking is found in the current generation that is worth noting.
Wilhelm Reich’s system of belief was entrenched in the rejection of a morality that was opposed to one’s natural inclination. Such a position is concerning because of what we know about human behavior. Apart from God’s work in one’s heart, human beings enter the path of sin (Romans 5:12-21). Departing from God and left to their own ways, every person descends into depravity (Romans 1:26-32). William Golding captures this behavior very well in his book, The Lord of the Flies, a fixture in required reading in most high school classes. Therefore, the natural inclination is not one of morality at all.
Continue further though and analyze Reich’s convictions and consider his rejection of any morality that was compulsory. The definition of compulsory is best defined in light of his belief that a morality should not be implemented that goes against one’s natural inclination. Because of the depravity of man, that means one must reject any sense of morality that is defined by the majority of common laws found throughout the world – i.e. murder, rape, theft, etc. As Christians though, we too would reject a morality that is compulsory. Instead, we would say that through Christ, we find freedom (Romans 8:21; Galatians 5:13-14). This type of Christian freedom is not bound to moral law, but instead finds great joy in the freedom that exists in moral obedience. This is where a great deception exists, because sin is defined by a lifestyle of slavery (and thus compulsory) while life in Christ is one of freedom (please reed 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and Galatians 5:1).
Why consider the beliefs of a man who died in 1957, specifically of a man who died not as an influential member of society but as one who had been scorned and set aside? Because that same mindset is prevalent today. While Christians attempt to procure religious freedom while proclaiming ideas such as the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of human life, they do so with this in mind. Many will claim that certain beliefs cannot be compulsory and thus are not to be legislated. Yet, while often veiled, at the heart of each issue is not (or should not be) the regulation of morality but the recognition of a Messiah. Therefore, Christians do not promote coercion but pronounce liberation.
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