A Not So Brave New Farm of Sheep?

Okay, the title is a weak attempt at cleverness; but I wonder how many of you (and it would help to be of a certain age) could identify the three books referenced therein. Thoughts of each of them have been running through my mind today as the dust tries in vain to settle from the announcement by the U. S. Supreme Court that the Health Care Reform Act (HRA below) has been largely upheld.

Unlike tv reality (yeah, right) shows, I won’t leave the reader hanging until the end before revealing their identity. The books are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and the somewhat lesser known A Nation of Sheep by William Lederer. They come from an earlier time (mid-late twentieth century), and were part of the required summer reading lists I was required to work through in high school. That practice alone tells you I’m from an earlier era.

What’s the point of resonating with these books and the announcement? Well, first of all, I am not making comment so much on the details of the constitutionality decision itself; I am not a qualified legal analyst or constitutional scholar, of which there are more than enough pretenders burning up the status pages of facebook. While I admit it doesn’t make sense to me, I also admit that I don’t know enough about what makes sense to the people who have studied these things for decades. Secondly, I don’t think this is about whether or not President Obama is a good or evil man. For the record, I believe he is a decent man who cares about people; but I also think his thinking about who should do what about the problems we face are seriously flawed. And those flaws are what remind me of the books.

Brave New World had much to say about the dehumanization of the citizens. They were told what to think and were given ample doses of pleasure-inducing drugs when their brains actuality tried to kick into gear and question the “truths” that were being constantly drummed into their minds. Dissenters were shipped off to a safely confined area where they could do as they pleased–even think freely–among themselves. It’s the constant repetition of “truths” that concern me with regard to the current cultural climate, including but certainly not limited to the president. If a proposition is repeated long enough, loudly enough, and by enough people, it becomes the truth; and such a process lies at the heart of political correctness, in which a decision to treat preferred positions as true and unassailable closes debate and marginalizes those who might dissent. Many such propositions are buried in the 2,000 pages that comprise the HRA. And they include positions regarding abortion, homosexuality, the role of government, the nature of religion, human evolutionary development, and a host of others. They are neither argued nor open to argument; they became true by governmental fiat, as determined by consultation with supposed experts.

Animal Farm, on the other hand, warns against thinking that we can fix everything by replacing leaders. We do not, and perhaps cannot, permanently install the people themselves as governors; those who ascend on such a basis eventually assume it their business to be “more equal” than others. Perhaps the genius of our American system is that it has forestalled the ascent of the new ruling class for as long as it has. But (inevitably?) that leadership decides more and more what will and what will not be tolerated–and what can and cannot be left for the governed to decide. My fear with today’s decision is that it marks a point of no return regarding the powers the government can take upon itself. If the requirement to purchase one particular good is in place, can we really expect that it will not become the first in a series? If this, why not that also?

Finally, Lederer’s book from 1961 pointed to the mesmerizing effect of mass marketing and governmental shell games, hiding things in law and anesthetizing us to their effects, leading us to where we can be fleeced and slaughtered (figuratively, of course). The book resurfaced recently through references in the speeches and writings of Andrew Napolitano. He is worth a read.

What does all of this recollection of books read in high school more than forty years ago tell me? It does not mean that I’m excessively angered by this particular decision, though I think it a bad one. It does not mean that I’m joining a new or existing political movement. It does not mean that those who do, or even those who continue the current regime are necessarily worse people than the rest of us. It does remind me of the inability of human government to do that which can only be done under the Lordship of Christ. We try in vain to instantiate the kingdom for which all humanity inwardly longs–the kingdom in which real truth, righteousness, beauty, and goodness prevail. And the response of believers, rather than to rail against a president or his detractors, ought to be to live and exemplify what a redeemed humanity looks like, where people bear one another’s burdens, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and live as they truly are and ought to be their brother’s keeper.

Confessions of a Delinquent Blogger

It happens. To some of us it happens more easily and frequently than it does to others. Take a couple of days off from a task or routine, and it turns into a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months. Whether it’s an exercise program, a spiritual discipline, staying current on a given subject, or writing blog posts there is a measure of difficulty attendant to staying on track when one does not feel up to the task. During that time away from the particular routine there are inevitable internal wranglings and questionings about just how important that routine is in the grand scheme of things and about what sort of impact is being made by the practice in the first place, either on oneself or on others (like readers). Well, while the world at large has never flocked to this blog page, enough of you have prevailed upon me to resume, even suggesting topics with which you would like some engagement. So here we go again.

But I do want confess a few of the misgivings. I do indeed wonder about the overall value of what amounts to an intramural conversation about things we think matter. Is there ever a danger of substituting dialog for action, or banter for substantive engagement with those who see the world very differently and haven’t a clue into what we’re talking about? While there have been occasional disagreements among those who take the time to comment on this page, we really are having internal conversations among those who share a rather familiar worldview. Has anything posted truly informed anyone’s engagements with the “outsiders” to the Christian perspective. Really, I’d like to know.

A second confession: I feel inadequate to the task at hand and would often prefer to send people to the thoughts of others on given subjects than try to speak authoritatively myself. Over the years, I have come to the point at which many wiser men and women have arrived more quickly–I could be wrong. And I hate being wrong. I don’t think evangelicals handle that sort of intellectual confession very well. We’ve been hijacked in recent decades by a mentality suggesting (make that “asserting”) that true biblical knowledge is the answer to every question, and that such answers are unassailable; what’s missed is that the hermeneutic, not given in scripture, is also assumed to be unquestionable.

Confession being said to be good for the soul, allow me to do myself further good. I confess that I don’t always know which of the multitudinous subjects crying for attention I ought to choose for comment. Just a brief listing of candidates for the next post would include the following: a conversation (way overdue, in my opinion) about the juvenalization of Christianity (see Christianity Today) and what to do about it; the political races and the subjects around which they revolve; the pronouncements of the Supreme Court due this week on immigration law (given Monday) and health care reform; the continuing conversation about homosexuality and same-sex marriage and what it means for the church; the effects of social media on the emerging generation and one the human psyche. I’m quite sure you can supply many more. Where to begin? Maybe with the fact that we no longer practice confession very well, in any form?

I confess that I wish this blog were far more subscribed than is the case; but that would also be confessing a need for greater importance than has been granted. I confess that when I read other blogs (no names will be given) I have a hard time understanding why so many people take them seriously when they really don’t know what they’re talking about. But I’ll stop confessing for the moment and thank those of you who have encouraged the resumption of the page; I ask only that you contribute your thoughts and ideas. And maybe a confession or two of your own. I feel better already.