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.

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7 thoughts on “A Not So Brave New Farm of Sheep?

  1. Pastor Ken, as always you are profound. I was aware of the first two books (I had to read them in High School and College) but had not heard of the third. I may now have to go read it. Your perspective is a fresh breeze in a country that has become so steeped in the politicalization of every thought and idea that we no longer are able to work together to do what needs to be done. I have my opinions about this law, and the recent ruling, (which I will not belabor) but I so appreciate your statement about what should be the response of believers. May we all rise above the tide of supporters and detractors and simply be people of Christ, who exemplify his love. God bless. ~Audra

  2. Maybe we should begin with Voltaire:

    “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
    In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another.
    The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice.
    All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. ”

    Per our coffee klatsch this week, and heavily borrowing from the Radical Orthodox and the original ana-baptist theological quantums (long trivialized into the monad “peace” instead of an implication of theology) when we trade the satanically influenced Church for the satanically constructed State, there are some implications. Fundamentally of course it has neither divine teleos nor any promise as we would like to believe that the Church does.

    As with the people of Babel, our State (and many others) has long believed that it can do anything. America as the city on the hill as it has mutated from Winthrop/Kennedy/Reagan/O’bama (at least) has infinite capabilities to do and ensure just about anything. All it requires is more law and more force.

    Socializing medicine, security, medicaire, medicaid, cell phones (now a $2.8 Billion program for the poor) belies not just profound economic absurdities (in my mind, but not worth a moment of argument), but the triumph of the meta-narrative of the State as God. How many of my ana-baptist co-communicantes have left this country and murdered people “with trumpets”, it turns out quite a few, how many have left the country to do Gospel? Almost none. I could ask the same about business, the answer is the same.

    Using Buckham’s framework of present appropriative nterpretation of Revelation, who brings power to the antichrist? Is the beast just simply the people, including you and I?

  3. This is off the subject but in my reading I came across a book entitled “THE DIDACHE”. Could anyone enlighten me on it?

    Thanks

    • The Didache is a (probably) second century document generally translated as “The Teaching of the Twelve.” It was used for instruction in the early church, faithfully presenting what was believed to be apostolic teaching. It is quite consistent with the New Testament itself but went out of use slowly after the canon of the NT was established. It includes some worship instructions, disciplinary procedures and such. Overall, it seems a reliable aid into the faith and practice of the churches wherein it was used and circulated.

  4. I loved this line: “Animal Farm, on the other hand, warns against thinking that we can fix everything by replacing leaders.” Laughed out loud. People absolutely believe that right now, that our country would be perfect if only That Person were gone and This Person were there instead.

    Thanks for the closing reminder of what our role actually SHOULD be.

  5. One group believes the Government can fix the problems of our society, another believes if the government would let us alone, we can fix things ourselves. Neither extreme is true of course. For the record, I don’t share your view that our President cares for people. I think he only cares about being viewed that way in order to gain more power. But I do agree with your conclusion that we live as children of the light. I recall that old song “The darker the night, the brighter the light shines…”

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