Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: George Orwell

Newspeak at work

There is an article in Montréal la Presse today about the horrified reaction of some women to the Dico des filles 2014 (2014 Girls dictionary). This is a book, published in France, written to help girls aged 12 and older face questions of conduct and morality. What is it that some women find so inappropriate? Here is a free translation of a few quotes from the book:

On the subject of abortion: “Although this is permitted by law, that does not make it just and moral. Abortion is a serious act which brings into question the value of human life.  . . .  An abortion always causes a wound that takes a long time to heal.” And: “Moral authorities and the major religious families all have something to say [on the subject of abortion] because it is their role to set out the priniples for guiding human activities. . . . . It is true that abortion is a serious act. But it is possible to condemn the act without condemning the person who had an abortion.”

On the subject of homosexuality: “It is true that some stable homosexual couples do exist. But the relationships are often ephemeral and unstable.” And: “Life is not simple for homosexuals and the road to happiness is full of pitfalls.”

Such words as these, which seem so mild and tolerant to me, are judged as being hideously intolerant by certain women’s groups.  They want the books removed from public libraries and anywhere that girls might have access to such retrograde ideas of right and wrong.

George Orwell coined the word “newspeak” in his dystopian novel 1984.  He foresaw a world where the thought police would take a word and make it mean the the direct opposite of what it originally meant. Are we there yet? It seems that we are getting close when some people  label as intolerant any hint of a view that is different than their own and try to prevent it from being heard, then say that they are the tolerant ones.

Nevertheless, the Dico pour filles appears to be selling well, bookstores are sold out of the 2014 edition and awaiting the arrival of the 2015 edition in a few weeks.

Humanism versus humanity

If anyone is wondering what is happening to our society, a little time spent reading the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 will provide considerable illumination.  Here are some excerpts:

Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.

It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

The manifesto speaks often of freedom, yet implicitly acknowledges the need of coercion to attain the kind of freedom that it envisions.  This kind of thinking did not spontaneously spring forth in 1933, but had been brewing in the minds of “great thinkers” during previous generations.  The manifesto codifies this thinking into a plan of action with specific goals.  It is all couched in the language of freedom, but now that it is happening many of us feel like our freedoms are in danger of disappearing.

It is implicit in the manifesto that this utopian vision of freedom can only be attained by the suppression of religion.  The Christian faith is not named, but is obviously the principal target.

Humanist Manifesto II appeared in 1973.  In addition to reaffirming the goals of Manifesto I, it adds this little zinger.

The state should encourage maximum freedom for different moral, political, religious, and social values in society.

Again, if one reads the full manifesto it comes out that this “freedom” will require some considerable coercion.  Plus, only certain kinds of “freedom” will be tolerated.  Thus we find ourselves dangerously close to the territory of George Orwell’s 1984, complete with Newspeak and “Big Brother is watching you.”

Despite the danger, the churches have been remarkably silent about the approaching danger.  Even worse, many denominations have outright endorsed the principles of the Humanist Manifesto.  I believe we are coming to a time of shaking out, when those who want to be faithful to the Christian faith as taught in the Bible will find it necessary to detach themselves from “Christian” organisations that are really fronts for humanism.

I do not believe in the efficacy of political involvement to turn our society around.  The course of our society has been set not by politicians but by the relentless propaganda of the humanists in the schools, the media and throughout all strata of our society.  What we need is an army of individual Christians who are solidly grounded in the faith and able to clearly articulate the simplicity of the gospel to their families and neighbours.

We have one advantage on our side: humanism does not work; the humanist form of freedom  does not produce the happiness that it promises.  The time has come for Christians to point out the failures of humanism, to say that the emperor (Big Brother) has no clothes.

The Bible has the answers that satisfy the real needs of humankind.  It has the answers because it has its origin in the One who created us, who knows us inside and out and knows what it will take to truly satisfy the longings of our heart.  Those answers cannot be forced on anyone, but those who seek their happiness and fulfilment in God will find it.

The destructive power of envy

Back in the 1960’s I was managing a grain elevator in a small Saskatchewan town.  Norman, the biggest grain farmer in the area, had a farm worker named Lenny, a former long haul trucker.  Norman put a lot of confidence in Lenny, paid him well and provided a good house for him and his young family.  He even promised to help Lenny start farming on his own, by renting some land and using Norman’s equipment.

Most of the time Lenny knew that he had latched on to a unique opportunity to build a future for himself and his family.  However, he liked to take a few drinks after work and the alcohol blurred his vision.  When he considered Norman’s wealth and his own meagre financial situation, it didn’t look fair.  The more he drank, the worse it looked.  He expressed those feelings to others, but had enough sense to avoid contact with Norman when he wasn’t sober.  Finally the inevitable happened: one evening Lenny was in an alcohol-fuelled state of mind and Norman came over to talk about the next day’s work.  Lenny unloaded all his grievances about the unfairness of the financial disparity between Norman and himself.  Then he went back to being  a truck driver.

George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, is a parable of the folly of thinking that we will all get a bigger piece of the pie if we get rid of the one who has the biggest piece.  In the book, the pigs on Mr. Jones’ farm convince the other animals that they are being exploited by Mr. Jones.  They drive Mr. Jones off the farm and go about running it themselves, the pigs talking all the time about how they will all be better off as they work together.  Working and living conditions seem to be deteriorating, yet the pigs are such convincing talkers that eventually they sit in the farmer’s house playing cards and drinking toasts with neighbouring farmers and the rest of the animals cannot tell the difference between the pigs and the farmers.

When we are self-centred, we see life as a zero sum game.  The size of the pie is fixed, so when my neighbour gets more there is less left for me.  When enough people think this way, it discourages any activity that might grow the size of the pie.  People watch to make sure no one is getting more than his fair share.  The economy stagnates; the pie remains the same size, or even shrinks.

All men are created equal, but we have different talents and skills.  Some are able to see a need and find a way to satisfy that need.  In doing so, they enlarge the pie, creating job opportunities for others and possibly other business opportunities.  Does it matter that they get to eat a larger piece of the pie?  Or am I thankful that they have increased the size of my piece of the pie?  Envy is a powerful emotion and doesn’t respond well to logic.  If my piece of the pie is all I can eat, does it really matter that my neighbour has a larger piece?

My uncle Henry always admired his uncle’s farm.  This was just what he would like to have for himself, a beautiful yard and big, well-kept buildings that made a statement about the prosperity of the owner.  One day Uncle Henry learned that the bank was about to foreclose on his uncle.  Moreover, the bank wanted to make a quick sale to avoid further expense.  Uncle Henry was in a position to buy it for what the bank was asking and he went home to tell his wife the good news.

Aunt Helen was a quiet and submissive wife, who never disagreed with her husband.  But this time she said, “Henry, you can’t buy that farm.  People will say you took advantage of your uncle when he was down.”  That was the end of it.  Uncle Henry learned to appreciate his own farm more and never again cast envious glances at what had been his uncle’s dream farm.

“May each one of you, rather than considering his own interests, consider also those of others” (Philippians 2:4, as it reads in the Louis Segond French translation).

What has happened to tolerance?

George Orwell’s dystopian vision, expounded in his novel Nineteen Eighty-four, appears to be slowly and inexorably taking shape around us.  The thought leaders of our society have constituted themselves into an unofficial Ministry of Truth, changing the meaning of words and inventing new words.  The result — and make no mistake about it, this is the intended result — is that we are gradually losing our ability to think clearly.

Some of the same women who deplore the supposed subjugation of women to men in marriage will proclaim that the degradation of women by prostitution is evidence of the liberation of women, because a woman’s body is her own and she has a right to use it as she pleases.  Orwell labelled this kind of thinking as doublethink: the ability to believe two opposing ideas at the same time and to believe that each one is entirely true.

In like manner, it appears to be possible to be an advocate for women’s “liberation” and at the same time be a supporter of the application of Sharia law in western society.

When it comes to homosexuality, the only acceptable point of view in our society today is unqualified approval and admiration.  This is called tolerance, and no other point of view is tolerated.  This sounds remarkable like the old definition of intolerance.  Those of us who do not endorse the homosexual lifestyle but who harbour no hostility or ill will towards individuals caught up in that lifestyle are labelled intolerant.  The meanings of tolerant and intolerant have been completely reversed.

Christians are labelled as intolerant if we actually believe and live as the Bible tells us.  Any hint of disapproval of things approved by society is called intolerance.  How can I be tolerant of things that I know to be wrong?  I believe that it is right and good to be tolerant to the extent of not using force to prevent others from engaging in immoral conduct.  That is not the same as approving such conduct.  “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

On a slightly different aspect of tolerance, is it enough for a Christian to be tolerant when it comes to cultural differences that are neither right nor wrong?  The apostle Paul wrote: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

If Christ is all, and in all members of the church, then cultural differences (not sin but ordinary differences in outlook and practice that distinguish cultures) should not be seen hindrances to Christian fellowship, but as evidence of the grace of God to all mankind.  They are significant in allowing us a broader vision of how saving faith in Jesus Christ is, and always has been, accessible to all people, anywhere, in every era

%d bloggers like this: