Nineteen Eighty Four

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. Romans 15:4

The year 1984 had its share of historical highlights, among them an agreement by the United Kingdom to turn Hong Kong over to the Chinese.  Homosexuality was declared legal in Australia. USSR boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles because of anti-Soviet “hysteria”. 

1984 is also the title of George Orwell’s dystopian novel about what totalitarianism might look like 25 years after it was written in 1949. 

I read 1984 in high school in the 1960’s, and I remember the plot well.  I thought it was fanciful and far-fetched at that time.  No more.  Sales of the book soared several times – the most recent in 2017 when the phrase “alternative facts” was used on national television. Orwell used the phrase “Big Brother is Watching You”, which, in 1949, was not possible with available technology.

What makes Orwell’s book interesting is that the word “totalitarian” didn’t exist before the 20th century.  It replaced the word “tyranny”. Aristotle defined tyranny as the rule of one person or a small group of people to advance their own interests according to their will without any restraint.

Totalitarian governments employ the tools of science to control the totality of things, even one’s thoughts.  Today those tools are being used more than ever before to control thoughts of others.

Thought control goes back to the 5th Century BC when the historian Herodotus described the folly of the Persian Empire to make illegal thinking about something illegal.  In 1984, Orwell describes the Thought Policethe organization that surveils the populace through telescreens, hidden cameras and microphones. 

Farfetched?  One only has to look at China today where there are cameras everywhere doing facial recognition, and anything done on the internet or social media is monitored. They have algorithms to assign each person a social credit score to reward or punish citizens.

And it’s not just in China. It’s here in America where big tech companies track your digital footprint so that they know in advance what people will do. They use your information as a means to manipulate your thoughts and decisions.  

A US Senator warns that ‘Communist-Style Social Credit Scores [are] coming to the US in the form of ‘Cancel Culture’. His book was blacklisted by a publisher, not because of its content but because he had challenged the electoral results in Congress. 

Given recent incursions into what you are able to see or not see because of cancellation of opposing voices, you are being controlled. Big tech has become a modern day thought police. 

In 1984, a man named Winston Smith’s works for the state, and his job is to rewrite history. If anybody is deemed against the state, he puts their record into a memory hole, and it is gone forever. He searches for every written record in media or books and makes it disappear.

America has its own version of 1984:  destroying statutes of historical figures because of wrongs in their past, such as being a slave owner. Winston comes to realize that history is being rewritten so that there is no past, only the present which has been sanitized. Today,  a Vice-Presidential past controversial record is being erased.

In 1984, there were three levels of society:  the elite were called the “Inner Party” – they are those in control.  Winston was part of the “Outer Party” who are the bureaucrats.  The last group is the “Other Party” who are the unwashed masses who live blue collar lives. Does this sound familiar?  

Winston becomes disillusioned with erasing history and escapes to an area where he believed safe from surveillance.  He begins writing in a diary and meets a woman in secret.  

Winston gets caught and, instead of the usual fate of death, is sent to be de-programmed by torture. He has to learn doublethink by which things that are obviously wrong are true. As Christians, we know that no lie is truth.  

Logic works this way: If A is heavier than B, and B is heavier than C, then C cannot be heavier than A.  That’s how the law of contradictions is supposed to work, but now we are told that C is heavier than A. Or, that objective truth is false. Winston’s torturer works for the Ministry of Love where the slogans include things like “War is peace.”

Today, in China, the Uighurs, a minority Muslim group, have been rounded up and sent to “re-education” camps which is a euphemism for de-programming.  In America, some have called for “de-programming” supporters of a former President.  

In the recent COVID pandemic, we were told that it is too dangerous to hold church services, but protest marches were fine.  Protests are essential and religious services are not. We are also told under the new gender guidelines that a man can declare himself a woman and vice versa. Gender is now only what one wills it to be. 

There is an unrelenting effort to rewrite our history, and the Woke culture has taken the helm in public debate.  They are destroying what patriotism looks like and our freedoms of speech and religion are in jeopardy. 

In his farewell address, President Ronald Reagan worried about whether we were properly educating children about America and world history. He warned that the eradication of history could result in “an erosion of the American spirit.”

We are facing an Orwellian world where erasing history and surveillance have become commonplace and the media and Big Tech has been complicit. As believers, we need to be on guard for these kinds of intrusions on our freedoms because they can lead to religious persecution as in China.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee may not know history or what it means to our culture. One task is for you to take the time to provide historical truth. 


Law of Contradictions – Phillips

How China is Using Facial Recognition to Control Human Behavior – CNET

How I Survived Chinese Re-Education Camp for Uighurs – Guardian

China’s Social Credit System- 15 Bad Behaviors – FEE

Can Trump’s Cult of Followers be De-Programmed – Vanity Fair

1984 and Today –  Hillsdale College Imprimis

The Christian and Totalitarianism – Christian Post

The Terrifying Now of Big Data and Surveillance – Ted Talk

WORSHIP: Truth Be Told – Matthew West

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