In order to understand evangelical Christian culture one should read, study and pay attention to the themes from George Orwell in his classic novels. The themes of corruption, totalitarianism, censorship, blind loyalty, and more are used to paint warning to society. Because remember comrade, while all animals are equal some like your pastor are more equal than others.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
“I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Cover of George Orwell’s classic 1984.
When one gets involved in an evangelical Christian church the organization often wants to get you more involved. Some, talk about being “Gospel Centered” or “Gospel Saturated” or looking at things “Through the lens of scripture.” Many churches want you to get involved in small groups as they stress reading the Bible. They claim that reading the Bible will help draw you near to Jesus. It will help you understand faith, the local church and much more. I heard this message often over the years and when I got involved in a number of places. Looking back when I think of some of the places I was involved I realize I was had and manipulated. If a church tells you that you need to read the Bible to grow in your faith, and your understanding of church I am going to tell you to reject that line of thinking. Its amazing how many read the Bible and yet look at how toxic some of these places are? The bottom line is that if you want to understand evangelical Christian culture you should cease reading the Bible and read famed British author George Orwell instead. Before we get into the themes and lessons from George Orwell let’s look at two legendary books that exist 1984 and Animal Farm.
An Overview of 1984
George Orwell published a book in 1949 that would later be regarded as one of the finest novels of the Twentieth Century. In the classic known as 1984 you have a story about learning to love “Big Brother.” In the classic work a new set of terms was invented that have gone done in the pages of literary history. New phrases such as big brother, double-think, 2 + 2 = 5, thought-crime, Newspeak, and memory-hole. You may not be familiar with the book and may ask, what is it about? I am going to give you a condensed version of 1984.
It is 1984, and civilization has been damaged by war, civil conflict, and revolution. Great Britain has become Airstrip One – a province of Oceania. Oceania is one of the totalitarian super-states that rules the world. Oceania is ruled by the “Party” under the ideology of “Ingsoc” and the mysterious leader known as “Big Brother.” Big Brother is a cult of personality. The Party works to kill all dissent and uses the Thought Police to deal with those who do not conform. Constant surveillance through devices such as two-way televisions, “Telescreens” are used.
Winston Smith is a member of the middle class Outer Party. He is employed at the Ministry of Truth where he spends his time rewriting historical records to conform with the state’s ever changing version of history. Those who fall out of favor with the Party become “unpersons.” They then disappear, its like they never existed. All traces of them are erased. While the Party destroys all original evidence and documents in a fire, Winston realizes that he opposes the Party. He disagrees with their rule and longs for rebellion. Winston knows that he is a thought criminal and will most likely be caught one day.
While in a neighborhood Winston meets Mr. Charrington who owns an antique shop. He buys a diary and writes about crossing the Party and Big Brother. He also reveals his sexual frustration over Julia a young women maintaining the novel-writing machines in the ministry. Winston suspects that Julia is an informant. He also suspects that his supervisor O’Brien is a secret agent for an underground resistance movement known as the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is formed by Emmanuel Goldstein. He hides this journal in his home. The next day Julia secretly hands a note confessing that she loves Winston. Winston and Julie begin a torrid affair. Its an act of rebellion as the Party says that sex is for reproduction only. Winston realizes that Julia loathes the Party as well. They meet in different locations before meeting in a rented room above Mr. Charrington’s Antique store. During the affair Winston interacts with a colleague Syme who is working on a new dictionary of the English language called Newspeak. When Syma admits that Newspeak is about reducing the human capability for thought shortly afterward she disappears and no trace of her is found.
Weeks later Winston is approached by O’Brien who offers Winston a chance to join the Brotherhood. Julia and Winston swear allegiance to the Brotherhood in O’ Brien’s flat. O’ Brien shares Emmanuel Goldstein’s “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.” Julia and Winston learn about how the party maintains power, the true meanings of the slogans they hear and the concept of perpetual war. Then Mr Charrington is revealed to be an agent of the Thought Police. They are captured and taken and imprisoned in the Ministry of Love. Then O’Brien reveals that he is loyal to the Party and is involved in sting operations to capture “thought criminals.” Over many months Winston is tortured and taught to cure himself to change his thoughts on “The Party.” This must be done even if it requires him to think that 2 + 2 = 5. When Winston is brainwashed to be loyal then he will be released into the population. This will be brief as he will be shot. Then O’Brien wants to get Winston to betray his love for Julia.
O’Brien then takes Winston to Room 101 for the final stage of re-education. The room contains each other’s prisoner worst fear. A wire cage holding hungry rats is tied to his face and he screams , “Do it to Julia!” Julia is then betrayed. After being released Julia meets Winston in a park. They both betrayed each other. Winston realizes that he no longer has feelings for Julia. The Party successfully took away their love. The book ends with Winston sitting alone in a cafe. Oceania celebrates a supposed victory over Eurasian armies in Africa. Winston has been brainwashed and he realizes that he loves “Big Brother.”
A Summary of Animal Farm
Animal Farm is another hallmark work of George Orwell. Near Willingdon, Englad there exists a Manor Farm that is poorly run. The farmer who runs it, Mr Jones is an alcoholic. Due to the neglect of the animals the situation is ripe for rebellion. One evening an exalted boar, Old Major organizes a meeting where he calls for the overthrow of the humans. He teaches a revolutionary song called “Beasts of England.” Old Major then dies and two pigs Snowball and Napoleon assume command and stage a revolt. The animals drive Mr. Jones from his farm and the property is renamed “Animal Farm.” The Seven Commandments of Animalism is adopted. The most important one is, “All animals are equal.” This decree is posted on the barn and Snowball teaches other animals to read and write. Napoleon meanwhile educates the young puppies on the principles of Animalism.
Life is good on the farm and food is plentiful and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs declare themselves to be the leaders. The pigs set aside special food items which is for their health. Then Mr. Jones, the alcoholic farmer attempts to take back his farm in what becomes known as the Battle of the Cowshed.Snowball decides to modernize the farm by building a windmill. Napoleon then has his dogs chase of Snowball from the property and he declares himself the leader. Napoleon then enacts changes to the farm and how it is governed. Meetings are replaced with a committee of pigs who will run the farm. The animals work harder for Napoleon believing that life will improve. When a storm destroys the windmill Napoleon convinces the other animals that Snowball is trying to sabotage their project. A purge of the animals begins with Napoleon declaring who is conspiring with Snowball. Some animals begin to realize that Napoleon was absent during the Battle of the Cowshed. Yet Napoleon is presenting himself as the hero of the battle. The anthem, “The Beasts of England” was replaced with another anthem glorifying Napoleon. Napoleon is adopting the lifestyles of a human and the animals on the farm remain convinced that their life has improved, and is better than it was under Mr. Jones.
Mr. Frederick a neighboring farmer attacks the farm using blasting powder to blow up the windmill. The animals win the battle but at a great cost. Boxer the workhorse is wounded and he collapses. Boxers is taken away in a knackers van. Squealer assures the animals that the the van has been purchased from the knacker by an animal hospital. Squealer reports Boxers death and makes him a martyr with a festival the following day. The truth is much darker…Napoleon arranged the sale of Boxer to the knacker allowing Napoleon and his inner circle to acquire money to buy whiskey for themselves. Years pass and the windmill is rebuilt, generating a good amount of income for the farm. However the ideals that Snowball discussed are forgotten with Napoleon advocating that animals deserve simple lives. Many animals are older and have died as well. Also Mr. Jones is who tried to reclaim the farm is also dead. The pigs start to resemble humans. After all they walk upright, wear clothes, dress like humans and carry whips. Napoleon changes the Seven Commandments are shortened to two phrases. “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” and “Four legs good, two legs better.” Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and the local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He restores the original name, “The Manor Farm” and he abolishes a lot of traditions. The men and the pigs start playing cards where they praise each other. Both Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington one of the farmers fight over who cheated first. The animals on the outside look at the pigs and they can no longer distinguish between man and the pig.
The Themes of 1984 and Animal Farm
1984 as a novel is quite complex. It has multiple themes but the biggest is the warning about totalitarianism. Additional issues that come from the book include concerns about technology, propaganda, subversion of reality, the loss of independence and identity. Others are a warning about loyalty, the re-writing of history and controlling the narrative. 1984 was published in 1949 and was George Orwell’s final novel before his death in January of 1950. Animal Farm is ultimately about the Soviet Union. The main theme of the book is about the inevitable move from cooperative socialism to military dictatorship. Orwell’s work was published in 1945 during World War II and the British writer was worried about how the Soviet Union, which once invaded Poland in 1939 was being described in more glowing terms as an Ally against Nazi, Germany. There are many other themes as well that are also important. Those are corruption by leadership and control of naive people, false allegiance, tyranny, lies and deception and hopes. And also how systems are traded and peoples lives are not improved.
How 1984 and Animal Farm Can Help you Understand Evangelical Christian Culture
This is the second time I have used George Orwell in writing about evangelicalism. When I heard of a development in covering the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal in Chicago I wrote about Orwell in, “The Dystopian George Orwell Classic 1984. What is the Business Relationship Between Harvest Bible Chapel and Covenant Eyes? Did Harvest Use Covenant Eyes to Control and Abuse the Staff?” Evangelical Christianity deals with authoritarianism and control. Its an issue from the Neo-Calvinist churches, to those who subscribe to Christian Nationalism and more. While Animal Farm was written with the Soviet Union in mind, in reality it could also be used to describe Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church and 9 Marks. Mark Dever could very well be Napoleon. The one deeply corrupt who is putting people in their place while elevating himself. 1984 can deal with so many churches that I have written about who re-write their history and deny it. From Redeemer Arlington in the D.C. area to many Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, Sojourn, and more. Animal Farm can be used to understand Robert Jeffress First Baptist in Dallas when you see the blind allegiance that comes about in the issue of Christian Nationalism. Evangelicalism is not about God for many pastors its about power and control. How many churches are thrown into chaos by shifting theological systems and people just accept it? How many just defend the pastor and label someone as Snowball? Consider how gossip and slander is twisted in some of these places…The Village Church, Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Sovereign Grace Louisville, Sojourn Community Church in Louisville and more. Also consider the following, how many of these places get you to confess your sins and then use that information against you? Your past with alcohol, porn, past drug issues, that affair you had years ago. How many of these places use that information against its attenders? Can there be anything more Orwellian than that? Think of the thought reform and brainwashing that happens in many of these places? Erasing your identity to become a yes man to support the pastor blindly.
This post is designed to get you to think for yourself. I would challenge you to read 1984 or Animal Farm. Contemplate it in the concept of your local church. Is James MacDonald your Napoleon? Is Matt Chandler your Napoleon? When Orwell wrote to warn about totalitarianism he also could have written a warning about evangelical Christianity. Heed his warnings and consider it. I know for some of you this post will be a stretch especially when you think of someone like Rod Stafford at Fairfax Community Church. You may have a hard time connecting the dots. But what connects much of evangelicalism is totalitarianism. Because you must remember, that while all animals are equal, some like your pastor are more equal than others.