Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
George Orwell, 1984
But test everything; hold fast what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:21
In preparation for the upcoming removal of masks, the self-congratulations of politicians, and the ticker tape parades of liberated citizens kissing in the streets, I offer this selective reading of 1984. Let the reader the understand: Nothing has changed.
What Covid-19 Has Wrought
As the State of the Union address is presented mask-optional tonight, it is important to remember what has changed and what has not. Today, the air is the same; immune systems are the same; and threat of Covid is the same. Covid-19 and its various variants are still deadly for those with underlying conditions and it is still innocuous for those with healthy bodies, especially children.
At the same time, masks still do not work. Fauci said as much privately before the pandemic, then he changed his mind publicly during the pandemic, and now he, and the CDC, and others have waffled back to some compromised position. Very presidentially, he was for same-sex marriage, before he was against it, and now he has returned his original position. Just replace Obama’s subject matter (so called same sex marriage) with Fauci’s (masks, mandates, etc.) and you will understand the convoluted logic of a career politician.
Yes, Covid-19 was political before it wasn’t. And how do we know? Because “end” of Covid has come by political fiat, not by a substantial change in the conditions. As the Washington Post reported in early February, governors are changing mask mandates for political reasons. Similarly, Saturday Night Live, that bastion of liberal catechesis, has performed a skit that is not funny but is informative. Watch it here. (This the first and I hope the last time I share something from SNL).
For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, it is not science, nor the man who declared himself to represent Science, that has made the final determination about masks—it is politics. Under threat of losing control, politicians are moving to a position that appears to give freedom to the people. And SNL is helping prepare the masses for the stunning realization that the last two years of draconian mandates were more fiction than fact. And what are Christians do? Should we celebrate with the masses? Or should we realize how farcical this whole pandemic has been.
The Need for Greater Discernment
As the Fauci emails have exposed and Facebook’s censorship of “misinformation” has always suggested, t the spiked protein we’ve all come to loathe was not the only pandemic at work over the last two years. Rather, the political propaganda which told us what to think about the spiked protein was equally infectious. As more information has come out, it is clear that since March 2020, when fourteen days would flatten the curve, Big Government, Big Tech, and Big Pharma have partnered together to direct (or deceive) the masses. And sadly, leaders like Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, Rick Warren, and others went right along with it.
As Megan Basham reported, such ‘leaders’ used their platforms to follow the science and the politicians who were telling them what to think. Sadly, instead of helping Christians to search for truth in a time of confusion—as the Great Barrington Declaration did, and which Fauci and Francis Collins sabotaged—they pursued safety at all costs. Instead of letting the unchanging Word of God direct Christians, these leaders looked to the ever-changing science of Covid and the wavering (and blundering) liberal-minded politicians who enforced unproven policies.
Here’s the point: We have found very little help from evangelical leaders during this time. And if we are coming to a time when the masks and the mandates and the maniacal threats associated with them might be relaxed for a season, then Christians need a remedial course in understanding the way tyranny works and what propaganda looks like.
In my mind, the place to begin is by reading Slaying Leviathan by Glenn Sunshine. In this book, he gives a history of Christian resistance and why Romans 13 does not mean “we are commanded to submit to our governing authorities no matter what they say.” For more on Romans 13, see here, here, and here.
Truly, Christians need more training in how to discern the way government works and how the government and its priests in the media speak. Because the kingdom of Christ is fundamentally at odds with every earthly kingdom, Christians must learn how to seek the welfare of the city, yes (Jer. 29:7), but we must also learn how not to become slaves to Babylon. To that end, it is necessary that we learn how to spot propaganda and slanted reporting—from the right, as well as the left.
And with this change in masking policies, it is vital to see that the only thing that has really changed is the interpretation of the data. Concerns about masks have been longstanding , but only now are they allowed to be questioned in public. See Saturday Night Live. To riff on George Orwell then, once we were at war against Covid with masks, but now we are at peace with Covid without masks. But what has changed? Not much. Just the messaging.
And it is this change in messaging, without a substantial change in reality, that Christians need to recognize, so that we will be ready for the next faux-event. Indeed, Christians can be led astray by doctrinal error (Look, Jesus did not come in the flesh), but also cultural crisis (Stare over there, which entails not fixing our eyes on Jesus). Therefore, we must learn how to stand firm against both kinds of error, indeed all kinds of error.
To that end, 1984, the dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1948, helps us to see how big government, big tech, and big pharma form a partnership very much like Big Brother. And while I would commend reading or listening to the book (Don’t watch the movie!), I offer a few quotes below which illustrate how messaging can mislead the masses.
What 1984 Teaches Christians in 2022
For those not familiar with 1984, Oceania is the home of Winston, the enslaved citizen who awoke to the errors of Big Brother, until he was subdued by the O’Brien and the Ministry of Love. Julia is his love interest. Eurasia and Eastasia are the two countries that Oceania was at war and peace with, depending on the time. The point to be seen is the way that war was constant, but that allegiances were not. And those allegiances were entirely fabricated by those in power. If there is a better illustration of identity politics today, let me know. Here are the quotes, with a summary header for each.
Winston remembers that the war had changed. But he is the only one.
Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. (1984, 1:3, p. 22)
Julia is indifferent to real history, and only cared facts when they touched her.
But she only questioned the teachings of the Party when they in some way touched upon her own life. Often she was ready to accept the official mythology, simply because the difference between truth and falsehood did not seem important to her. She believed, for instance, having learnt it at school, that the Party had invented airplanes. (In his own school-days, Winston remembered, in the late Fifties, it was only the helicopter that the Party claimed to have invented; a dozen years later, when Julia was at school, it was already claiming the airplane; one generation more, and it would be claiming the steam engine.) And when he told her that airplanes had been in existence before he was born and long before the Revolution, the fact struck her as totally uninteresting. After all, what did it matter who had invented airplanes? It was rather more of a shock to him when he discovered from some chance remark that she did not remember that Oceania, four years ago, had been at war with Eastasia and at peace with Eurasia. It was true that she regarded the whole war as a sham; but apparently she had not even noticed that the name of the enemy had changed. “I thought we’d always been at war with Eurasia,” she said vaguely. It frightened him a little. The invention of airplanes dated from long before her birth, but the switch-over in the war had happened only four years ago, well after she was grown up. He argued with her about it for perhaps a quarter of an hour. In the end he succeeded in forcing her memory back until she did dimly recall that at one time Eastasia and not Eurasia had been the enemy. But the issue still struck her as unimportant. “Who cares?” she said impatiently. “It’s always one bloody war after another, and one knows the news is all lies anyway.” (1984, 1:5, p. 89)
Love for Big Brother, which is the state religion, is hatred for those the state tells you to hate. (Watch the SNL clip to see how this works).
On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns—after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the two thousand Eurasian war criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces—at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally. There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy. (1984, 1:9, p. 104)
History does not matter, only today. History is a malleable tool for the present, not an objective fact that determines and informs the present.
Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound tracks, photographs—all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere. The work was overwhelming, all the more so because the processes that it involved could not be called by their true names. (1984, 1:9, p. 105)
When Big Brother subdued Winston, his mind stopped fighting for reality and accepted the ‘truth’ he was told.
He accepted everything. The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were guilty of the crimes they were charged with. He had never seen the photograph that disproved their guilt. It had never existed; he had invented it. He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self-deception. How easy it all was! Only surrender, and everything else followed. It was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it. Nothing had changed except your own attitude; the predestined thing happened in any case. He hardly knew why he had ever rebelled. Everything was easy, except—! Anything could be true. The so-called laws of nature were nonsense. The law of gravity was nonsense. “If I wished,” O’Brien had said, “I could float off this floor like a soap bubble.” Winston worked it out. “If he thinks he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously think I see him do it, then the thing happens.” Suddenly, like a lump of submerged wreckage breaking the surface of water, the thought burst into his mind: “It doesn’t really happen. We imagine it. It is hallucination.” He pushed the thought under instantly. The fallacy was obvious. It presupposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a “real” world where “real” things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens. (1984, 2:4, p. 177)
Oceania, who had once been at war with Eastasia, is now (and always has been) at war with Eurasia.
Winston was listening to the telescreen. At present only music was coming out of it, but there was a possibility that at any moment there might be a special bulletin from the Ministry of Peace. The news from the African front was disquieting in the extreme. On and off he had been worrying about it all day. A Eurasian army (Oceania was at war with Eurasia; Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia) was moving southward at terrifying speed. The midday bulletin had not mentioned any definite area, but it was probable that already the mouth of the Congo was a battlefield. Brazzaville and Leopoldville were in danger. One did not have to look at the map to see what it meant. It was not merely a question of losing Central Africa; for the first time in the whole war, the territory of Oceania itself was menaced. (3.6, p. 183)
What We Must Learn from 1984
Today, in our postmodern world, where fact imitates fiction (e.g., gender reassignment surgery, hate crime hoaxes, etc.), we should not be surprised that our leaders—in Washington and Nashville—are adroit at spinning facts to suit their aims. Power, after all, is what replaces truth in a postmodern age.
Accordingly, we must see more clearly the way things really and wait to make judgments until all the facts are in. Otherwise, we will only confuse North from South, Eastasia from Eurasia, right from wrong. Such true thinking is becoming more difficult. And while the nation celebrates the unmasking of faces, if only for a little while, we need to seek the face of God and learn from Scripture how to seek truth in a deceitful world. Walking in truth is what Christians are called to do.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it is this: We, in America, are not ready to stand against a government that takes away our liberties. How many churches have been flattened by responses to Covid that are turning out to be based upon things which are less than true? And how many Christians have carried water for the godless leaders who promised to keep us safe? These are painful truths, but they will only become more painful, if we do not learn from them. If we are going to walk in truth, then Christians must lead the way in testing everything and holding fast to the good (1 Thess. 5:21).
To that end, may God raise up a generation of Christians and Christian leaders who are not enslaved to the god of personal peace, as Francis Schaeffer put it. And may we learn afresh how to discern truth from error, so that we can speak truth in the church and beyond. With unmasked faces, let us see the God who has revealed himself to us, so we can live according to his truth and the not falsehoods presented as the science of our day.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds