Oct 22, 2009

What We Have to Fear

In a 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death (almost 25 years ago), Neil Postman contrasted authors George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Their legendary books were 1984 and Brave New World respectively.

In the Foreword Postman observed, “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one . . . Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance . . . Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

The final part of this Foreword chills. It reads, “In 1984 . . . people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” How ironic that even twenty-five years ago, Postman revisited two renowned authors who have in one way or another prophetically measured today’ world.

A youngish woman told me the other day (one who never attended our church) that she cannot go to church any more because “it is like watching the same movie over and over again.” She said “I need to see something new and exciting.” Life as entertainment always ends up making people merely an audience or spectators—those who endlessly evaluate and assess other people’s performances.

Sadly many people trek through life today and see themselves as objective observers and not subjective participants. As this occurs our lives become more about entertainment than about meaning and value. On virtually every page of the gospel we see a clarion call and an invitation to invest ourselves into God’s realm. Mark wrote it this way: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (8:35). Now how entertaining is that?

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