I am of the mind that all churches should have required classes for new members in George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.” (You can find audio versions on youtube). Sort of joking, but only sort of. Though Orwell never said so and probably wouldn’t have, these books are secular versions of some of what the Apostle John saw on the Isle of Patmos, the power of the state dominated by the sheer desire to rule, treating its citizenry as the collective and its ability to utter “newspeak.” John saw it.
The state is established by God, but like all that is established by Him, it easily turns to anti-God and anti-human. And when the state does that, there is a hell to pay whose fires cannot be measured. A mere one hundred years ago the nations were entering WWI and WWII and the rising tides of Facism, totalitarianism, Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism and the Cold War. Do we think these forces have left us? No, because they are in us. They are us, the natural desire we all have to use the state to force our visions on others at the point of a gun.
Orwell was a man of the left but who saved his fiercest criticisms for the incipient totalitarianism of the left – “big brother is watching you.” Those who know what is best for you and who will rule so that you may live their version of it. As Christians seeking the flourishing of the peoples, we must be constantly aware that often statism will be the alternative that offers itself for salvation. The state will care for all your needs. The collective knows the good and the true. The Apostle John evidences a deep awareness that it is the state that will offer itself to substitute for the transcendent God and our glorious Savior, Christ. Christians must refuse this alternative and warn others not to do so, as well. Even in the name of great good, the state possesses inherent powers that easily morph into dragons, or beasts, to use John’s phrasing.
We honor government as instituted by God. We honor God by checking the state and keeping it in its own place. Otherwise, it will soon be an idol, a false god.
Set aside some time to read or reread these two most important works of the first half of the 20th century.