I’m Actually Not Crazy

  • Steve Hatter
Family walking in a grass field

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell from 1984.

I had to read an important book back in 8th grade when I grew up in Maitland, Florida. That book was English author George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, often referred to as 1984. I read the novel now fifty-one years ago at about the same time Disney World in Orlando was having its grand opening, and sleepy backwater central Florida—where Maitland is—stood at the precipice of an economic and population explosion. Like most 8th graders, I read the book—well, at least most of it—and I wrote a lame paper, took the test on the plot, and moved on. I had other more important things on my mind like baseball, fishing, and these strange “other” human being called girls. Yet now, all these years later, I’m amazed at how much I remember the book and American culture back then. I’m also astonished at how prescient Mr. Orwell was more than half a century ago.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian social science fiction novel published on June 8th, 1949. Orwell, a democratic socialist, modeled the totalitarian government in the story after Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, focusing on the consequences of oppressive government—totalitarianismmass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of people and behaviors within society. More broadly, the novel examines the role of truth and facts within politics and how they can be manipulated.

The story takes place in an imagined future, the year 1984 (oh, to go back to that good old year!), when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual waromnipresent government surveillancehistorical negationism, and propaganda. Great Britain, known as Airstrip One, has become a province of a totalitarian superstate named Oceania ruled by “the Party,” who employ the “Thought Police to persecute individuality and independent thinking. “Big Brother,” the dictatorial leader of Oceania, enjoys an intense cult of personality manufactured by the Party’s excessive brainwashing techniques. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a diligent and skillful rank-and-file worker and “Outer Party” member who secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion. He enters into a forbidden relationship with a colleague, Julia, and starts to remember what life was like before the Party came to power.

To say that we are living out Orwell’s dystopian vision today almost seems to border on being an understatement. The culture is wholesale trading in freedom for safety in keeping with the character Winston Smith’s observation: “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” But as discouraging as things may be for the few who see dystopia and not eutopia ahead, the negative trends around us are, in fact, right on script in terms of the themes and prophesies in our Holy Bible. According to Scripture, apart from living in a right relationship with God, human beings will create and perish in dystopia.

As Christians living in this providentially ordained moment in history, what are we to think, say, and do? How are we to persevere when discouragement crouches at our door? As the great Francis Schaefer asks rhetorically, “How Shall We Then Live?”

Here are three practical thoughts to hold on to this week. First, your sense of unease, heartbreak even, about the decadent culture and our overreaching government is evidence of your regeneration. Like the blind man healed by Jesus as documented in John 9:25, you now see the world through a Holy Spirit enabled lens of truth: “He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” You grieve as God grieves because you see the world as God sees it. Your conscience is tuned to hear and see timeless truth, so rest assured, you are not crazy! Do not be tempted to “doublethink.” Trust your new way of thinking in keeping with Ephesians 4:23–24: “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Second, God is with you and will not forsake you. The Apostle Paul reassured the church at Philippi that although their temporal circumstances may be difficult, they were eternally secure: “ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

Finally, concentrate on the task at hand that is right in front of you. Most of us will never be positioned to “move the needle” at a city, state, national, or global level, but that does not mean our work in the present moment is not important in God’s plan. Each of us has people that God has sovereignly placed in our lives to invest in and love in a Christlike way. The great messages of our men’s conference this past weekend reminded me about my most important mission areas in this life. I am to ensure my marriage is pleasing to the Lord, my parenting (and now grandparenting) is biblical, and that I serve my church with all my heart. Those things alone are a high calling and worthy of my best energies and efforts, so that is where I’m supposed to focus. And there is freedom found in concentrating on my task and not anything else that God has not asked me to do. I need to let Him run the universe, so to say.

Despite all the mess around us and all the threats, real or imagined, we are still to have joy in the Christian life. My personal goal for his week is to do my job, let God do His job, and be joyful about all of it!