Friday, October 27, 2006

An Upside Down Kingdom and a Brave New World

It would help greatly if you knew or have read the book "A Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. However, if you have not, you should be able to follow.

Jesus Christ was a radical. He came over 2000 years ago to change the World, introducing a new covenant and a new world. For centuries, the Jewish people labored with sacrifices, prayers and actions in order to maintain cleanliness, being right with God. In order for one to access God, one would have to go through a man, the high priest. Only the high priest was able to access the presence of God, and did so with precaution. When Christ was crucified, He made the atoning sacrifice which was enough for all of the sins of all people, providing the opportunity for a relationship with God. Being fully God, He is capable of this grand act of grace. Being fully man, He is adequate as a sacrifice because He was able to sympathize with all of mankind’s weaknesses.

Why the Bible lesson? Jesus introduced what is sometimes called the “Upside Down Kingdom”. It is the idea that man can receive contentment through not glorifying self and the pleasures of oneself, but by seeking to honor God, selfless and as a servant. It is the idea that man is not enough to satisfy man. But God is. So through following Him according to His teachings found in the Bible, one can live a life of peace- not perfection, and not always happiness, but peace. In A Brave New World, Ford was a radical. Huxley paints a picture of a life absent of peace, a life which turns modern day Christianity upside down.

Upon reading the book, one notices almost immediately the difference in language. Where many people would interject with “God!” men interject with “Ford!” Though seemingly simple this sets the stage for the lifestyle depicted throughout the book. God has been replaced by a man who introduced the idea of mass production. In reference to dates, instead of the commonly known phrase, “in the year of our Lord”, men now reflect on the “year of our Ford.” Those in high honor are referred to as “your fordship”. In this case, not only is the name replaced, but a Christian value is replaced. In Exodus 20:3, God says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” And Ford, to this culture, is considered one of the great gods, revered and worshipped.

When one removes God as the absolute and replaces it with something that represents temporary happiness and comfort, perspectives begin to change. Happiness is a massive drive for “the civilized world” in this story. Lenina expects John to follow her to her room to have her and then sees he does not follow. She is absolutely mortified and confused. She has been taught that happiness is everything, the purpose of life. So when he refuses her, she gets upset, pops 1 and ½ grammes of soma and calls it a night.

As the Controller says later in the book, “Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness.” He said, “Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered.” In the Bible, the word “happiness” and the concept thereof is not one mentioned. The word joy, which is not defined Biblically as a feeling, is a state which does not change with situations. In James 1:2, God calls us to “count it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Even in going through the hard times, we are to rest (Matthew 11:28-30) knowing that He has a purpose in our lives. It is not about temporary satisfaction.

People in the civilization dealt with problems based on this foundation of happiness. Lenina, when interacting with John, quotes the proverbs and phrases ingrained in her since she was decanted. “Everyone is happy nowadays”, “a gramme is better than a damn”, among others are used to distract people from the situation at hand. When John causes chaos at the distribution of the soma, the “Voice of Reason” comes on the speaker along with music asking, “Why aren’t you all being happy and good together? Happy and good.” The voice says, “peace, peace”, but brings it back to being happy and good. The hope is to fix the problem, to continue in how things go, just for the sake of the civilization.

Bible verses are quoted all of the time, however, the verses are not meant to distract from the problem, but rather deal with the problem. Verses like Joshua 1:9 which states, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go.” God is the remedy for fear. God is love and in 1 John 4:18 it says “perfect love casts out fear.” Resting in Jesus, not relying on feelings, and trusting that He is Sovereign may not make the situation better, but it brings understanding to it. And the hope is not to fix the problem, but to know that God will be glorified through it. And when God is glorified in the lives of His children, the result of it is lasting joy and peace.

In continuing the perspective differences, the very construction of the social world is opposite that of a Christian perspective. People are created, clothed and treated differently throughout the book. Epsilons do not and could not ever interact with Alphas. Deltas and Alphas rarely mix. A clear division in clothing, some wearing khaki, others wearing black, and still some wearing green, continues in this spirit. In Romans 3:23, it says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The perspective found in the Bible is one of equality. No one is greater than anyone else. Furthermore our salvation is not based on works: being a better Christian if you participate in certain “religious activities”. Rather, life is understood as an act of worship (Romans 12:2) because of what Christ did for all of us on the cross. Jesus calls all those who want to know Him to come and find rest.

An interesting parallel of scenes occurs in this book. At one point, the D.H.C. yells at the children to go and find a place for erotic play elsewhere. He did not want “his fordship” to be disturbed. Jesus has a similar scene in the Bible where the disciples try to run off the children so that they would not disturb him. But instead of permitting them to dismiss the children, he welcomes them. He says, “Let the little children come to me.” Children are more than just experiments and observations, but creations and important today. In the book, children were science projects.

In the spirit of children, family and the concept of a family is completely unknown to this culture. The word “mother” is considered to be an obscenity. However, in the Bible, Jesus urges for people to “honor your father and mother.” The role of a mother and a father in the Bible is crucial and is even exemplified in today’s culture. “Train up a child in the way he should go so when He is old He will not part from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) In the book of 1 John and the book of Titus, the role of a father in a son’s life is to teach Him the ways of God and encourage him.

Finally, today, in the Christian faith, the truth that John in BNW says so bluntly—“God never changes”—is a foundational aspect of God’s character. John wonders why the people are not told about God. Christianity bases the security of life on the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. In Brave New World, the civilization sets up the platform on the Controllers response to John’s statement, “But people do.” People change, culture changes, and technologies change. The only constant is the presence of change, so stability is a foreign aspect in this time. Nothing rests secure.

Morality, truth, perspectives and even identity is completely opposite in the culture described in Brave New World than in the Bible. The Bible encourages a trust in God, a rest and peace found when one believes in Him. Belief in God and knowing that He is faithful does more than just explain away problems, but gives those who endure the problems a promise of hope and future. (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible discourages adultery and is very much oriented on family. The Christian faith offers stability and direction, but the culture as depicted in Brave New World offers nothing but a dangling body, described as a compass pointing nowhere, but always moving.

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