Monday, April 14, 2008


So I realize that my last post might have been kind of weird (especially if, like Wes, you're wondering what this all has to do with the novel 1984). To be honest, it was really just me wanting to feel smart and to prove that I know enough about the Old Testament to point out Fromm's inaccurate statement.

Anyway, in continuation... I will be the first to admit that as a whole (and pretty much everything else that Fromm says other than that one statement in the beginning) is really insightful. (Actually, there was one more statement that I was curious about, but I'll save that for later.)

Fromm begins his commentary on 1984 by discussing a common perception of "end times" long ago. In Greek and Roman thinking (as well as the Old Testament), there was a hope that man will eventually be able to "create a world of justice and peace." This was the mindset for most of the world's history. And during the Renaissance, a form of writing developed to express how people thought things might work out. It was called utopian literature and was first seen in Thomas More's Utopia.

(Interesting fact: "utopia" literally means "nowhere.")

In this particular book, More "combined a most penetrating criticism of his own society, its irrationality and its injustice, with the picture of which, though perhaps not perfect, had solved most of the human problems which sounded insoluble to his own contemporaries." This society also catered to the "deepest longings of man."

This view of the future continued through the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers of the 1700's and the socialist thinkers of the 1800's, and really wasn't reconsidered until the end of World War 1.

It was then during that first world war that we began to realize what humans were capable of, and the hope that we had embraced so strongly began to fade. We saw millions die in the war, we saw Stalin drive a country mad, we saw Hitler demolish an ethnicity, we watched atomic bombs disintegrate populations.

It is precisely the significance of Orwell's book that it expresses the new mood of hopelessness which pervades our age before this mood has become manifest and taken hold of the consciousness of people.

Other books did the same: Zamyatin's We and Huxley's Brave New World. But I've only read 1984, so I won't talk about those.

This new genre was identified as negative utopian literature and marked the beginning of a new way of thinking. A loss of hope.

Fromm (keep in mind, he wrote this in 1961) also points out the paradox in this transformation: Our "hope-filled" time before WWI had economic justification for slavery & exploitation and science was looked to in order to make things better; it is here at the beginning of modern development that we find hope.

Then, when the hopes are realizable, when enough food could actually be made for everybody and war is unnecessary, when world peace begins to come within our grasp, "when man is on the verge of realizing his hope, he begins to lose it."

Interesting, no?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finished, and Huh?

So I've just now finished George Orwell's 1984 - good read.

And I'm all excited because I want to blog about some of the things I've kind of been thinking about, but then I began the afterword by a guy named Erich Fromm, and I'm already confused. You think you know a book until you begin reading criticisms...

Fromm says...

The Old Testament philosophy of history assumes that man grows and unfolds in history and eventually becomes what he potentially is. It assumes that he develops his powers of reason and love fully, and thus is enabled to grasp the world, being one with his fellow man and nature, at the same time preserving his individuality and his integrity. Universal peace and justice are the goals of man, and the prophets have faith that in spite of all errors and sins, eventually this "end of days" will arrive, symbolized by the figure of the Messiah.

This really doesn't make sense to me. I don't know if the problem is that this inaccurate or untrue, or if I just don't like the language he uses. This really doesn't have much to do with the book, it just stuck out to me as unusual. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Several times in the Old Testament, God refers to Himself as a "jealous God." Most of the time I would read this and think to myself, "Isn't that a bad thing?" I mean, isn't jealousy bad?

Recently, my look at jealousy has changed. I've learned this from my awesome girlfriend, Caitlin. And, I wouldn't have expected it, but she has told me herself that she is a "jealous girlfriend." What she meant was that when I spend my time with other people, she becomes jealous, in a sense, that I am not spending my time with her. This may sound selfish, but it really isn't. Regardless, I'm beginning to understand what God means.

Think of someone you care about immensely, preferably a loved one, but I guess it doesn't have to be. But it should be someone that you constantly want to spend your time with. Got it? Good.

Now imagine, you start seeing this person hang out with other people all the time or just doing things that don't involve you. You want to be those people so bad just so that you could be with your loved one. Or you want to be involved in whatever that thing is that doesn't have to do with you. Your own self-esteem begins to falter because you feel that you're not good enough for this person. They would rather spend their time with those people or that thing than you. It sort of hurts, doesn't it?

Well, surprise! God feels the exact same way. He's jealous of the things you spend your time with. He's jealous of your computer and your TV. He's jealous of your schoolwork, your girlfriend - anything that you seem to want to spend your time with that isn't Him.

And why shouldn't He? It makes sense doesn't it? The Creator of the Universe wants to spend time with you... but there is a really good episode of Lost on this week (for the record, I don't actually watch the show), or you're just really, really tired.

Now don't get me wrong here. Think about it. In this sense, jealousy is a sign of pure love. For Caitlin, it shows me that she loves me because she wants to be a part of my life. For God, it shows us that He wants to be involved with us. That's amazing!

I think our perception of idolatry needs to change. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable Christian at times, but even I can't help but think of a large golden image (or a chocolate bunny for my Veggie Tale sympathizers) when I hear the word "idolatry."

Idolatry is spending time with things that don't involve God. And it's a big deal. It really is. That's why God gets so worked up about it all over the Old Testament. It insults the very nature of who He is. It insults the idea that He is worth every single breath in your being. And we're all guilty of it.

I should also mention that those things I mentioned earlier (girlfriend, computer, etc.) are not examples of idolatry in themselves. But what we need to do is use our time in a way that involves God in our lives. And hopefully, even better yet, we should be striving to the point where not only is He involved, but God becomes the focus and motivation of every single one of our activities.

I leave you with Deuteronomy 4:23-24:

"Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."