The Coming Storm Pt.1

30 01 2007

George Orwell is one of my favourite authors. His imaginitative ability, his lyrical economy, and his broad view of life and society give his books an almost prophetic edge in cultural terms. Whether it is the casual brutality of Nineteen Eighty Four with its ‘Big Brother’ image which remains so current in popular culture, or the deceptively warm and pastoral tones of the early pages of Animal Farm which descend into horror and atrocity, Orwell had a stirling capacity to see beyond immediate context, and imagine the consequences of the world which he inhabited.

Animal Farm is significant for our own times in the United Kingdom in terms of its consideration of equality. In the early stages of this short book the amimals take over the farm from its tyrannical owner through a revolution, and establish an egalitarian community, where each animal works for the benefit of others. The slogan of the farmyard community is ‘All animals are equal’. As Orwell continues his (not so) veiled criticism of communism, however, this community spirit gives way to the oppressive rule of pigs, who quickly become more cruel and demanding than the human farmer ever was. They change the slogan of the community during the night, to ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’. Ultimately the idea of equality collapses and the farm is worse off than when it began.

In watching our current news programmes/papers, one is almost tempted to mail a copy of Animal Farm to every member of Cabinet. Equality is the great watchword of our culture, and yet it is becoming increasingly evident that secular views of equality are lobsided and uneven. Take for instance the ‘Sexual Orientation’ laws which are already in place here in Northern Ireland, and will be soon in Mainland Britain. As Evangelical Christians our equality and liberty to proclaim the message of Christ is becoming more and more sidelined and restricted. Events this week over adoption laws for the Catholic Church are perhaps a taste of things to come, whereby central government is dictating to faith groups about the extent to which they can stand by principle and doctrine, and the extent to which they must conform to the agenda of the day.

Perhaps such thinking on my part is a little premature, but at 29 years of age, I now see it as unlikely that I will complete my ministry without opposition, or even persecution (should I live to retirement, and the Lord tarry). ‘All people are equal, but people of faith are less equal than others’ seems to be the dictum of our society, and eventually the laws being passed by government will come to encroach on our public worship, and our witness to what the Bible says. These are, to quote W.B. Yeats, ‘important times’ when our religious liberty may be on the wane.

Over the next while I intend to post some sporadic thoughts on how as evangelicals we ought to be preparing for the coming storm, what issues we need to be thinking through, what issues are being faced by our brothers and sisters around the world who are truly and presently suffering, and what encouragements we can take from Scripture on these issues.




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