Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Orwell's 1984 and Extraordinary Parallels to Baptist Leadership Today

In George Orwell's classic work 1984, Orwell describes a futuristic totalitarian regime in fictional Oceania, a land ruled by an oligarchy of powerful men. These leaders seek to keep order among the masses (order defined as the masses subservient to the leaders), by (1). maintaining pervasive government surveillance to identify anyone who speaks out against the establishment, (2). exerting public mind control by constantly reminding the people that when the government speaks, God speaks, and (3). voiding all citizens' rights for the sake of the party's best interest.

When the party made mistakes that placed them in a bad light, party leadership would simply collect and destroy all historical evidence. For example, if party leaders made a certain claim, but it was eventually proven "untrue," then the written record of the claim would be expunged. Or, if promises were made and not kept, then the record would be wiped clean. Then, party leaders would place in the public archives, called "The Times," alternate falsified "records" that made the party look good. The problem in Oceania were those poor saps and minions who questioned leadership; the problem was never leadership. If the masses would   submit to party rule, there would be no problems in the kingdom.

Orwell's fictional novel was to help people of his day understand that leaders without accountablity will constantly manipulate the masses for their own selfish ends. It is the duty of those being led to hold their leaders accountable. But beware; if accountablity is brought to bear, party leadership will simply go about trying to change the record and mold the collective memory of the masses. Orwell describes the process in this manner.

As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.
Orwell may have been a prescient Baptist.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

Don't I remember that, many years ago, a new Baptist History Book was withdrawn and destroyed because it mentioned the CBF as part of Baptist History?

Amy said...

Doubt this will be published which says a lot .... But I remember another book by Orwell called "Animal Farm" in which animals revolted against the oppressive farmer. However by the end, Orwell states that the animals, after gaining control, had become so much like the farmer that you could no longer tell them apart.

Anonymous said...


That I'm about to mention blogging isn't a specific dig at you---or me, since I've got a much lower traffic blog of my own.

But this is one of my concerns for how much of Baptist life these days gets hashed, rehashed, and dehashed on blogs. I could post today something dated last week, and you'd have trouble disproving it. Likewise, you can go edit a post and claim you never said what you originally said.

I have neither a solution nor a call to stop the blog-talk, just an observation.

Also, I think this is why we get stonewalled on doing remote locations for the SBC Annual Meeting. All business would really have to be conducted openly, rather than anything in the back.

Just some thoughts. From a strong conservative who also owns both volume 1 version of the Broadman Bible Commentary, and yes, I had to hunt the original down.


ml said...

wade who wrote that devotional? said...


Honestly, if remote SBC locations with electronic balloting were available, guys like me would not be needed.

I'm speaking for those who cannot speak up or out for themselves. said...


I am familiar with Orwell's "Animal Farm." Could be some parallels to the SBC as well, but one will have to wait until oppressiveness, heavy handedness and authoriatian tactics by establishment is gone to find out.

Feel free to blog about it when that happens.

Amy said...


I think you are purposefully missing my point. You are not obtuse.

The question is now will this one get posted?

Anonymous said...

I had been comparing the Liberty/Caner scandal to Alice falling down the rabbit hole;
but THIS post gives a much better comparison.

Demanding that youtube block films.
Removing a biography and replacing it with an 'improved' model.
Attacking the messengers, particulary Debbie, who has stood strong in the face of it.
Wade's family being attacked by an anonymous blogger.
Wade being asked to influence Debbie to 'shut up'.

The list goes on, and on . . .

Yep. Orwellian.
The description fits.

Christiane said...


Methinks you worry to much about your comments being posted. Smile.

Anonymous said...


I still compare most SBC leadership to Delores Umbridge.

Cynthia Kunsman said...

My husband came home early from work and brought dinner (does that make him a woman?).

I pulled up your site, and upon reading this post, I told my dh that you must have been reading old posts on my blog!

He said that Orwell's Animal Farm is also fitting and hopes that you will consider that for a new post.

All that to say, the minute that we get away from God's sovereign work in our lives through the Word and the Holy Spirit and we abandon Him in place of our human power and effort, we move right into the works of the flesh. (Anyone notice that the Holy Spirit does all the work in Paul's analogy and we who walk after the Spirit manifest the fruit?)

When a group of Christians displace the Spirit and replace God's way with their own authority, the system always turns into a thought reform program of some variety. You could consider thought reform the fruit of the works of the flesh on a wider scale. In practice, the dynamics of such religious systems become identical to that of a Chinese prison camp or an extremist Muslim training program. Whether Christian or not, the works of the flesh are the same. They produce the same kinds of fruit.

How sad that we so often fail to see this in our systems and in ourselves. God stands with His arms outstretched to us, waiting for us to pick up His mantle of authority that He paid for with His Own Blood. But our deceitful hearts want to fashion and wear our own instead. said...

David Miller,

Read the post more carefully and remove "Southern" from your comment and I'll post your comment.

Rex Ray said...

Ah, Wade,
The injustice you mentioned are old as the hills. I’d like to talk about the opposite of something wrong being covered up. And that is – something right being covered up. I believe it’s the same principle.

I see Peter saying something right – “All are saved the same the same way, by the free gift of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:11)


They heard the rules required to be accepted by the Moses loving laws of the Christian Jews.

They did not hear the answer required by God; but the answer required by man.

I call that a cover-up and the greatest victory of the devil in confusing his greatest defeat – Calvary by using the ignorance and pride of man.

As Orwell said of leaders seeking to keep order among the masses by:

1. Maintaining pervasive government [religious] surveillance to identify anyone who speaks out against the establishment.

“Our Jewish Christians here at Jerusalem have been told that you [Paul] are against the Laws of Moses.” (Acts 21:21)

2. Exerting public mind control by constantly reminding the people that when the government [church] speaks, God speaks.

“…Diotrephes…does not admit my authority over him…” (3 John 9)
“Our Jewish Christians here at Jerusalem have been told…” WHO was doing the telling if not the elders?
They probably wrote long letters of recommendations for the preachers in 2 Corinthians. “God never sent those men at all; they are phonies who have fooled you into thinking they are Christ’s apostles.” (2 Corinthians 11:13)
“…false brethren…who came to spy as to whether we obeyed the Jewish laws or not. They tried to get us all tied up in their rules, like slaves in chains.” (Galatians 2:4)

3. Voiding all citizens’ rights for the sake of the party’s best interest.

Paul had the right for elders to testify, but “No man stood for me.” In the elders thinking it was better for Paul to be imprisoned than their congregation stone him. [“Now what can be done? For they will certainly hear that you have come.” Acts 21:22] which would have caused a revolt among the Gentile churches.
The elders could even brag that Paul believed in Jewish laws so much he was imprisoned while obeying them.

Alan Paul said...

Amy- Your scenario is, in my opinion, what happened to the SBC once the fundamentalists took over. The proof is in the pudding... look at the mess the convention has become since that happened.

Lydia said...


the best line out of Animal Farm:

"Some animals are more equal than others"

Cindy wrote:

"When a group of Christians displace the Spirit and replace God's way with their own authority, the system always turns into a thought reform program of some variety."


Anonymous said...

First, let me say that I love reading your blog- especially the non-SBC related stuff (it is a big world out there SBC people- explore some more of it!). When you turn to SBC I tend to agree with you. But I have to say that this post is unfair. It is hardly a very thoughtful review of the parallels (not denying there are be some (read: many)). But simply throwing out the idea is intellectually lazy and unfair to some good people who are in positions of leadership/power.

Anyone could apply this post to ANY large organization or institution- probably even your own church- if they so wanted.

B Nettles said...

You said, Orwell may have been a prescient Baptist.

Really, I'm going to have to agree with Anonymous at 2:32:00. This is a lazy pointing of fingers with no target. Show me the data of changing history to cover up bad behavior among Baptist leaders and I'll reconsider my opinion. And correcting a resume doesn't qualify as changing history because the old documents are still available, much like old video tapes.

Where is Baptist leadership changing documents and history that isn't saved elsewhere. Yeah, there may be a few obscure cases, but the most blatant "mistakes" are simply ignored, not removed. Yeah, dissenters and realists are attacked personally, but the power to remove evidence is non-existent. I know that people's reputations have been hurt greatly by the rebound of the accused, but vicious behavior is abundantly public.

The real problem is when people know the facts of bad behavior and say "I know he/she is a ---, but he/she is MY ---. Leave them alone." That allows the bad behavior to continue.

BTW, did you notice that Greg Allison is now at Southeastern? Not that it has anything to do with this post.