Tuesday, August 8, 2017

war is peace....freedom is slavery...ignorance is strength

St Ambrose talks to us about sharing everything with one another today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He quotes Pythagoras, and through several illustrations, he tells us that we should "have all things in common" like it describes in Acts 4:32. This is what my picture above is referring to.... Christian communism. Taking two opposites... Christianity, which believes in God, and communism, which traditionally has been atheistic in its manifestations... and putting them together to push our thinking outside the box. By my picture above, and by the phrase "Christian communism", I don't mean anything political. And I'm not saying anything about capitalism. I'm just saying "Let's share things as Christians", like St Ambrose is suggesting.

But that brings me to more opposites. Three phrases from the book 1984 by Orwell contain pairs of seeming contradictory terms. "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." I asked my friends on Facebook if they could think of a sense in which these phrases are true. And I got some good answers.

My way of thinking about them is this: War is peace. This means two things. If we are at war with the world... with the principalities and powers that are talked about in Ephesians 6:12... then we are at peace with God. As long as we are warring against the antichrist, the false prophet, the beast, and the groups that are currently attacking the family and the church in our world today, then we are at peace with God and are working for Him. If we are at peace with the world... cooperating with the movements that threaten the family and the church... then we are at war with God. War is peace.

Second, freedom is slavery. If you've read my blog before, you probably already know what I'm going to say. Freedom from authority, such as the church and God, is slavery to our passions. If we are "free" to do whatever we want, then we become slaves to ourselves. And that's a miserable slavery, because there's no underground railroad through which we can escape. Conversely, slavery is freedom. If we are slaves to God ("servants" might be an easier way to think of it, though the Bible does use the word "slaves"), then we are truly free to be ourselves, because through our obedience to Him, we become fully ourselves. Freedom is slavery.

Finally, ignorance is strength. There are several lessons to learn here. Once you've lived for a few decades, you begin to realize that there are some truths that weigh you down. There are things that you wish you could unlearn. There are things that you might find out about someone, or overhear when you're not supposed to be listening, that take the strength out of you. That make you weak. This also brings to mind the fact that scandal is horrible for the church. People sin. It's a fact of life. No one living today is free from it. We all sin. But when the sordid details of another person's sin are paraded in front of everyone, and people start whispering behind their back, it destroys so many things. It destroys the hope of the sinner who's being talked about. Because when your sin has been shouted from the rooftops, it becomes much more difficult to turn away from it. It becomes easy to just succumb to it, and become defined by your sin.

Some bits of wisdom that I've learned over the years are these: if you're the boss, and you hear your employees talking about you, let it go. They need to blow off steam. They need to gripe. Don't take it personally. You weren't meant to hear it. Ignorance is strength.

If your friend (or your enemy) has sinned, don't announce it to the world. Don't publish it in the papers. Forgive them. And pray for them. Maybe they'll put it behind them and move on to become a great person. God forgives us. Let's forgive each other. Ignorance is strength.

Finally, don't dig. If someone doesn't want to talk about something. let it go. Curiosity can be a good thing, if we're learning about science and the world around us. But sometimes curiosity opens up old wounds that really need some time and grace to heal. If your friend is wounded, sometimes they don't want to talk. Sometimes your ignorance of their circumstances gives you the strength you need to help lift them up.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all three of these statements. And the doublethink and doublespeak from 1984 are not something we want to adopt. But taking opposites and putting them together to learn from them can be elucidating. It can cause us to see in a Lacanian sense how the LACK of things is often contained in their presence. (If you don't know what that means and you want to, read this.)

Finally, let's allow the things of this world, such as the wisdom of Pythagoras and the thoughts of Orwell, to illuminate our understanding of God and His world. He's bigger than they are, and contains them. All truth is God's truth.

Thank You, God, for teaching us through unlikely sources.

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