How many of you aspire to be a preacher? Any of you want to be a preacher when you grow up? Can any of you picture yourself as a preacher? OK, let me ask a different question. How many of you have worries, fears, doubts, anxiety, nagging concerns, negative thoughts, self-pity, self-condemnation? How many of us are ever worried or stressed about our lives, our families, our finances, our futures, our health, about some situation or relationship? Guess what, you are already a preacher and just didn’t know it. All of us are preaching to ourselves all the time. All our worries, fears, doubts, lingering anxiety, feelings of impending trouble or doom, are all a kind of false gospel that we all preach to ourselves. It starts as soon as we wake up with the troubles of the day facing us, and it is the last thing we do as we fall asleep. Every quiet moment can be interrupted with a cycle of negative thinking and self-talk.
“Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?” -Barbra Streisand I married the wrong person. How many of us discovered after we got married that we weren’t married to the same person we were dating and engaged to? You should have seen the look of shock on my wife’s face when she found that out. Let me burst some bubbles. We never marry the right person. People today are looking for the perfect someone who fulfills their desires and meets their expectations and with whom they can live happily ever afterward. Let me give just two reasons why this expectation is doomed to failure.
In the first half of last century two chilling novels were written predicting what the future could look like. In 1932 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World and in 1949 George Orwell published 1984. They gave two very different pictures of what the world and culture would become like. In Orwell’s prophecy the world is ruled by Big Brother and controlled by Thought Police. Picture communist controlled counties like North Korea or China or Russia. Huxley’s was different. Listen to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. vii-viii: Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, [amusing ourselves to death with an] almost infinite appetite for distractions. In 1984 people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. People might rise up against a culture of oppression and coercion, but who will rise up against a culture of pleasure and entertainment and mindless amusement? Consider this sermon one small attempt to wake us up out of our stupor and equip us for some form of resistance before we make shipwreck of our faith.