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1984 is George Orwell’s classic novel of the way absolute governments use power. As mentioned previously in this blog Orwell used the book to explore how the powerful use language to control meaning.


In one scene, the anti-hero, Winston, is being tortured by O’Brien, a member of the ruling party:

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’


‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’


The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body…

‘How many fingers, Winston?’


The needle went up to sixty.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!’

The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!’

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Five! Five! Five!’

‘No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?’

‘Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!’

Abruptly he was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O’Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O’Brien who would save him from it.

‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.

Thus O’Brien takes control of Winston’s view of reality. It is O’Brien who defines what math is due to his power.

An interesting process of reality redefinition is underway within the Episcopal Church of America. Its liberal leaders portray themselves as a persecuted and oppressed group, seeking to provide acceptance and understanding to those who society rejects and misunderstands. They say they believe in justice and inclusion for all.

The information they are leaving in the background, however, is illuminating.  Many parishes who have dissented with the leaders of the Episcopal Church have been closed and congregations sued in court.

One of the leaders of dissenting Episcopalians, Dr Foley Beach, was asked what would be needed for reconciliation with the Episcopal Church. He asked for an end to lawsuits and confiscations:

“But one thing I did say, and I said this in front of the other Primates, because I was asked a question: one thing that would help towards reconciliation and collaboration would be if they call off the lawsuits. Right now they’re suing numbers of our congregations for millions of dollars and property and church buildings, and on and on it goes. They could call that off in a moment. It’s going to be hard as long as we’re in court against each other.”

What was interesting is that for all the rhetoric about reconciliation and acceptance from the Most Reverend Michael Curry, the Primate of the Episcopal Church, he has never even made the effort to meet Dr Beach as a leader of dissenting groups. The meeting at Canterbury was the first time he has ever met Dr Beach.

The Episcopal Church has spent millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees to confiscate church buildings, take over congregations’ bank accounts and deny dissenting clergy their full pensions. In 2013 when the conservative diocese of Quincy in Illinois voted to withdraw from the Episcopal church due to doctrinal differences. They were taken to court and stood to lose all of their buildings and finances. A lower court ruled in their favour so the Episcopal Church appealed – furthering the legal battle. The churches in the Quincy Diocese were forced to operate for a long time with no access to their finances due to legal action by the Episcopal Church.

Jeff Walton, director of the Anglican Program at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, makes this comment in Christian Post:

“The Episcopal Church should accept the appellate court ruling and move on with its own mission and ministry.”

“Even if Episcopalians eventually win on appeal at a higher court, the properties in the diocese are not sought by any viable Episcopal congregations ready to move into them,” said Walton.

“The Episcopal Church’s effort to freeze bank funds or litigate against departing churches has always been a punitive strategy to deter future defections.”

The aggression the Episcopal Church’s leadership has displayed in going after breakaway congregations has even been commented on by the courts. A local newspaper, the Dispatch Argus described the situation like this:

The court order went on to say the actions of the Episcopal Church constituted “bad faith, is not grounded in fact or existing law and has resulted in needless, ongoing and expensive litigation.”

The Episcopal Church also has lost at trial and appellate levels, and has been turned down by the lllinois Supreme Court, court records say.

Legal fees spent by the Episcopal Church recently topped $40 million nationally, Rev. Janikowski said. “We have spent a couple hundred thousand dollars here on money that could have been better spent on mission work and church plants.”

Episcopal church leaders have continued to drag it out, Rev. Janikowski said.

In the newest court ruling, the judge also said if the Episcopal Church brings the matter up again, they would be ruled in contempt, Rev. Janikowski said. “So we may have finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Over the last decade up to 700 clergy were defrocked and 12 Bishops kicked out for tyring to leave the Episcopal church. Lawsuits by the Episcopal church even targeted lay people, suing them for damages.  All this for daring to disagree with the doctrinal position of those leading the Episcopal Church. If people do not submit to the Episcopal Church’s view of the world, the message is simple – we will come after you with all the legal resources of a large and powerful organisation.

Suddenly the claims of being a group committed to being ‘inclusive of all’ and presenting the kind face of presiding Bishop Michael Curry  is sounding a little hollow when it is seen what happens to those who disagree.

Inclusivity and mercy towards others are what the Episcopal leadership say they are: according to them two plus two definitely equal five