The Beckoning of God's Reality

Should Governments Determine Human Worth?

It is a clean room mostly empty except for the government officials, a secretary and the Chancellor of the state. In enters Mr. Wordsworth, a man who is on trial on suspicion of being a librarian.

In this 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, titled The Obsolete Man, we see one of the most articulate demonstrations of the implications of tyranny, where civil law infringes upon personal freedoms in a way so blatant, it makes us doubt that such a scenario could ever be possible. Yet, a cursory review of history and the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung show us that such a scenario is but two gentle steps away. What were the common threads between these regimes that were responsible for the murder of an estimated 100 million people combined? Step one: remove the notion of God from public life, thereby removing natural law as the basis for intrinsic human worth, liberty and equality. Step two: create a totalitarian regime, preferably with a ruthless dictator at the helm. And there you have it – a society unable to understand why human beings have intrinsic worth, unable to account for their own liberties in order to retain them, and the horrific reality follows.

Human Worth and the Obsolete Man

In the story, the librarian finds himself on trial for being obsolete to the state and is sentenced to die. The totalitarian state, in its absolute rule, has removed the function of books and information from the public life. By ruling and controlling the mind of its public, the state has taken complete control over its subjects. But should a government decide the worth of the individuals that live within its borders? And just who deserves to live and who is “obsolete”? As the struggling librarian stands in front of the Chancellor, in an attempt to defend himself, he insists that he is not obsolete. The Chancellor argues that since there are no more books, there is then very little need for a librarian, and an intriguing dialog ensues:

Chancellor:

A minister would tell us that his function is that of preaching the Word of God. And of course it follows that since The State has proven that there is no God, that would make the function of a minister somewhat academic as well.

Wordsworth:

There is a God!

Chancellor:

You are in error, Mr. Wordsworth! There is no God! The State has proven that there is no God!

Wordsworth:

You cannot erase God with an edict.

Chancellor:

You are obsolete Mr. Wordsworth.

Wordsworth: Lie! No man is obsolete!

Lie! No man is obsolete!

Chancellor:

You have no function, Mr. Wordsworth. You’re an anachronism, like a ghost from another time.

Wordsworth:

I am nothing more than a reminder to you that you cannot destroy truth by burning pages.

Chancellor:

You’re a bug, Mr.Wordsworth. A crawling insect. An ugly, misformed, little creature, that has no purpose here, no meaning!

Wordsworth:

I am a human being…

Chancellor:

You’re a librarian, Mr.Wordsworth. You’re a dealer in books and two cent finds and pamphlets in closed stacks in the musty finds of a language factory that spews meaningless words on an assembly line. Words, Mr. Wordsworth, That have no substance, no dimension, like air, like the wind. Like a vacuum, that you make believe have an existence, by scribbling index numbers on little cards.

Wordsworth:

I don’t care. I tell you: I don’t care. I’m a human being, I exist….and if I speak one thought aloud, that thought lives, even after I’m shoveled into my grave.

Chancellor:

Delusions, Mr.Wordsworth, DELUSIONS!! That you inject into your veins with printer’s ink, the narcotics you call literature: The Bible, poetry, essays, all kinds, all of it are opiate to make you think you have a strength, when you have no strength at all!!! You are nothing, but spindly limbs and a dream, and The State has no use for your kind!!!!

Mr. Wordsworth is then sentenced to die and is granted to die as he wishes in his own room through the method of his choosing. Moments before this librarian’s death, the Chancellor arrives at Mr. Wordsworth’s chambers and another dialog ensues after a bit of small talk.

Chancellor: It’s not unusual that we televise executions, Mr.Wordsworth… last year in the mass executions, we televised around the clock. (Proudly to the cameras) Thirteen hundred people were put to death in less than six hours.

It’s not unusual that we televise executions, Mr.Wordsworth… last year in the mass executions, we televised around the clock. (Proudly to the cameras) Thirteen hundred people were put to death in less than six hours.

Wordsworth:

You never learn do you? History teaches you nothing!

Chancellor:

On the contrary. History teaches us a great deal. We had predecessors, Mr.Wordsworth, that had the beginnings of the right idea…

Wordsworth:

Ah, yes, Hitler?!

Chancellor:

Yes, Hitler.

Wordsworth:

Stalin?!

Chancellor:

Stalin, too. But their error was not one of excess it was simply not going far enough! Too many undesirables left around and undesirables eventually create a corp of resistance. Old people for example, clutch at the past and won’t accept the new. The sick, the maimed, the deformed, they fasten onto the healthy body and damage it. So WE eliminate them! And people like yourself, they can perform no useful function for The State, so…we put an end to them.

The Chancellor soon learns that Mr. Wordsworth has selected him to be his executioner and that he has locked the Chancellor in with him to die along with him.

Wordsworth: Oh yes, yes, I’ve locked the door…now

Oh yes, yes, I’ve locked the door…now question(turns to cameras to address the question at the nation wide audience): How does a man react to the knowledge that he’s going to be blown to bits in a half an hour? Answer:(turning back to Chancellor) that depends on the individual. As for me, I’m going to sit down ( heads towards safe in his room and pulls a grubby, old, Bible,) and read my Bible.

Wordsworth clutches his Bible like a lost treasure. The Chancellor is slowly moving towards him as if unsure how it would look in front of the cameras to force him to open the door and then stops.

Wordsworth:

It’s been hidden here for over twenty years, it’s a crime punishable by death, so it’s the only thing I have that has any value at all to me…So I’m just going to sit down and read it…until the moment of my death. How will you spend your last moments Chancellor. (Sits down in chair once more)

It’s been hidden here for over twenty years, it’s a crime punishable by death, so it’s the only thing I have that has any value at all to me…So I’m just going to sit down and read it…until the moment of my death. How will you spend your last moments, Chancellor. (Sits down in chair once more)

Chancellor:

(Trying to hide his fear) This is insane Wordsworth let me out of here!(Heads to door and tries to open it) Let me out of here, guards, someone!

Wordsworth:

You’re cheating the audience. You aren’t facing the camera…

Chancellor:

(Heads toward window at end of room) Guards, somebody down there.

Wordsworth:

There’s no sense in raising your voice. There’s nobody there, that’s one of the rules you made up yourself. Isolate the person to be liquidated. That’s what you said! Oh, no,no,no, I think there is no one there, so why don’t you face the camera. It’s important, you said so yourself.

The chancellor begins to break, hands rubbing together, but hides it from the camera’s broadcast. But then turns around.

Chancellor:

I’m beginning to understand, Wordsworth, shoe on the other foot, that’s the idea. It’s one thing for somebody like yourself, to do a little cringing and pleading, but what a choice opportunity to show a member of The State doing likewise. But you’re insane, Wordsworth, if you think they’ll let me stay here!

Wordsworth:

Let the whole country see the strength of The State, the resilience of The State, the courage of The State. Let the whole country see the way a valiant man of steel faces his death. You have a Nirvana coming up too. Why don’t you sit down, we’ll have a little chat.Just you and me… and the great equalizer…..cause death is the great equalizer…(to the camera). So here you have this strong, handsome, uniformed , bemedaled symbol of giant authority and this little, insignificant, librarian…and suddenly in the eyes of God….there is precious little to distinguish us….

The Chancellor looks toward the door as if expecting to be rescued.

Chancellor:

We shall see, Wordsworth, we shall see…(He sits and faces the cameras)

The scene gradually transitions from points within the twenty minutes before the explosion. Wordsworth calmly reads passages from various books of the Bible with no fear on his face, the camera’s broadcasting every word and image. The Chancellor proceeds to smoke a cigarette but is beginning to panic as death slowly approaches.

Wordsworth:

The lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake. Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I shall fear no evil for thou art with me….

Wordsworth:

My rod and my staff – they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in front of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Wordsworth:

Defend me from them tat rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity and save me from the bloody men. For lo, they lie in wait for my soul. The mighty have gathered against me. Not for my transgressions, not for my sins, O God….They run and prepare themselves without my fault, await to help me and behold. Then therefore, o God of hosts.

Wordsworth:

It is the fool that has said in his heart “There is no God” The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek God…

The chancellor’s tears are swelling up in his eyes. As the last seconds appear on the clock, the cigarette falls out of his mouth and he weeps out of fear. Wordsworth is still calmly reading to him as he breaks.

Wordsworth:

Out of the depths, have I called unto thee, O Lord. Lord hear my voice. Let thine ears be attended to the voice of my supplications.

Chancellor:

Please,PLEASE, let me out…in the name of God..LET ME OUT!!! (Runs to the door, pulling it) LET ME OUT, LET ME OUT!!! LET ME OUT!!!

Wordsworth:

Yes, Chancellor, in the name of God, I will let you out! (Wordsworth gives him the key)

The chancellor unlocks the door and runs and hides on the edge of the stairs, in cowardly fear. Wordsworth, in his room, sighs and closes his eyes and accepts his fate as the camera broadcasts the explosion across the country as it sets off, killing Wordsworth instantly. The Chancellor, covered in debris, walks away in tears of fear.

The chancellor, now all clean walks into the boardroom only to stop in shock at seeing his secretary dressed like him at his podium. Below him at the foot of the podium is another secretary. He’s abruptly stopped,

Secretary:

Stand right where you are! No further! You have been removed from office, the field investigators have declared you obsolete.

Chancellor:

Obsolete?!

Secretary:

You have disgraced The State.You have proven yourself a coward. You have therefore, no function….you are OBSOLETE!

Chancellor:

But I’m not…I’m NOT obsolete.

Secretary:

You are obsolete!

The scene closes in the irony of the ages as the chancellor who sentenced Mr. Wordsworth to die, himself was captured and deemed obsolete for having feared and given in to resorting to using God’s name in hopes of escaping from death. Such fear is deemed by The State to be the fear of a man who is obsolete.

The hunger for absolute power does not begin and end with individuals. It extends into groups, and if not checked, eventually to governments. That God is dethroned by an edict should not be surprising, but it should be a warning. As G.K. Chesterton asserted,

Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.

Unless every individual has intrinsic value outside of any and all human endeavors, including government, then human worth is completely arbitrary and is dependent on some human authority. And so a government would have every right to decide who’s worthy to live and who’s obsolete. The clear picture forms, that without God the whims of The State to replace the natural law with civil law, ultimately leads to the irony of a society without ultimate justice and equality. Conversely, natural law dictates intrinsic human worth, whereby each and every person, whether a librarian, or a carpenter, or a lawyer, or a doctor, not only has the intrinsic liberty to be free from the absolute oversight of the state but has intrinsic worth that finds its foundations in none other than the very nature of God Himself.


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