How ironic that, on the 64th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s ’1984′ yesterday (eight being a number associated, in scripture, with overflowing super-abundance), a story like this should break: ‘NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily’).
The irony only deepened today, with the revelation, also in the Guardian, that, ‘NSA taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others…’, an article which, I suspect, will someday be viewed on par with Watergate or the Pentagon Papers — the kind of watershed, eye-opening story which irrevocably erodes the trust of a generation.
(This is actually good news for the good news in that, when peoples’ trust in government or other institutions is trashed, it invariably raises the question: Who then can I trust? The best answer, though it may be hard for some to swallow: The God Who defined trust itself and keeps all His promises, even to his own hurt; The One Eternal Creator God who does not change; see Malachi 3:6.)
It’s triply ironic (bordering on sad/shameful) that, like all of the other major administration-centric scandals to come to light in recent weeks and months, this too should be broken by a news outlet outside the US, specifically in the UK, Orwell’s home country and the thinly-veiled locus of his signature tale.
(Despite enormous ideological differences, my respect for the Guardian has increased enormously as a result of these two massive breaks. Their courage and appetite for small-t truth, in an otherwise partisan environment, shine a hard light on the cowardice and deliberate blindness of their nominal counterparts in the US.)
In the category of personal irony, I’ve had two phone/Internet connectivity companies out to my house the last two days to move and fix lines. Turns out that the Verizon guy knows the pastor of my church — a fact which I’d like to think of as far more than irony but rather Sovereign Providence… the subject of today’s post:
What is the follower of Christ to make of these troubling stories? How are we to react?
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is nothing new. Oh yes, technology enables the current short-timer ruler of this present darkness to wield more power, more quickly, on a broader scale, more intrusively, and in more subtle ways, than at any time in history, but it in no way changes the fact of his defeat at the cross.
As much as such developments may be engineered by individuals whom we’d like to identify, blame, and hold to account, the beasts (see Revelation 13) are, in my opinion, best interpreted as meta-organizations — systemic imitations of and substitutes for the body of Christ, the true, invisible church whom He knows and loves.
They (the beasts) can be best thought of as agglomerations of interconnected organizations extending far beyond the understanding or control of any one individual human being or even a group of them (e.g., Bilderburg, meeting this week and increasing the irony even further). Per Ephesians 6, we should not waste our time doing battle with their fleshly minions. It is a spiritual battle. So long as folks remain dead in their sins, their commander is Satan, defeated Satan. By default they do his bidding. (Another irony: the anniversary of D-Day, earlier this week.)
Such developments as we’ve read about this week do not change our responsibilities in bearing the name of and witnessing to our Lord, nor what ought to be our expectations in doing so. We have been told clearly that we’re in a war, that the king and kingdom we serve are not of this world, and that we are to expect opposition and persecution.
The fact that, in the United States, we are emerging from a short, unusual period during which such persecution was less overt should not cause us to set that as the standard. It is not that period of relative, earthly ‘freedom’ we should pine for but rather the total freedom we enjoy, in Christ, right now, whatever our circumstances.
So, while I’m as tempted as the next guy to twist my brain, and my sense of American, Constitution-thumping self-righteous entitlement into conspiratorial knots about how the NSA, CIA, IRS, FBI, DHS and the office of POTUS might conspire to eclipse my freedom and ruin my cushy-earthly American lifestyle, such gyrations distract from the fact of the gospel: I’ve been set free. Past tense.
Reading Hosea this week, I’m struck by the parallels. As a nation, we are and have been under God’s judgment for some time. What we are witnessing is symptomatic – a graciously delayed reaction by our super-patient God to an accumulation of sins and rejections too long to list. Are such abuses of power in the name of defending ourselves also the cause of further judgment? Of course, but that’s secondary.
As we read about Moses in Egypt, it’s the nature of God-denying regimes to double-down on rebellion, then do it again and again, against all logical, empirical evidence.
The reason we can have half a dozen stories, in as many months, each of which, if set against the standards of the time, would eclipse Watergate, and yet have very little traction on turning them back is because they are not supposed to be turned back. This is way beyond partisan. We have been left to stew in our own juices, as it were. There will be a remnant — as there always is — but, as a nation, it becomes clearer each week: God has given us up.
If that doesn’t set you to trembling, you’re not appreciating Who He Is or what separation from Him entails.
All that to say this: Read Acts.
What we’re seeing is penny-ante persecution by comparison.
When Christ’s disciples were betrayed, beaten, jailed and driven out of their homes, they prayed, sang, worshiped, reveled in fellowship, studied the Word of God, and preached the gospel to a dying world. (A great parallel can be found in Daniel 6, when a diabolical law was designed and passed, singling him out for death should he continue to worship God. What did he do? Exactly the same things he’d done his whole life, as if the law didn’t exist.)
They didn’t make those activities contingent on Rome passing a law allowing them to do so, or having the proper tax status to make those things convenient, or being able to keep their jobs and do all that at the same time. They just did it. Why? Because the God who loved them first commanded it, and it was their privilege and joy to obey, following in his footsteps, no matter the cost.
Because the formal, visible state has been neutered by political correctness, the dark, furtive shadow state has to expand massively to make, in secret, the judgment calls that can no longer be made in public. That’s not an arrangement that is likely to end well.
UPDATE II: This is what courage used to look like. Do not miss the video!
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” (Edward Snowden)
The degree to which he vs. the president is pilloried as an enemy of the state will reveal much.