The scandal of the US intelligence agency, the NSA, allegedly accessing and storing vast swathes of information on the citizens of the world, even including US citizens, is the nightmare of those with serious concerns for both civil liberties and democracy itself.
The whistleblower, Edward Snowden, himself said that the Prism project, which it is suggested has direct access to data held by most of the big Internet companies, presents an “existential threat” to democracy.
The intention of this post is to show that whilst these revelations do matter greatly, we as Christian believers need not fear.
Do Prism and the other revelations matter?
Simply put: yes. It matters a great deal. Remember that democracy isn’t simply a vote every four or five years, it is a living, breathing expression in which there is, by its nature, a friction between the will of the people and the will of the rulers. Rulers will always seek more power – very often with the best of motives. Yet it is the duty of citizens to resist power grabs by the government. Turkey – currently experiencing mass unrest – is a demonstration of an immature democracy where the ruling party, on 50% of the popular vote, has enacted and continues to pursue policies which are detrimental to half the population and is now claiming that “democracy only happens at the ballot box”. No, it does not. If it did then most liberal democracies would now be run by dictators.
Democracy happens when concerned citizens voice their disquiet over certain policies and developments, led by a free press and the comfort of knowing that the rule of law is respected – journalists and judges are often the first to be targeted by oppressive regimes. If the press and judiciary are neutered then democracy is on its last legs. This neutering can be done by the secret intelligence agencies (which often lack morality of even basic standards) having huge amounts of information on their errors of judgement (possibly made when in their teenage years) which then allows blackmail and intimidation to take place on a large scale.
The revelations matter in many other ways, yet I do not want to debate that here but rather say why you, if you are a Christian believer, should not fear because of these intelligence gathering systems.
God is Sovereign and Protects His People
God is a Sovereign Lord. (Habakkuk 3:19). Although the details of how man’s choice and God’s sovereignty so wonderfully interplay may bring disagreement on some doctrines by Christians, none can argue that God is not the Almighty, All-Powerful Lord of all creation. We can have full assurance that ultimately God is in control. The US President has to take orders from the King of Kings. The secret services have to obey the Lord of Lords. Neither the US nor any other nation has the freedom to ultimately go against the will of God. In fact, reading over the details of the Book of Revelation and any particular standpoint on matters of eschatology, the over-arching theme of Revelation is the Victory of God and His Sovereignty over those who oppose him.
If God is sovereign, then we can have peace and not fear. Romans 8 tells us that we need not fear, that we need not worry or be distressed at the trouble in the world. God works things for our good. If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, in all things we are more than conquerors through Christ who saves us.
Fear God, not man
It is not often preached on now, but Jesus Himself has told us to fear God. Why? Part of the reason is that He should be feared. He can cast your soul into eternal hell. Will He? That depends on whether you believe in His Son Jesus Christ or not. But the truth is that He can. Does that not make you fear Him? As a child fears his father when he comes to discipline him, so we should fear God and cry for His mercy continually.
But there is another reason we should fear God. It is because when we realise that God has power over us to cast us into eternal punishment of helfire then we can realise with the many saints and martyrs before us that nothing man can do compares to the power God has, and so because we fear God yet also trust Him we have no reason to fear man, who once he has killed the body can do no more to us.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:28-31
We have Jesus’ peace and are told not to fret
We are told by Jesus that we need not fear and that He has Himself given us His peace. He says in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Because Jesus has given us His peace we can rest with full trust in Him. We need not be dismayed even though terrible things come to pass. Jesus was to be crucified and the disciples would be fearful, yet Jesus here reassures them that they need not fear, for His peace – the peace that enabled Him to go to the Cross without resisting – has been given to them, and to us.
Many of the psalms also speak against worry and fretting. Psalm 49 gives us a picture of the poor and oppressed compared to the rich and powerful, and the Psalmist assures us that the wicked will perish and be no more. We need not worry if we trust Jesus, for He will defend us and destroy the wicked.
I, um…er….a friend of mine hasn’t always been well behaved on the web…
Yes, I am close to that particular friend too. He gets around a bit, here’s what I try to tell him:
We have all made some pretty big mistakes in our lives. None of us have been perfect, none of us were born sinless. We have made possibly some great errors of judgement and some pretty grotesque sins. For those of us who have used computers and the internet a lot, many of these errors of judgement (and in some cases our sins) are now preserved on the web. Prism means that these are likely to be stored indefinitely not only on particular corporations’ data treasure trove, but also be in the hands of the US government.
That you may have done something wrong is not, however, to be a reason to fear. Although the sins or errors of judgement may be grave, you are, if you believe in Christ as your Lord and Saviour, forgiven. Yes, there may be consequences to sins committed or indiscretions you have allowed. Yet! Those consequences will be determined by God – it is He that is King of Kings and the Lord over every President – and the decision is not simply in the hands of depraved intelligence agencies and power-hungry politicians. If and when you will need to face consequences for your past actions is determined wholly by God, and we can trust in Him as our loving Father that when and if those consequences come, the ultimate fruit will be for our benefit. (Rom 8:28)
Pray for those in authority
Even though the US government has apparently over-stepped its mandate, and the US constitution, in setting up PRISM, and is allegedly guilty of serious human rights abuses, we should still seek to honour those in authority and pray for them. We are told to pray for the leaders not just that they get elected or unelected, but that God would guide their decisions whilst in government. We must be praying for our own governments and for other governments in the world, that Christians – and others – may be able to live peaceably and quietly in our lands.