Digital Privacy

At church this morning, I talked to a former Marine this morning who said that the intel guys used to give arrested Afghans back their flip phones after releasing them because they could activate the flip phone remotely if they knew the serial number of the phone. There is apparently a backdoor even on flip-phones with no iOS or Android, hence the need for a faraday bag.

The response from one bystander was that I was paranoid and had no expectation of privacy. I asked, “What about the 4th and 5th amendments, and if those amendments were void, what about the 1st?” I got some non-response about how everything would be sorted out by God and I should get used to persecution. I replied, “Didn’t Paul use his Roman citizenship to affect the outcome of his own persecution?” Another poor response followed about how things would get worse and worse until the day of Judgment and there was nothing we could do.

The Augustinian and Protestant belief and the teaching of Scripture is that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Man. The former is an invisible theocracy that is “not of this world” as Jesus said to Pilate with a visible component known as the Christian church. The latter – the kingdom of man – is common to all men. The rules in the common kingdom are governed by the light of nature and are also found in the second Table of the Law (Commandments 5-10). The governments of the common kingdom is as diverse as man though divinely-ordained as a matter of ordinary providence to restrain evil. As a Christian, you have obligations to both kingdoms. For this reason, you have a job working with your hands, pay taxes, and obey lawful authorities over you. The obligations of self-rule (democracy and representative republic) are greater because we’ve been given greater freedom to govern ourselves. The greater gifts comes greater responsibility. Under Nero, circumstances for first century Christians were different and Christians expected less from the government and participated less other than to obey the government as far as it meant also obeying God and paying taxes.

Thus the response of these evangelical brothers was hopelessly foolish. If the government or a big tech company is infringing on our Constitutional rights, we have obligations to work with our federal, state and local representatives in a respectful manner for change. Too many Evangelicals have a bunker mentality where they refuse to interact with government institutions other than voting or contributing to the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund. Mostly, their children do not grow up with a saving knowledge of their religion, so they aren’t keeping their obligations to God’s kingdom either. Obviously, this brand of Christianity is wholly unsuited for either God’s kingdom or man’s kingdom. Salt that has thus lost its saltiness must be thrown out.

As an aside, this got me wondering, have American Christians impeded the development of better governance throughout the world by exporting their half-baked version of Christianity which is evangelicalism? We look at Africa and wonder why so many of the peoples and governments are in such disorder, but then we’ve been shipping them the cult upon which they are building their culture for the past 100 years which, coincidentally, was period when the European colonial powers evacuated. There was a period of better evangelism in the 19th century when Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries went to Africa, but that was when it was the white man’s graveyard due to cholera other vector-borne illnesses thus it’s unclear how much high-church Anglicanism and Calvinism penetrated the Dark Continent. Prior to that, we were enslaving Africans and exporting their resources. Other parts of Africa have, of course, fallen increasingly under the Sword of Mohammed. This seems to have happened on the watch of the Western colonial powers also. It has been 60-70 years since the European powers left and I used to scoff at the idea that it was the Europeans’ fault that Africa was so chaotic, but now I think we share half the blame.

Coming back to the issue of digital privacy and a worsening world until the Parousia, I think we need MORE knowledge of digital privacy like the Chinese Christians, rather than less as the ostrich-like evangelical claimed. From what I’ve been reading about latest ChiCom persecution of Chinese Christians, Chinese Christians are are pretty tech-savvy. They used encrypted USB sticks, VPNs, and chats. They probably know when and where they can use cell phones. They probably have some way of storing cash. They might even know how to beat facial recognition by using certain types of face paint or clothing. I told my evangelical brother that we need to work with our representatives to make this type of surveillance illegal. He scoffed at this idea. I suppose that means he has a plan to deal with it if it’s ever used here? Wait, it already is. Amazon is selling facial recognition technology ubiquitously. I hope he’s prepared for persecution that the other brother claimed was inevitable, but he doesn’t even know his Bible.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from this disappointing conversation this morning, it’s that you need to surround yourself with like-minded, thinking Christians in a real church. People who can’t think critically or Biblically are not going to be much use if times get tough.

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