Thursday, December 09, 2004

Show Us Your Papers

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed an intelligence reform bill that grants sweeping intelligence gathering powers to the federal government through the creation of a new cabinet position. Bad idea. Even worse, buried within the bill--which the Senate is set to pass today--is a provision for standardizing state issued driver's licenses for the purposes of information sharing. This is nothing less than the establishment of a national ID card. Members of Congress know that US citizens are wary of such a move, and so the provision seems benign. By using the language of "standardizing" driver's licenses, Congress is providing political cover for themselves. It does not take rocket science to see the ramifications of such a provision.

Authoritarian states have always controlled the movements of their citizens through the use of identification papers. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Empire were very adept at keeping their citizens in line by such means. That we have reached the technological sophistication of computer-read cards does not lessen the potential for abuse at the hands of a national government, even a government that acts with good intentions for the sake of its citizens' safety.

I can understand the fear and frustration associated with the threat of terrorism. This, however, is the price of maintaining a free society. Freedom is risky business. Government imposed security will not make us safer, and it will make us less free. I am willing to risk terrorist threats, trusting that God is in control, and that all things are in His hands. I am not willing to risk my freedom or my family's freedom for the sake of the convenience and expediency of government intelligence gathering. We must stand against such a fundamental assault on our civil liberties.

Monday, December 06, 2004

We Don't like Prophets

How would we American Christians react to an Old Testament Prophet, were God to send one to us in the 21st century? This was a question I posed two evenings last during a thought-provoking discussion with some of my Christian friends. Not one seemed to think that such a prophet would be well received. My suspicion is that we would be the first to run the unpleasant fellow out of town.

We live in a country of unprecedented wealth and luxury. Our government's definition of poverty would look and feel like a king's ransom to some Christians in other parts of the world. Christ's admonition to lay up treasure in heaven seems so remote from us because we are surrounded by the immediate treasures of time, leisure, and freedom. Were a prophet to visit us, what would he say to us concerning these matters? Would we be willing to listen? Or would we view such an one as a meddling liberal, a holier-than-thou crank, a fundamentalist on speed?

Being Christian today is very difficult, not because we might lose our lives like the martyrs of old, but because we don't want to lose our manner of living. We want the comfort and consolation of forgiveness, the joy of worship, the security of fellowship with other Christians, and the freedom to believe as we choose. But I doubt that I am truly willing to take Christ seriously when He calls me to a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice for the sake of others: the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, etc. Oh, I am willing to give of myself for others who are just like me. I am willing to be generous to those whom I trust, know, and like. But put the needs of a homeless man or a drug addict ahead of my own needs? Surely not. And so, I miss the blessings that God has in store for me, were I to become serious about following Christ for the sake of the Gospel.

I think I'll watch another DVD...