Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How Should We Then Live in the Age of Terror?

My real introduction to Francis Schaeffer occurred during the summer in between my third and fourth years of college. I was a ministerial student at Mountain View Bible College in Didsbury, Alberta and had somehow convinced the administration to allow me to paint the main education building as a summer job. Frankly, I hated painting and I still do, but it was a job and it allowed me to spend time near my wife whom I had just married.

As I was preparing the audiovisual room for painting, I noticed an audiotape set that was a supplement to Schaeffer's book "How Should We Then Live?" Finding the painting rather boring, I decided that perhaps listening to this series while I was working might prove to be a pleasant diversion.

I must have listened to that set of eight tapes at least twenty times that summer. And Schaeffer's message impacted me in ways that I cannot begin to describe. One thought, in particular, has stuck with me during the last twenty-three years; when a society becomes terrorized by terrorism and people feel that their personal peace and affluence are threatened, most will willingly give up their personal rights and freedoms to someone or a group who promises to maintain their lifestyle of peace and prosperity.

In the aftermath of 9/11, this willingness to have government curtain rights and freedoms for the sake of safety and the maintenance of the lifestyle we apparently value has been increasingly evident. We have seen laws passed that allow western governments to monitor us in ways that we would never have allowed before. In the name of security, we have seen terrorist suspects detained, deported, imprisoned and even tortured without proper recourse to legal representation or a trial. More and more personal information is being sought by our governments in the name of protecting us and most of us are completely prepared to hand it over. "If you have nothing to hide, what's the big deal?" it is argued, ignoring the fundamental right to be presumed innocent of wrongdoing without contrary evidence.

Christians, in particular, should understand the danger of allowing ourselves to be governed by our fears rather than our values. We have seen, historically, how governments have the tendency to claim authority that, ultimately, belongs only to God. This is especially true during times of real or perceived threat of danger.

While personal peace and affluence have become societal values to the extent that many (if not most) are prepared to give up the very freedoms that led to our Western societies being what they are, Christians need to understand the times for what they are and stand against the tide. This was the solution that Schaeffer pointed to, referring to the watchman passage of Ezekiel 33:1-11. Freedom is precious; it should not be sold for a pot of porridge. We need to blow the trumpet and warn of the dangers ahead.

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