My neighbor on the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago was a little cagey, but the usual battery of polite airplane questions eventually shook something loose. He’d studied economics in New York. Left Wall Street to do his own thing. Now he moved wherever the wind and good skiing carried him, enjoying the fruits of an algorithm he’d written that flipped online investments hundreds of times an hour and made him wealthy.
My new friend worried a lot about privacy—prudent, I guess, for a man in possession of a virtual mint. He talked about the extraordinary measures he took to conceal his online activity, about encrypting his emails so thoroughly their very electrons must have been exhausted.
I didn’t share his level of concern. “But everyone has something they wouldn’t want getting out,” he said. I probably did, I told him. It just didn’t keep me up at night.
In his book On Tyranny, Yale historian Timothy Snyder argues that a key to preventing authoritarianism is protecting personal privacy. “Authoritarianism,” he writes, “works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.” This wisdom likely underlies much of our view toward privacy in America. Problem is, it presupposes dirt under the carpet. And while we are all sinners and we all fear the day our innermost thoughts would be laid bare before the world, as Christians we should have precious little dirt. The poor choices of which we’ve repented ought to hold little power over us.
I said as much to my seatmate, a non-Christian. He wasn’t satisfied. Neither was I, honestly. Must you have something to hide to value privacy?
Disentangling a Christian ...1