6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5: 6 – 8)
12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13: 12)
Numerous Biblical references make the point that people who set out to perform nefarious deeds do so under cover of darkness. Light/darkness makes for a powerful metaphor; the contrasts between day and night are deeply embedded in the human psyche and unlike the parables that include objects like sheep or goats, for instance, we universally experience day turning to night turning to day approximately once each, every 24 hours.
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians quoted above is obviously referring more specifically to the need for alertness and wakefulness (characterized by our daytime persona) as opposed to the unconsciousness of sleep or drunkenness (as in our nighttime persona). But today I’m more interested in night/day as a metaphor for secrecy versus openness, what is private versus what is public. What we draw the blinds against and what we do and say openly. What we do and say under the glare of the sun versus what we wait for darkness to say and do.
The federal government introduced a bill this week to allow the police to tap into email and cell phone records and communications without first obtaining a warrant from a judge. The justification for this was given as a need to take drastic measures against child pornographers, for whom the internet has become a virtual “night,” a place where wickedness can be perpetrated under cover of cyber-darkness.
The olden-days version of this would be the granting of the right to police officers to open anybody’s mail, or plant listening or other surveillance devices in a home without a judge’s warrant. The very idea raised hackles across the country and Vic Toews had to do the two things he appears to hate most: backtracking and apologizing.
The relevant question remains: what right do you and I have as regards what is private and what is open to public access? Obviously, it’s not a case of one or the other, so where the line is drawn between what is public and what is private . . . is crucial. We have the examples of NAZI Germany, Stalin’s USSR and present-day North Korea to remind us of the folly of drawing the surveillance line too close to the public-access extreme. In Canada today, we certainly wouldn’t want the police to have the right to open our snail mail without proving to a judge first that it was absolutely necessary; neither will we stand for willy-nilly access to our emails and phone communications.
Agnes and I once took a teachers’ tour to the Soviet Union and were housed in the Rossia Hotel just off Red Square for four or five nights. People warned us that all the rooms were probably bugged and we imagined what information of value would be gleaned from our private conversations in our hotel room at night, and since the hotel had hundreds of rooms, how many people would be required to monitor what was being said . . . and we had a few laughs making up nonsense phrases for the KGB’s edification.
“We belong to the day,” as the Apostle Paul says, but that, unfortunately, is a description of life in the Kingdom of God and doesn’t describe our current world well. Would that it did. There, we don’t hide behind the cover of cyber-darkness to throw anonymous bombs. There, we sign our opinions, pronouncements and announcements. There, we don’t make up avatars to represent us. There we are more like Harper Bell’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, the same in the street as we are at home.
There, there is no need for surveillance privileges that reach into the pockets of citizens to see what secrets are hidden there.
There, we belong to the day.
If our lives lack direction, then consider that there really is only one purpose, and that is to hasten that day when night is banished and we all are people of the day.
Or is that too much of a pipe dream?
(I apologize for the sermon; it got away on me.)