Monday, January 16, 2012

Beware the power vacuum

There was a glimmer of hope seen in the Arab world last year when the youth rose up to shake themselves loose of the tyrants who had denied them freedom and opportunity. It was believed that they looked to the West for inspiration, and it was understood that Western technology such as smart phones with cameras and social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter empowered the masses with the ability to report and organize in defiance of the ruling dictatorships. A shift in power had taken place, from the ruling elite to the suffering majority, and as the awareness of this phenomenon grew, so did the unrest in more and more Arab nations.

A year later and what we see taking the place of the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lybia and possibly even Syria, are not moderate, western minded rulers as expected, but rather Islamic extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood. These Islamists are anti-Western, antisemitic, anti-Christian and discriminating against women.

Oddly enough, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was not initially involved in the protests lending weight to the theory that there was hope of moderation in the outcome of the uprisings. However, the Muslim Brotherhood was quick to seize the opportunity as they witnessed a power vacuum appearing in Egypt. They not only joined the protestors but were able to galvanize widespread support for their brand of Islamic rule as the party of choice to replace the previous more secular regime.

Linked to such terrorist organizations as Hamas, we should not be too surprised by the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to turn a protest against rampant corruption into a vote for a purist form of Islamic law. This is what Hamas had achieved in Gaza when the people there voted out Fatah back in 2006.

Take a journey across the Atlantic ocean and you find that the Occupy Wallstreet protests and other such variants across the US have attempted to duplicate the success of the Arab uprisings in protest of the perceived corruption and greed exhibited in the financial markets, especially as regards the controversial bail-outs of the industry.

The "Occupy" movement continues without a great deal of success, but it has exposed a very concerning development. As it gained momentum initially, a large secret group of hackers calling themselves "Anonymous" came out from behind their computers and took to the streets to join the protests. Masked as the hero/villain of the movie "V for Vendetta", suddenly hundreds of real life versions of their frightening video avatar were now in the midst of a populist social uprising.

Anonymous gained infamy when they claimed responsibility for denial of service attacks Paypal's website in protest over the removal of payment processing for the Wikileaks site when Julian Assange was arrested for the wealth of sensitive state information he had made public. This set off a war with the FBI and several Anonymous users were arrested. Anonymous seem to have been able to strike back in the last week, releasing a recording they claim to have tapped wherein the FBI are discussing with Scotland Yard their efforts to track down Anonymous members. Their capabilities are impressive, and also a little frightening, especially to law enforcement who can't seem to secure their computers against these attacks.

Essentially, Anonymous opposes all kinds of censorship and oppression, which certainly echoes elements we respect in terms of freedom of speech and constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, they seem to exhibit a consistent disregard for the rule of law, the very thing designed to protect those freedoms and rights we enjoy. Remove the law and you find that freedom becomes anarchy, while the rights of the weakest can no longer be protected.

Anonymous feel that we are living in a police state, which may bear some truth if we are indeed moving towards a UK style rule of law with your every public action being recorded on a video somewhere. Their response, however, to perceived police brutality has been to publish online the personal information of offending officers, putting their lives and families at risk. In a CNN report covering this phenomenon, the officers in question would not even come forward to be interviewed, presumably for fear of further cyber attacks:

Here's Anonymous's motto:
"We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us"
Despite the very non-Christian ethos of neither forgiving nor forgetting, Anonymous chose a phrase "We are Legion" which comes straight from the Bible and refers to an exorcism by Jesus where the demon identifies himself as "Legion" since there were in fact many demons which possessed the man. The illustration is at once quite powerful and frightening, depicting a situation where one face, one man, actually represents many hidden forces unknown to those who would try to perceive it.

Except Jesus.

In fact, Jesus gives a warning in Matthew 12: 43-45 which I believe is very applicable for this generation, for these tumultuous days in which we live:

43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
Jesus takes the illustration of one man and applies it to an entire generation. I couldn't think of a more stark warning for us today. As one evil system is overthrown, and things seem to be getting cleaned up, something even more evil steps into the power vacuum created and assumes control, making the last state worse than the first.

2 Thessalonians 2 warns us that the day of the Lord, Jesus' return, "will not come until the rebellion occurs and the son of lawlessness is revealed". I'm not suggesting or predicting that Anonymous or the Occupy Movement are going to usher in the anti-Christ, but I do see here a clear reference to that fact that some kind of rebellion will occur, that the beast who rises out of it will be lawless, and that what occupies the final "state" will be something far more evil and sinister than that which preceded it.

So, what are we to do? 2 Thessalonians 2 says that God will send a strong delusion to those who did not love the truth, so that they are deceived. We must simply strengthen our love for the Lord, for His ways and for His truth, especially in a world that increasingly mocks and derides the Christian world view.

The German church in World War II failed to see the danger that Hitler presented. They had lost their love for the truth, and were deceived into believing that Hitler would save them from the great evil of Communism. The fact is that Hitler did indeed rescue Germany from Communism, but his rebellion paved the way for something far more evil to occupy Germany, and his lawlessness produced the massacre of millions of lives, not the least of which were 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

We should pray that we are not deceived when the next "son of lawlessness" is revealed. And we must beware the power vacuum.