How many lives is our privacy worth?

“How many lives is our privacy worth?”

“Not one!” most reply

“Why not?”

“Well some things, like freedom, are worth sacrificing life for; but not for just privacy.”

“So you have no problems with the amount of private information being vacuumed from our phones and computers?”

“Wait a minute. No, I hate that, and I wish it wasn’t necessary. But imagine if they stopped doing it and a terrorist bombed another building, plane, or sports event?”

“So you’re saying that you are willing to give up privacy rather than risk one life being killed in a bomb?”

“Yes, I suppose I am saying that.”

Just a candy bar?
It sounds like he’s just giving up a candy bar doesn’t it? I mean who’d sacrifice a life for a candy bar? Just give it up, man. Judging by stunning opinion polls, that seems to be the view of a majority of voters about the loss of their right to privacy.

But is privacy nothing more than a candy bar? In last week’s Wall Street JournalPeggy Noonan reflected on the dangers of the surveillance state we are now living in and argued persuasively that it is fundamentally changing us as a nation, and as individuals:

Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things—the innards of your head and heart, the workings of your mind—and the boundary between those things and the world outside. A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications.

In conversation with Noonan, 80-year-old journalist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff said that we are in serious danger of losing the Fourth Amendment which protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Threatened and Frightened
When teaching a class at Harvard last year, Hentoff connected the loss of privacy with the loss of freedom:

If citizens don’t have basic privacies—firm protections against the search and seizure of your private communications, for instance—they will be left feeling “threatened.” This will make citizens increasingly concerned “about what they say, and they do, and they think.” It will have the effect of constricting freedom of expression. Americans will become careful about what they say that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and then too careful about what they say that can be understood. The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.”

If you don’t have free speech you have to be afraid, you lack a vital part of what it is to be a human being who is free to be who you want to be.” Your own growth as a person will in time be constricted, because we come to know ourselves by our thoughts.

This is so, so true. I can already count a few times when I was about to write something in an email or on a blog about the IRS and, I admit, I hesitated and then decided not to. I mean, who wants to trigger an IRS audit? What about even this blog post? I certainly thought twice about whether to write it as I fear it might contain too many KEYWORDS and attract Lois Lerner’s beady eyes. Or the NSA’s.

The land of the free?
I’ve never thought these thoughts in my life before. And I’m thinking them in “the land of the FREE!” I’m just stunned that Americans are giving up so much of their nation and of themselves with barely a whimper. I expected this of Europe, but not of America.

The nation that sacrificed 400,000 American lives (plus 600,000 injured) to free Europe seems unwilling to give up even one life to secure personal freedom at home.

There’s no question that if we ever manage to roll back the omnipresent surveillance beast, and regain our right to privacy, that, yes, terrorists will succeed more than before. Precious lives will be lost in more regular terrorist atrocities. Many civilian lives. Many children’s lives. Maybe my children’s lives. How many lives would be too many to ensure the right to privacy? How many a year? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000?

If you’ve got nothing to hide…
When I used to hear about the increasing invasions of our privacy, my view was, “No big deal, I’ve got nothing to hide, so nothing to lose.” But I now agree with Noonan; even if we have nothing to hide, we are losing too much with the loss of privacy. It’s a slow loss, a subtle loss, a seemingly painless loss, but it’s a radically transformative loss. It’s changing us all, and not for the better.

And so I come back to this hard question, “How many lives is our privacy worth?”

If none, prepare to change fundamentally as a people and as a nation.

In fact, if you answer “None!” you’ve already changed.


Digital Poster: Welcome to Jesus in the Old Testament

This is the first in a series of digital posters that summarize in graphical form some of the content in Jesus on Every Page. If you buy the book before August 31, you can get all nine posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies.

Huge thanks to Dave VanBrugge and especially to Cameron Morgan for their work on these posters.

RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster.

JOEP 1 Road to Emmaus


Check out

Before You Hit “Send” Read This
Why 80% of email is waste.

Seminary Wives: 10 Encouragements For The Journey
You’re going to need it.

It Happens At The Table
Here are just a few of the things that can happen around a family’s table.

Praying With Your Children
When you pray with your children, you are teaching them to pray – for good or bad.

10 Step Progression For Restoring Broken Trust
Steps to take when marital trust has been broken by unfaithfulness.

5 Ways Pastors Can Affirm Faith, Calling, And Vocation
So, so important.


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament


7 Benefits of Reading Jesus on Every Page

Many book trailers ask the author, Why did you write this book? I want to flip that a bit and answer the question, “Why should you read this book?” Let me give you seven benefits of reading Jesus on Every Page (RSS/Email readers view here)

1. Bigger picture: You’ll get a bigger picture of redemption, and of the God of redemption, by seeing how God’s plan of redemption began long before Bethlehem and Calvary.

2. Increased confidence: You’ll increase your confidence in Scripture by seeing the beautiful unity of God’s unfolding plan of salvation by grace in both Testaments.

3. Amazing grace: You’ll be more amazed at God’s grace as you discover it revealed in places and experienced by people that you’d never thought of before.

4. Ten Keys: You’ll get 10 keys to help you understand the Bible better, especially the bits that we struggle with most. How do you tackle the prophets? What is a type? What do you do with the law? And so on.

5. Better teacher: You’ll become a better teacher of Scripture. Are you a preacher, a Sunday school teacher, a Bible study leader, or even just want to teach your own children better? This book will help you teach more clearly and confidently, especially from the more difficult and neglected parts of the Bible.

6. Richer New Testament: You’ll understand the New Testament better. One hugely beneficial side-effect of studying the Old Testament is the way it enriches our understanding of so many parts of the New Testament. For example, it’s almost impossible to understand the Epistle to the Hebrews without knowing about Leviticus.

7. Warm heart: You’ll have your heart warmed, as we walk the Emmaus road with Jesus as our guide.  Yes, I want to fill your brains with information, but above all I want to fill your hearts with love. Both Christ’s love for you and your love for Christ.

Oh, yes, and there’s an eighth reason: buy before August 31 and you get $100 of Old Testament Freebies including videos, posters, lectures, and eBooks.


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World Champion Speaks Out Against Homosexuality
World pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva has spoken out against homosexuality amid protests over new laws in her native Russia.

Facebook Use Makes People Feel Worse About Themselves
In other news, the Pope celebrated Mass on Sunday.

The Christward Collective
Here’s a new blog for you to bookmark. “The Christward Collective is an attempt to help introduce the reader to various aspects of theology, together with the experiential benefits that ought to flow from them. Whether systematic, biblical, exegetical, historical or pastoral theology, we are seeking to help further equip believers for growth in their relationship with Christ and other believers. In short, we long for all believers to care deeply about theology and to see the “cash value” of diligently pursuing such study. This site is a place where “doctrine and life meet.” Nick Batzig kicks off with a post about the use of the Old Testament in the New.

A Tale of Two Fathers: Education and the State
R.C. Sproul Jr. with an effective illustration that “might help us see through the fog of battle in the education wars.”

The Call to do Good and the Call to Work
Matt Perman wants Christians to see their daily work as a substantial part of their good works.

Avoid Bulimia Acadamosa
Three ways to avoid binge and purge studying from Marc Cortez.