Giles Fraser: Revelations can bring redemption

09 December 2010

“THERE is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light” (Luke 8.17). This could be the per­sonal mantra of Julian Assange and his now-notorious website Wiki­Leaks (Press, 3 December). Here, millions of pages of secret US gov­ern­ment information have been brought to light, exposing the embar­rassing details of international diplo­macy. Right-wingers in the US have responded with fury — Sarah Palin led calls for Mr Assange to be hunted down by the CIA.

But this issue is much broader than the motives of Mr Assange. To personalise it is to miss the point. Information technology is con­tinually rubbing away the line between what is public and what is private or secret. The Bishop of Willesden makes a comment on his Facebook page, and it is on the front pages of the news­papers within days (News, 26 Novem­ber). Soldiers fighting in the remotest parts of Afghanistan can be photo­graphed by a tribesman with a camera on his phone, and the images can be with a newsdesk within seconds. These days, everyone is a jour­nalist.

This means that we will all live more and more in the public gaze. The age of John le Carré secrecy is past. Information is power. And, in the past decade, information has been democratised. The psalmist would have understood the implica­tions. “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away . . . and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139). No wonder the psalmist sought to get away from God’s all-seeing eye. “Where can I flee from your pres­ence?”

This is all very pertinent in Advent. As St Paul explains, when the Lord comes again he will “bring to light the things now hidden in dark­ness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4.5). Per­haps the CIA will be waiting for Him, too. How many of us are really pre­pared for our inner workings to be exposed? What will we say when our grudges and deals and secrets have been made public?

The cynical newspaper hack H. L. Menken of the Baltimore Sun once commented: “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”

The Christian experience is quite otherwise. We impatiently seek the coming of judgement as a way of setting things right, both personally and internationally. The judgement we call for is not from the cruel unblinking eye of the modern media, but from the loving face of God, in which we can all find forgiveness and redemption. That is why we cry: Come, Lord Jesus.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and Director of the St Paul’s Institute.

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