While the Door Is Still Open

When the news first broke, my reaction was a they’ll-never-get-Apple-to-buckle dismissal. True, the FBI possessed a cell phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorist-killers. And yes, government law enforcement agencies have significant cause to seek information encrypted inside that Apple cell phone. But isn’t this a matter of free speech, civil liberty, and customer privacy? Tech giants Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter all agree with Apple’s refusal to comply with either the FBI or the court order to unlock potential incriminating evidence inside the phone. Chalk up another win for privacy.

But that was yesterday—this is today. Turns out the FBI and the federal courts have painful tools they can wield to force Apple and its CEO Tim Cook into compliance. According to a piece at FastCompany.com, the potential penalties are no laughing matter (see http://www.fastcompany.com/3057045/how-apple-could-be-punished-for-defying-fbi-encryption-order). First, the court can levy financial penalties—from $10,000 per day according to a 1992 communications law up to $250,000 a week (based on a case against Yahoo, where “the daily fine was set to double every week that Yahoo refused to comply”--$250,000 this week, a half million dollars next week, a million dollars the next, etc). But still what are these millions in comparison to the billions of dollars Apple is worth?

But there’s more: “‘Apple could be held in criminal contempt of court for defying the order signed by Judge Pym. This legal mechanism is often used when no amount of civil coercion (like monetary fines) can make the party in question comply with the court's demands,’ [attorney] Fu explains. Courts can use this non-monetary punishment on journalists who refuse to divulge their sources, for example. The goal isn't to compensate an injured party, but rather to ‘punish the target party and to vindicate the authority of the court,’ Fu says. If the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court, and Apple refuses to comply with a demand to adhere to the [Judge] Pym order, then things get a little crazy. ‘Under these circumstances, there is a universe of possibilities where Tim Cook could actually go to jail for refusing to comply with a lawful order of the court,’ Fu says” (ibid).

Who cares? We all should. Global terrorism (from Paris to San Bernardino) has rewritten the playbook for human freedom. It isn’t incongruous to surmise that even free access to the Internet enjoyed by most of the world could eventually be reduced or even removed, given the heated, escalating debate over personal freedom vs national security. Moreover the Apocalypse predicts an eventual radical slashing of personal freedom in society (whether economic, social, or religious—see Revelation 13).

But the door to the world is still open. Which is why today we begin a countdown to “HOPE TRENDING: A Crash Course on How to Live without Fear”—a first of its kind cyberspace experience to communicate the “everlasting Good News” to this 3rd millennial generation. Beginning October 14 in the Howard Performing Arts Center, HOPE TRENDING will be a fast-paced, nine-evening, 60-minute live program to all twenty-four time zones on earth. Anyone anywhere with a cell phone, a tablet or a laptop within reach of WIFI will be able to connect. Combining a TED-talk length presentation each evening with a high-octane panel discussion fielding questions globally through social media—HOPE TRENDING will harness the Internet to communicate the most compelling news this civilization must hear.

There are three ways I hope you’ll respond: (1) pray daily for the success of this new mission; (2) begin a prayer list of individuals to invite to this unique experience; and (3) join the large volunteer team essential for the success of this Kingdom venture. Jesus couldn’t be clearer: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you—so go into all the world and share the Good News—for I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (John  20:21; Mark 16:15; Matt 28:20).

While the door is still open, we must go.