Researchers are discovering that there is a direct link between the recent spate of senseless killings in the United States and the Internet. Emerging as a new style of domestic terrorism, such killings are often carried out by low self-esteem loners who are fuelled by the extremist philosophies of hate groups that are freely accessible in the Internet. Although they act independently, the Internet linkup makes them feel that their heroic, private wars are part of something global. According to an article which appeared in the Star Newspaper on August 22, 1999, there are presently more than 2,000 hate sites in the net.
Hate sites are not the only undesirable elements freely accessible to Internet users. The abundance of uncensored pornographic sites are leading even pastors to lust addiction. One source estimates that 75% of the content of the Internet is pornographic. American health authorities have found that the recent outbreak of syphilis among gay men in San Francisco can be directly traced to members of Internet chat rooms. There are also many web sites that advocate the use of drugs, those that teach one to make bombs or obtain weapons and those that allow users to gamble with real money or just for fun. Hence, some people have even branded the Internet as the lawless cesspool of all that is worst in human nature!
Benefits and Risks
In all fairness, the technological breakthrough in cyberspace has accorded post-modern mankind with immeasurable benefits. It brought about the information highway that avails to us information and knowledge at the click of a mouse. Putting Daniel 12:4 in the context of cyberspace, "Many will go here and there [surfing the net] to increase knowledge." The Internet provides us with the cheapest and fastest channel of communication. Businesses can be expeditiously transacted through e-commerce in a borderless world and we can freely express or exchange views through online interactions. There are endless "safe" sites for education, training and recreation.
However, behind the façade of technological modernity lurk the dangers for unsuspecting users, especially children. Besides easy access to materials that are lustful, hateful, violent or encouraging activities that are dangerous or illegal, one can encounter e-mail, chat or bulletin board messages that are harassing, demeaning or belligerent. Although such risk is not life threatening, the messages can affect one’s self-worth. While online, a child may be lured to provide private information or arrange a face-to-face meeting that could endanger his or her safety or the safety of other family members.
A Tool for the Antichrist
Although technology can be viewed as amoral and value-neutral, the devil as expected has perverted the Internet for his own diabolical ends. First, he is drawing people away from God. Many people have become glued to the computer screen in areas that are not productive like violent or demonic video games. They interact more with the computer than with God and His created beings. When unchecked, cyberspace, like opium, is becoming some people’s popular religion. In extreme cases, such people no longer share their feelings or empathise for others but merely exchange information with a desire to conquer and dominate. They can become as cold and analytic as the machine they depend on each day. In their virtual world, they eventually loose their reality of self. Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God since Christian anthropology sees human beings as God sees them.
Second, when the time comes for the false prophet to force all inhabitants of the earth to worship the image of the beast [antichrist] on pain of death [Rev 13:14,15], cyberspace has provided the technological means. Afterall, www [World Wide Web] stands for 666, waw being the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Already, some Jewish worshippers are praying facing virtual images of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. These websites also allow them to send their prayer needs via the Internet to the Western Wall. Worship in front of the virtual images of deities is also gaining popularity among the Hindus and followers of Sai Baba and Hare Krisna.
Third, the Internet will provide the antichrist with an effective technological avenue for surveillance, control and manipulation of the inhabitants of the earth. Already, the United States and its allies are collaborating to monitor the Internet through the Echelon espionage programme. Echelon partner nations deploy "sniffer" scanners on Internet traffic to pick up red flag words such as "assassination" or "drugs". The fact is that all e-mails can be rummaged as thoroughly as the authorities want to. This is not all! Business Week of May 31, 1999 states that Echelon can also eavesdrop on all phone calls, faxes, telexes and radio signals.
Final Fall of Mankind
Jacques Ellul in his latest book, The Technological Bluff, tackles the question: "Is collective spiritual and material suicide the only result that is incontestably held out to us by the actual bluff of technology?" In his opinion, technology is indeed a threat to human faith and freedom. He sees no hope of deliverance for mankind short of divine intervention to consummate history.
In ancient days, mankind had its first major technological breakthrough at the plain of Shinar. They discovered a modern construction technique in bricks and tar. They were so proud of their new technology that they wanted to build the Tower of Babel as high as where God was to be equal with Him [Gen 11:1-9]. Mankind’s latest technological breakthrough is IT. In fact, our post-modern world is more dependent on computers than on God. It should not come as a surprise if God will use the latest pride of humanity to shake and shame us. One possibility is global disruptions arising from the Y2K problem. Another is satellite dysfunction through space storms or meteoric impact. Whatever it is, the world is so sensitively systematised these days that we cannot withstand more than a few days without electronic infrastructure.
When God first came down to disrupt the Tower of Babel project, He changed the one common language of the world into different languages. Man can now reverse the different languages of the world into one common language using the Universal Networking Language programme via the Internet. In doing so, we are indeed setting the stage for God to "come down" again to consummate history by His divine intervention in the soon return of Jesus Christ!
Until then, we ought to freely discuss the dangers associated with the usage of the Internet, particularly with the young in age or faith. We must all learn to be net-smart so that we stay ourselves clear of negative websites and utilise this God-given technological advancement productively for His Kingdom.
[This article is contributed by the NECF Research Commission [Eschatology] that monitors issues and happenings of the end-times. The Commission has set up an Internet Usage Subcommittee to work out guidelines for families to self-regulate themselves on the usage of the Internet. Once completed, their work will be made available to the public.]