Excerpt from Chapter 5: Evaluation of the Church in the U.S.A. by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, empty tomb, inc., 19821
Just as Satan wanted everyone in the universe, including God, to revolve around himself, we each want God and others to revolve around ourselves. This is why we do not obey Jesus and live all out for God and others.
Our religious activity often masks the fact that we want God to revolve around us and that we therefore do not want to obey Jesus as Lord.
Where our self-centeredness and participation in Satan's rebellion against God shows up clearly is our inability to love, and agree with, one another. Racism, insensitivity to the thousands dying daily without food, and callousness to the two and a half billion who have not heard the gospel are signs of this self-centeredness and rebellion against God.
We Christians do not even agree as to how all-out we should be living for Jesus and others, or what our strategies should be in the church at our particular cities or in the church in the United States as a whole. We are not persuaded that we should expect to agree with each other on the specific details of our work together in the United States.
This is true even though Jesus prays to the Father for us, "My prayer for all of them is that they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father - that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me" (John 17:21). Jesus prays for our oneness but there is only division within his church.
In light of this state of the church, it may be easy to conclude that Jesus' words addressed to the church in Laodicea fit us in the U.S. well:
I know you well - you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, 'I am rich with everything I want; I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Rev. 3:15-17).
Given a royal inheritance, we squander it in riotous living. And it is not just the world which suffers from the lack of a viable church. There are Scriptural indications that the cost of not obeying Jesus Christ is felt by the Christian him or herself. Consider Jesus' admonition in Luke 6:32-36, one of the harder of his sayings:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Living Bible).
Going to another translation will not be helpful: this admonition is consistently perplexing in all versions of the passage. How can God expect us to do good to the "ungrateful and the selfish," to not judge those whom we help, to not expect at least appreciation from those whom we assist? The problem remains unanswered until we focus on the intent of these verses. Jesus is pointing out that we need not evaluate those whom we help. That apparently is God's prerogative. Jesus here is focusing on not our neighbor's worth but on his followers' obedience. The import in this passage is for us to consider whether we will act as children of the Most High or refuse to follow our Father's lead. The risk is not only that our neighbor will not be cared for, but that we might not be followers of Jesus.
The consequence of continued disobedience to God is the dulling of our discernment. Is it possible that the church in the United States can indeed have become like the church in Laodicea? Can we say that we are rich and don't need a thing and yet be poor? Can our very souls become deadened to Christ's claim on our lives?
That is a frightening thought, yet one which we Christians in the U.S. must face squarely. It is possible that our commitment to comfort and materialism has blinded us to the truth of the Gospel. American Christians may in fact worship secular idols of the material realm which give us a false sense of security and power in exchange. Consider the following subject of the Electronic Fund Transfer system. This discussion could be viewed as a parable of our times. On closer examination it may raise issues which affect the future of the very soul of the church in the U.S.
Electronic Fund Transfer: What It Is and How It Works2
Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) as its name implies, is a method whereby funds can be transferred electronically. Based on telecommunications and computer-technology data processing, EFT, at least initially, would operate side-by-side with traditional cash and check methods of conducting financial transactions.
With EFT, the amount of one's paycheck can be deposited in a bank account electronically by a person's employer.
Also, "... using this new technology, the consumer can authorize his or her depository institution automatically to pay a recurring obligation, such as a utility bill, an insurance premium, or a mortgage payment."3
A third major use involving the consumer directly would be purchases at retail locations such as supermarkets, department stores or drug stores even while traveling away from one's home.
Initially Electronic Fund Transfer technology at retail locations would serve as an immediate check or credit verification system. This system would then be expected to move toward a situation where instantaneous payment could be made through Electronic Fund Transfer at retail point of sale (POS) terminals.
The emergence of EFT systems providing such capabilities is illustrated by the large number of EFT-related terminals, such as automated teller machines (ATM) and cash dispensers, that are already in operation throughout the country in places such as airports and shopping centers. These systems provide a convenient way to obtain cash and perform other financial transactions-and are frequently available to the consumer 24 hours a day.4
This trend toward EFT usage seems to be gaining momentum. The EFTS Digest is a publication which summarizes material on the use of the Electronic Fund Transfer system. In the February, 1980 issue, it noted:
The sales boom on automated teller machines shows no signs of letting up with unit installations expected to reach 12,750 by year-end, a-sizable jump from the 9,750 machines in place a year ago, according to researcher- consultant Linda Fenner Zimmer. While the ATM equipment is being installed at the 'conservative' rate of 250-325 units per month, transaction volume has also increased rapidly, averaging 3,500-4,000 items a month at banks, 'regardless of size,' said Mrs. Zimmer.
In the June, 1982 issue of the EFTS Digest, John Fisher of the Bank One in Columbus, Ohio suggests a table for future banking transactions.
According to the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfers, it is widely believed that Electronic Fund Transfer will enable consumers to pay bills more conveniently and efficiently.
Also the Commission suggested that costs of processing the transaction will be lowered for the consumer, the recipient company and the depository institution as compared with costs of payment by check. Thus the incentives of convenience and decreased costs are powerful forces that would be expected to lead to increased usage of Electronic Fund Transfer in coming years. EFT as presently conceived calls for access to EFT services "... by plastic cards (debit cards) used in conjunction with unique identifying codes commonly known as personal identification numbers (PINs)."7
Each person using the EFT system would be assigned a personal identification number. This number would be unique to the individual and would be necessary in all transactions. As EFT develops, so does the numbering system:
The United States League of Savings Associations recently adopted the international standard numbering system for plastic cards and abandoned the industry numbering system created in 1974. Plastic cards for use with automated teller machines and point-of-sale terminals now will begin with the digits 57, followed by four digits to identify an institution. Up to 12 digits can be used for an account number and one digit will be available for use as a check digit. Cards with the old numbering system must be phased out by 1983.8
Electronic Fund Transfer and Privacy
Chapter 1 of The Final Report of the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfer deals with privacy.
EFT may increase the amount of information currently included in transaction records. A check records the payor, the payee, the amount, and the date of the transaction. In addition to this information, the EFT debit transaction at a point of sale could record the time and location of the transaction... If EFT records were to contain information on the product or type of service purchased, then EFT would provide, more detailed information on an individual than do check records...9
In Part VII of The Final Report, a section of Separate Statements by a number of the Commissioners, Albert A. Foer, Associate Director, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, addresses the topic of privacy and focuses on a problem as follows:
The most dramatic danger of EFT, from the civil liberties perspective is real time surveillance. By this I mean a use of an EFT system to pinpoint at the time of an EFT transaction the physical location and/or identification of activities of a cardholder, for purposes unrelated to the functioning of the EFT system itself.10
The Commission did recommend, "that EFT systems should not be used for surveillance of individuals, either as to their physical location or patterns of behavior."
Yet the text of the Report immediately following this recommendation includes important exceptions: "The legitimate needs of law enforcement agencies should be balanced against the individual's right to privacy. For example, law enforcement efforts should not be rendered ineffective against serious organized crime problems or serious threats to national security" (emphasis added).11
Thus, Electronic Fund Transfer could enable a government to know almost instantaneously the whereabouts of any person who makes a purchase, what the individual purchased, what changes in purchasing patterns are made by an individual or household and who stops making purchases.
In addition to providing consumer convenience and decreasing costs for consumers and private retailers and banking institutions, there would be incentives for governments to encourage widespread usage of Electronic Fund Transfer systems.
Electronic Fund Transfer would benefit either a communist society seeking further control of its citizenry or a capitalist society attempting to implement adequate controls because its national security is being threatened internally by disruptive conventional or nuclear terrorism.
It may be helpful to understand potential government interest in Electronic Fund Transfer by imagining that EFT existed in Europe during World War II. One writer constructed the following plot:
The scenario is something like this: the Nazis have required that all transactions be done by EFT. In Haarlem, Netherlands Corrie Ten Boom has agreed to hide Jews in her house and members of the Resistance have built the hiding place. She has had a family of Jews residing there less than a week. A knock comes at the door and a troop of SS soldiers mash it in and begin to search the house, tearing the walls open with picks until the hiding place is found and the Jews are arrested. At Gestapo Headquarters, Corrie's interrogator says something like this:
John Wicklein in his recent book Electronic Nightmare, also points out the real and present dangers resulting from an all too possible abuse of current developments in the new communications systems. In the Preface, he notes:
Every technique of the communication revolution that I discuss in this book is already in place somewhere in the world. In many cases, the services are fully operational in commercial or government applications. And for almost every blessing these techniques bring, they pose a danger to our individual liberty and our privacy...
From studying the developments over the last ten years, and researching and reporting almost full time for two, I have come to feel the shape of things to come is quite clear. How the shape is to be filled out by new equipment is a question the development engineers are answering, and will continually reanswer, as each new discovery makes a specific technique easier and less expensive to use. Knowing the hardware is not nearly so important as knowing the techniques and what they can do for us - and to us.
With these comments in mind, let us turn to an imaginary scenario John Wicklein created. As an example, Wicklein draws out the possibilities for control in Brazil through the use of a universal identifier number (or PIN) and radio signals.
A young reporter for an alternative newspaper in São Paulo, walking overland to try to reach the area of the rumored nuclear accident on the coast, was spotted by a police helicopter that had been sent out to find him. The police in the copter machine-gunned him to death when he tried to duck into some low bushes. Knowing the monitoring satellite could obtain a fix on him through the signal his watch sent out, the reporter had deliberately left it at the office. But he did not know that his plastic identity card, which he was required to carry at all times, was transmitting his universal identifier number via a low-powered emission that could be picked up by the cellular radio-monitoring system that had been installed throughout the country. This device made it possible for the police to track suspected dissidents continuously by computer. (The safest thing for a person whose wristwatch radio signal fails is to go to the nearest police station and report in. Anyone who doesn't, or who throws the watch or identity card away in desperation, is hunted down through traditional police methods and eliminated...)13
This scenario may not be so far removed from reality. Another example of the implications of the EFT system for privacy resulted from an exercise by a group of experts. Paul Armer, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, Calif., relates the following:
To give you an idea of how powerful a surveillance system an EFTS would be, consider the following. In 1971, a group of experts in computers, communication and surveillance was assembled and given the following task: Suppose you are advisors to the head of the KGB, the Soviet Secret Police. Further, suppose that you are given the assignment of designing a system for the surveillance of all citizens and visitors within the boundaries of the USSR. Further, the system is not to be too obtrusive or obvious. Not only would it handle all the financial accounting and provide the statistics crucial to a centrally planned economy; it was the best surveillance system we could imagine within the constraint that it not be too obtrusive.
That exercise was almost four years ago, and it was only a two-day effort. I am sure we could add some bells and whistles to increase its effectiveness somewhat. But the fact remains that this group decided that if you want to build an unobtrusive system for surveillance, you couldn't do much better than an EFTS5.14
In a step toward instant electronic banking, cancelled checks will be eliminated. Sylvia Porter, in her daily column, recognized the lack of returned checks with some alarm:
The sinister part is not the practical part alone, but the fact that this dramatic change is being planned so quietly that there is no public knowledge or discussion of it...
The depository plan would actually make it easier for government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, to investigate citizens... Whatever financial privacy still exists would become a will-o'-the-wisp as a practical proposition.
Moreover, depriving you of cancelled checks would make many aspects of electronic banking obligatory rather than voluntary, pushing more people into the category of programmable "computer faces."15
Again, Paul Armer raises the question of the implication for assigning individual numbers:
For this reason, those who face the task of putting such files together would like a universal identifier: they usually suggest that we use the Social Security number for this universal identifier. Those who fear the results of the collation of several files into complete dossiers naturally oppose the use of any form of universal identifier. I mention this because I believe it is important that we understand the implications for privacy and surveillance before adopting a universal identifier or permitting the Social Security number to become a universal identifier.16,
Electronic Fund Transfer and Personal Identification Numbers
A problem to be resolved in considering widespread consumer usage of Electronic Fund Transfer is the possible theft or fraudulent use of the plastic card and the personal identification number (PIN).
Part of this difficulty is described in The Final Report of the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfers.
The need to remember a number (the PIN) each time the EFT card is used may tempt many EFT cardholders to write the number in a place that is convenient to find each time the card is used. This procedure, however, neutralizes the security purposes of the PIN and permits a thief easy access to the account whenever the card is obtained.17
This concern for security itself may force people to make choices between personal relationships and loyalty to one's goods. In the August, 1981 issue of EFTS Digest, a paragraph entitled, "Share life but not PIN," reads:
The most frequent problems involving ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) are generally the result of affairs of the heart, says John McKelvey of Fidelity Bank in Pennsylvania. Cards are stolen by former loved ones who decide to take their retribution in cash, he says. So, bank officials warn, share your life with someone if you want to, but always keep your PIN to yourself.18
The issue of the security of the PIN and the use of the EFT account may be the biggest limitation to the expansion of the EFT system. For example:
To date there are no reported decisions under the EFT Act, but a suit filed in New York State under State law confirms the suspicions of many practitioners that unauthorized transactions and security will be the most significant legal and technological problems for financial institutions.19
The Commission Report considers two approaches to the problem of theft of the plastic card and the personal identification number. The first, which is dealt with most extensively, deals with recommendations that the consumer's liability be limited - similar, in some ways, to the limitations currently in place for credit cards.20 However, one implication of such limits is also the requirement of withdrawal limits, thereby minimizing the usefulness of the EFT account.
The second approach to the problem of theft focuses on increasing the technological security for identifying the consumer. In a footnote of the Report, we read, "Although current EFT systems use PINS as identifiers, technologies are being developed for more secure identifiers, such as electronic signature verification."21
PIN Encoding Technologies
Electronic signature verification would be one possible technological development which could increase the security of consumer identification.
Also, the technological capability of encoding a permanent personal identification number (PIN) on or in a part of the human body has been seriously considered at least over the past one and a half decades and is currently being perfected and readied for use. The PIN would be invisible to the eye but could be read by an appropriate scanner.
Ralph K. Schwitzgebel, writing at Harvard University for a National Institute of Mental Health, Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency, monograph Series, observes, "Within the near future, electronic technology is likely to become a very important factor in the design of programs for the modification of the behavior of offenders."22 He quotes J.M.R. Delgado and others who wrote in 1968 regarding their prediction about the future development of small transmitters:
...it may be predicted that in the near future microminiaturization and more refined methodology will permit the construction of instruments without batteries and small enough to be permanently implanted underneath the patient's skin for transdermal reception and transmission of signals through several channels.23
Thirteen years later, Vern L. Taylor, building on ten years of electronic identification research conducted by the federal government at Los Alamos, has developed a micro-computer chip which can be implanted permanently under the human skin.
Gail Pitts, writing in a Denver Post article captioned "Chip May Replace I.D. Card" describes the all-purpose identification computer chip:
It's a chip - no longer than an eighth of an inch and about the diameter of the lead in an automatic pencil which can be injected with a simple insulin- type syringe into human or horse, Pekinese or parakeet, elk or eagle...
Cost will not be an inhibiting factor since the chips have an estimated sale price of $5 each. Chips without the temperature wafer would be considerably cheaper. Scanners sell for $750. A smaller scanner for family use costs $25.24
Another possibly related technological development uses body heat to generate electricity and replace batteries in some situations. This development could be combined with the implanted microchip identifier if it actually increased the efficiency of a tracking or surveillance system. Such surveillance systems would probably first be used on a broad scale basis with humans to monitor the whereabouts of the 20,000,000 U.S. citizens with criminal records.25 In addition, many consumers without criminal records might wish to have the convenience and security such an identifier would provide in electronic financial transactions. Together these usages would increase the popular acceptance of an implanted microchip as a personal identification number.
Now let us examine a brief description of body-heat-generated electricity as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bulova Watch Co. researchers in Switzerland have scored a technological breakthrough that may have a permanent impact on not only the watch industry, but also on other small battery-powered appliances, such as hearing aids.
Describing an electric quartz watch that needs no battery, the article explains:
It operates off a sophisticated new solid state device called a Thermatron, which uses body heat to generate electricity to power the watch. Unlike batteries, which last about a year, the Thermatron lasts almost indefinitely, Bulova says.
Transition to the Electronic Fund Transfer System
Many if not most people would refuse, as of today, an offer to receive an invisibly encoded personal identification number on their person, regardless of how secure the system seemed.
Thus before use of such an encoded PIN were required for general electronic transactions, one would assume there would be a series of steps involved in gaining consumer acceptability.
Electronic Fund Transfer might first gain greater usage initially through a service mentioned above, depositing of paychecks electronically in one's bank account, a service that has already been available to some extent over a number of years. Another example is security. The Social Security Administration has a media advertising campaign that urges senior citizens to take advantage of direct deposit of a monthly check for security reasons.
As is pointed out in The Final Report of the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfer, it is conceivable that people could be pressured to fit in with EFT even at this relatively elementary level of having their payroll check deposited through EFT.
The Commission recognized that social and economic pressure to conform and accept an unwanted service might be overwhelming, as one witness testified:
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