Privacy and the 21st century

A Christian Science perspective.

The Internet and all those social networks that promise a bright new life of friends and opportunities, it seems, come with a downside. Learning about identity loss, financial theft, and scams that can be the byproducts of these new advances in the world of communication, we may feel like someone living on a busy street with an unlocked door through which anyone can enter.

As a recent Monitor article points out, many of us have dual reactions to all this ("How we're losing our privacy online," Aug. 31 ). On the one hand, we're discovering new and old friends, new opportunities, and a more efficient use of time. On the other hand, there are the unwanted intrusions into privacy and personal space.

Standing back and taking a calm look shows that these online novelties are simply tools – and that, like all tools, they are to be mastered and wisely used. If used correctly, technology can open new paths for progress and still provide privacy.

When considering the wise use of technology, I've found guidance in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, to be very helpful. While in this statement she's referring specifically to physical healing, it's useful in dealing with the barrage of information that comes to us today: "Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 392).

It occurred to me also that, in a way, Jesus had similar problems. And through prayer, solutions similar to the ones he found are ours today. The New Testament tells us that while fulfilling his mission of healing, he was often besieged by the very multitudes who received the benefits of his message. At almost the same time, he was tempted and pursued, often through trickery, by those intent on his defeat and elimination.

In confronting these challenges, Jesus often withdrew, mentally if not physically, for that needed silence in which to hear and follow the guidance of God and the comfort of God's love. God is Love, omniscient and omnipresent, and we can always rely on His help. To "stand porter" is to be spiritually alert, to use God-given wisdom and insight, to know what will bless and what might harm.

By mentally standing guard and exercising judgment, we can hear the leading of the divine Mind and reject interfering thoughts, malicious temptations. We can make the right choices about what we let into thought and experience, and how we think. Thoughts and suggestions do not assume reality until we accept them into consciousness. We can choose the good, and leave the rest behind.

Surely in today's changing environment we have to make wise choices about how we use new technology, choices that assure our safety and privacy. And on a fundamental level, we follow Jesus' example, and, when necessary, retreat to the mental hilltop of spiritual privacy, listening in prayer for divine guidance. In the end, that's what keeps us both connected and safe.

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