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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Should Christians Think Of Snowden, Manning, And Assange?

Think about what the world now knows from the revelations of Snowden, Manning, and Assange. We know about the NSA surveillance of the American people, our allies, and our economic trading partners. Because of Snowden we know that both our online metadata and the details of our correspondence with all others is now property of an emerging Grand Voyeur government. And all of this is being done without any accountability constraints being placed on those collecting or using the information. 

But it is not just our internet use that is being monitored, the metadata for our phone calls is also being collected and monitored by our Big Brother. The effects of such monitoring, according to Christ Hedges (see his debate on the Favorite AV Links  page, A Debate Between Chris Hedges And Geoffrey Stone) is that it greatly inhibits the press's access to whistleblowers and thus reduces government accountability. And we should note that nothing says more government power like less government accountability.


And what did Manning & Wikileaks reveal? Besides a number of State Department cables some of which were meaningless while others could be counted as embarrassing while others could be counted as incriminating. For example, the video clip to the left here shows the coldblooded murder of Iraqi citizens along with two Reuters' journalist. And following that attack is another assault on a van containing two children. What is especially telling in the dialog that accompanied this video is the complete disregard for the humanity of the unarmed Iraqis who were killed.

Who was punished for this brutal attack? Those who released the film and information. The people who did the killing were cleared of all wrongdoing.

How should Christians think of Snowden, Manning, and Assange? Before answering that question, we should define the role that these three play in society or the world. When we think of what they do, that is they release information on what the government says and do, we can think of them as the public's counterpart to the NSA. Just as the NSA stores information about our movements and communications for governmental use, Snowden, Manning, and Assange have stored information about the government's actions and communications for the public's use.

So how should Christians think of Snowden, Manning, and Assange? I know at least a few Christians will look no farther than Romans 13 to make up their minds. They will see that Snowden, Manning, and Assange have broken the law and those in authority have been ordained by God to make and enforce the law. Thus, this is a slam dunk and no-brainer to these Christians. 

Christians who consider themselves to be patriotic might think ill of Snowden, Manning, and Assange because their release of information has been embarrassing and lowered American prestige around the world. 

Other Christians who automatically oppose the Democrats and especially Obama might at least appreciate Snowden because the information he released confirms what they have said about Obama being control-freak. 

But perhaps, the key scriptures that these Christians should read before making up their minds about these three is not Romans 13 but Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34, Hebrews 11:37. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus complains how Jerusalem, meaning God's chosen people, have rejected the prophets and all whom God has sent to them. In Hebrews 11:37, the writer talks about some of the ways by which God's prophets have been killed. And when we look into history, we see how God's Old Testament prophets often received scorn, threats, and persecution for speaking God's Word to a rebellious people.

But why would those scriptures apply to how we regard Snowden, Manning, and Assange since none of these three are prophets? It is true that none of these three men are prophets but they do have something in common with the prophets of the Old Testament. All of them are all truth tellers and what they have revealed are the sins of the people. For the Old Testament prophets often challenged Israel before the split and Israel and Judah afterwards, the general public and those in government, not to practice idolatry and to protect and take care of those in need. What Snowden, Manning, and Assange have told the American people is how their government is sinning against both them, such as through surveillance programs, and the people of other countries, such as through war crimes.

To the extent that Snowden, Manning, and Assange are telling us the truth about the sins of our government's officials, we should react as Israel and Judah should have reacted to the prophets. And if we should regard them as prophets, then we should demand that our government should treat them as prophets. Rather than threatening and punishing these men, we should demand that our government repent of the wrongs that have been revealed. We should realize that if we don't make that demand and the government doesn't respond to the revelations of these three men with repentance, we will be following the same self-destructive pattern of behavior practiced by God's chosen people in the Old Testament. In other words, we will have become our own worse enemy.

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