Christians have been passionately debating gay marriage, abortion, evolution, school prayer, immigration and gun control for years, but for a religion that is founded on the virtues of truth, honesty and transparency, why have followers of Christ been silently ignoring Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange?
These three men have been at the center of a culture war that Christians have been almost completely absent from. Edward Snowden recently made worldwide headlines by outing the NSA’s various surveillance tactics, and Bradley Manning helped Julian Assange—the founder of Wikileaks—release government documents to the public, and they’ve all become the famous faces of privacy rights and the freedom of information.
These polarizing figures are considered both heroes and villains, and their personal lifestyles definitely shouldn’t serve as role models for the Christian faith. But underneath the smear campaigns, their personal failures, obnoxious tactics and bravado, there is an underlining attempt by them to reveal the truth.
This is something Christians can relate to. Our entire belief system is based on the principle of truth—that God is real; Jesus died and rose again, and saved us from our sins.
Our churches and faith communities constantly attempt to help us be strong enough to personally reveal our innermost and darkest secrets. We use confession booths, accountability partners, pastoral counseling, small groups and prayer chains in an effort to be transparent and open about our transgressions. We set up systems of checks and balances and safeguards in an effort to maintain our integrity—we strive to reveal our truest selves.
In many ways, on a national corporate level, this is what these men are also trying to do: promote transparency. The revelations are often ugly and embarrassing. Wikileaks has exposed human rights abuses, dubious wartime practices, the death of innocent people, government corruption, assassination plots and the details behind various environmental disasters (among other things).
Whistleblowers are often seen as the lowest forms of life, backstabbers who deserve to be persecuted and ridiculed. But Christians need to be careful about pointing fingers. We’re still recovering from a widespread sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church, a scandal that largely resulted from people refusing to admit, believe and reveal the truth.
Individuals who whispered about abuses were quieted, dissenters were removed and informers were discredited. Years passed and an entire system of abuse went unobstructed, hurting thousands of people.
The suppression of truth—to the detriment of millions of people around the world—happens on a daily basis.
There are many reasons the Christian community has not addressed this controversy. Besides being a very politically, socially and morally complicated matter, Christians have traditionally been very patriotic, and it’s especially hard to support men who have been condemned by the government as traitors and criminals. Regardless of our personal opinions concerning Snowden, Manning and Assange, we must start striving for the truth.
As American Christians, we naturally want to see ourselves in the best possible light, and the leaking of information that portrays our country as weak and cruel is often hard to accept—but we need to start treating the information seriously. These leaks aren’t just crazy unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and they often contain substantive information pertaining to very important social justice issues.
Facing the truth means dealing with conflict, complex messes and deep pain, but it’s often necessary and healthy. It holds us accountable, promotes holiness and maturity, and is essential to being a Christian. We are called to serve, sacrifice and love the world around us, but in order to do so we must pursue the truth and be willing to accept it. Are we?
Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Sojourners, and The Burnside Writer’s Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Photo Credit: Kin Cheung/AP
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