NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave an interview from Hong Kong on June 6, 2013. While pundits of all persuasions will be commenting ad nauseam, the Christian community should take note of the underlying issues and wrestle with their own willingness to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Snowden has given up a comfortable life in Hawaii being well paid as a US Government contractor to document for the world that the NSA is watching you. The name Snowden will now join Binney, Drake, Klein, Tamm, Tice, Manning, Ellsberg, and a growing list of individuals that put principle before personal benefit. While there is no claim that any were motivated by Christian beliefs, a reasoned argument can be given that each followed God’s law before man’s command.
Snowden’s response to a question about the US government's response should give the reader pause to consider their own willingness to put themselves at risk.
“You can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because they're such powerful adversaries. No one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they'll get you in time. But at the same time you have to make a determination about what it is that's important to you. And if living unfreely but comfortably is something you're willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it's the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.”
“But if you realize that that's the world you helped create and it's gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn't matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that's applied.”
Government pundits call these people traitors, that these people violated their oath. However the various oaths taken by people enlisting in the army to the office of the president revolve around “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. Those that say most whistleblowers have violated that oath seem to really be saying that they violated the commands from leadership while the reality is they are keeping the oath in reference to domestic enemies. They obeyed the higher authority.
The Christian should examine themselves and consider who is the higher authority and if they are willing to pay the price of giving up the comforts and pleasures they enjoy to follow more closely the commands of the Lord. The world says that a good paycheck shows you are doing well. The Lord says that “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). The world says you as an individual cannot stand against a powerful organization. David said “for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26).
The growing oppression by the US Government is clear for any with eyes to see. As a Christian, are you willing to strive for the land of promise or willing to stay in slavery? Is it more important to you to do well in the system or unabashedly pursue the Lord’s ways? Are your eyes open to how the state, the corporations, the education system, and the entertainment world have made you comfortable to incrementally violate the Lord’s commands. Do you remember that we are to have no other gods before the Lord?
As a Christian we are called to submit to the earthly authorities, but only secondarily. First we must submit to the Lord. If our deeds directly or indirectly lead to oppression of anyone, now or in the future, are we submitting to the state before loving our neighbor? Is our allegiance to the state, corporation, or denomination before loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)?
Snowden asked “if living unfreely but comfortably is something you're willing to accept?” Shouldn’t our response be: “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).