The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States boldly declares:
Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
This declaration is often paraded as “exhibit one” by those who believe that “the land of the free” is a democratic utopia where every voice is equal and the government is the people’s servant. Somehow, they are bewitched by Lincoln’s vision of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”; and have been hypnotized by the myth of Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” They balk at Michelle Obama’s confession of delayed pride in the land that enslaved, oppressed, and exploited her ancestors. Oblivious to the systemic racism that is amplified by attitudes towards our bi-racial President, they cunningly declare the fulfillment of King’s “Dream,” fully aware that the authentic voices of DuBois’s “Talented Tenth” are still being ignored (remember Dr. Jeremiah Wright?).
Freedom of the Press?
The notion of a nation with an unmuzzled media who are not beholden to government censorship was challenged this week by WikiLeak’s gradual release of the redacted content from 250,000 United States government cables. All of a sudden, this “freedom of the press” ideal was called into question. As far as the government is concerned, the press is only free to publish unethically garnered information that serves it’s own agenda.
It’s perfectly fine for anonymous CIA sources to leak contrived “intelligence” to CNN about non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It is even appropriate to shamefully expose the undisputed plans and foilabilities of other governments (e.g. Hilary Clinton’s unabashed endorsement of the leaks exposing Arab leaders’ opposition to the “Persians”). But who gives these foreigners the right to air America’s dirty laundry on a global stage? Don’t they understand the American interpretation of “freedom of the press”? Haven’t they noticed that the American media has voluntarily become tools of government propaganda by censoring images that may hinder the government’s patriotic agenda? To this day, the American people have still not “seen” the true local impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ignorance is Bliss?
For those among us who still hold to the historic Adventist understanding of Revelation 13, the reaction of the American government to WikiLeaks is prophetically chilling/affirming. It did not take long for them to tout the “T” word in their classification of those responsible for the organization. Simultaneously, Julian Assange, the very public face of WikiLeaks, has been mysteriously accused of sexual crimes and is currently being hunted by Interpol. Even as the assailed Australian considers the possibility of an unscheduled detention in a frigid jail in Stockholm or a humid concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, he is fully aware that the smoke around him and his organization is craftily intended to obscure the undeniable fire.
Nonetheless, the government knows the gullibility of the people, and if a case can be made that those involved in the leaks are driven by a hatred “of our freedoms” it would not be too difficult to garner public sympathy. I have already had conversations with people who believe that the way in which the government operates is none of our business, even if the current and former Secretaries of State knowingly violated international law by ordering acts of espionage against United Nations’ officials. For them, ignorance is so blissful that even when undeniable truth is presented, they hypocritically cling to it with reprobate inflexibility.
Nothing But the Truth
Whether or not a person consciously chooses to believe a lie, the truth cannot be erased. The facts may be hidden and protected by firewalls and seemingly impregnable codes of secrecy, but as long as they exist in some tangible or intangible form they are always subject to revelation. The truth is, with fallible humans being entrusted with the responsibility of guarding sensitive information, “secrets” are never safe. As we see with WikiLeaks’ super-scoop, all it takes is for one anonymous trustee to breach confidence and the real nature of scores of professional hypocrites are immediately exposed. This is probably what the late Robert Nesta Marley had in mind when he penned these words in his conscience disturbing song, Who the Cap Fit: “If night would turn to day, a lot of people would run away....”
Even as Hilary Clinton and Robert Gates trust their “spin” teams to develop new dirt to bury the recently revealed truth; and the recently re-exposed and indicted Dick Cheney trusts that the Obama government will protect him from the legally binding Nigerian arrest warrant; I am reminded of the fact that we all have embarrassing secrets that make us blush – even in moments of solitude. At some time in our lives, we have all done something, said something or thought something that contradicts our public self and would be the source of great shame if publically paraded in the presence of people who think they know us.
Conclusion: The Investigative Judgement
It is precisely because of the possibility of public embarrassment that I am thankful for the Investigative Judgment. Ecclesiastes declares that the Judicious Judge of the judged will “bring every work into judgement and every secret thing – both good and evil.” He doesn’t only see my missteps, but records every sincere act of repentance and restitution. He assures me that when I lean on His grace and cognitively accept his assurance of forgiveness (in spite of how I may feel), my opponents can leak my secrets or fully open the faucet, but I will remain protected and dry through the blood of Jesus, who faithfully uses His righteousness to cleanse me from all of my unrighteousness.
In conclusion, as we continue to cling to the confidence conjured by Christ’s cleansing Grace, meditate with me on the first verse of Frank E. Belden’s oft misunderstood hymn of assurance:
The judgment has set, the books have been opened; How shall we stand in that great day, When every thought, and word, and action, God, the righteous Judge, shall weigh? Refrain How shall we stand in that great day? How shall we stand in that great day? Shall we be found before Him wanting? Or with our sins all washed away?
Keith Augustus Burton is an Adjunct Instructor of Religion at the Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences. He is a grateful recipient of God’s Grace.