Friday, January 31, 2014

Blessed are the peacemakers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning

This week I was reading Matthew 5:1-12, a part of the passage of scripture commonly referred to as “the Sermon on the Mount.” At the beginning of the passage, Jesus lists several groups of people he finds to be worthy of praise and admiration.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers. That’s right, blessed are the peacemakers.
''Peace' sign' photo (c) 2009, daveynin - license:, to our 21st century ears, we hear that phrase and think of beauty pageant contestants wishing for “world peace” or hippies holding up two fingers in a peace sign. But, those living in 1st century Galilee would have immediately found his remarks to be divergent from the societal and political expectations of the world around them. Those living in 1st century Galilee inhabited a country dominated by the foreign oppressor Rome, which thrived by being unmerciful, brutally violent, and exploitive of conquered people groups.   Blessed are the meek? Hardly, in the Roman Empire, those who are gentle get squashed! Blessed are the pure in heart? Please! In the Roman Empire, everyone in power is corrupt! Blessed are the peacemakers? The Roman Empire was built by war and violence! In context, Jesus’ words are far more controversial.
With this in mind, I happened to see the news report of Edward Snowden being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Now, this is the same Edward Snowden who, working for the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked information about the US Government spying on its own citizens. For such actions, Snowden has had to flee the country, and most likely—flee for his life. He has been labeled a traitor, conspirator, spy and so forth.  Despite the seemingly obvious lack of Constitutional support for such actions by the government and repeated lies from Director of Intelligence James Clapper that the government was not spying on its own people—Snowden has still been charged with espionage for bringing to light the unlawful actions of the United States Government even though his actions have spurred action by the Obama administration regarding changes to NSA actions and policies.
'Bradley Manning: ' on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe..' exposing both the system & it's weakness' photo (c) 2013, Tjebbe van Tijen - license:’m also reminded of another high profile leaker, that of Chelsea Manning (as a Trans-ally, I shall refer to Manning by the names and pronouns appropriate to the gender she wishes to express herself as).  While serving as an Army Intelligence officer in Iraq—and self-identifying as Bradley—Manning sent classified information to WikiLeaks regarding video felt by Manning to expose war crimes and other unethical actions by the US Military such as the use of torture and the killing of civilians.  Manning has asserted that conscience led her to expose the documents and videos, adding that “I want people to see the truth.” Manning also asks, “If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”  Oddly enough, Manning was accused of endangering American lives—forget that President Bush (and sadly Obama) forced thousands of our troops into an unnecessary and very likely illegitimate war. In the end like Snowden, Manning has been convicted of espionage for actions that were morally driven.
As I reflect on these two people in light of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew, I can’t help but think that our society despises peacemakers. After all, war is incredibly profitable for those in power—for politicians and CEOs. The so-called “war machine” consists of politicians promoting fear-mongering and imperialism which thereby leads to trillions of dollars spent on weapons of war, where massive earnings end up in the pockets of CEOs and the 1%, who in turn financially support those politicians who stir the pot. Yes, saber rattling is incredibly profitable—every bomb dropped and bullet shot (or threat of such) demands more be manufactured.  Isn’t it so shockingly ironic that President Bush can claim to be a huge supporter of the troops when his decisions ultimately led to the death and suffering of thousands of lives!?
I support the troops by not wanting to send them to war and risk life and limb. I support policies and politicians which seek to rein in our war machine which does nothing but perpetuate death and destruction for the purposes of massive profits.  I support whistleblowers such Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning who call out the immoral behavior of our government. I firmly believe Snowden and Manning fit Jesus’ description of those called “peacemakers,” and lest we forget, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

No comments:

Post a Comment