Julian Assange, the Robin Hood of computer hackers, has been on the run for months. From the time he was young, his life has always been one of moving from one place to another, including thirty-seven times by age fourteen. Since founding Wikileaks in 2006, he has continually changed addresses and appearances. Extremely gifted, certainly charismatic, and in his own words “extremely cynical,”1 39-year-old Assange has become one of the most well-known people in the world. Convicted of computer hacking in 1995 and given a minor penalty, the Australian native and his organization have posted documents about Guantanamo Bay detentions, Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo email account, and extrajudicial killings in Kenya and East Timor.2
Now he has taken on the US military and State Department. To many, including Daniel Ellsberg, Assange is a hero of extraordinary proportions. Time Magazine has nominated him for “Person of the Year.”3 To others, including an increasing number of his fellow Wikileakers, he has begun to lose touch with reality.
Assange sees the United States as the greatest political threat to the world—to the point that many of his co-workers say that he is obsessed with America.4 Far beyond the illusory dream of Woodrow Wilson, Assange believes that by taking on America via Wikileaks, he is making the world safe for democracy.5
But Assange has not achieved what he set out to attain. True, he leaked the information that a US gunship fired on the wrong target in Baghdad and killed, among others two journalists. But his leaks also produced little-known information about how America’s foe, the Taliban fighters, have repeatedly beheaded their enemies.6 And who would have expected that Wikileaks would have revealed that Saudia Arabia and Bahrain—not (US supported) Israel—are the real hawks in the Middle East against Iran? James Ruben writes in The New Republic that the disclosures “undermine the very worldview that Julian Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks almost certainly support.”7
In the process of leaking information, Wikileaks has endangered lives and angered a host of nations. The conflict Julian Assange has begun is equivalent to taking on several grizzly bears in a fistfight. He doesn’t stand a chance.
If you look carefully enough, you can find people like Julian Assange in the Bible. For example, here:
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Prov. 16:27-28)
Diplomatic fallout has been enormous on account of Wikileaks’s most recent posts. Anne Applebaum says rightly, “Don’t expect better government from these revelations; expect deeper secrets.”8 People will not share things with you if they know that tomorrow the secrets will become front-page news. One need not defend all that has been said by diplomats and heads of state to understand that relationships between many persons in various governments have been seriously damaged, if not destroyed altogether. The rage over the offenses caused by these diplomatic revelations has only begun to play out among politicians around the world. Julain Assange (who apparently has his own list of other sins following him9) may not have begun with twisted thinking, but the Bible would say his thinking is twisted now. He has helped humans to think of one another in a more ugly way than before.
You do not have to be a computer hacker to play the game of sowing strife and separating friends. People have done it for centuries. Christians have done it for centuries as well. So let’s think for a moment about ourselves instead of Wikileaks.
It is hard to read Proverbs 16:27-28 without remembering something you did yourself in the past. Of course you were justified to tell those stories, and of course it was for a righteous cause! But these are precisely the motivations and arguments employed by Julian Assange.
Perhaps the most distressing part of evil speaking about our friends and enemies is that Christian leaders have often tolerated this practice in their ministries. Nearly as bad is the fact that Christians love to continually listen as radio commentators trash their mutual foes. The first time that Proverbs 16:27-28 struck me vividly was after listening to a Christian leader run down a number of other Christian leaders on a radio report. “That is enough of that man for me,” I thought. “I cannot point to a lot else, but this passage tells me I am listening to a wicked man.” Within a year the same individual was out of the ministry because of adultery.
Yes, the Bible tells stories as well, like the tale of Noah’s drunkenness, Judah’s incest, or David’s adultery. The images of those great men are terribly damaged by such revelations. But there is a great difference between how the Bible talks about the sins of sinners and saints and how we transmit a damaging report about someone’s friend. It is one thing to warn about the distortions of truth and wicked lifestyle of false teachers. It is something else again to disagree pointedly with a brother in Christ, and afterward broadcast to others in blackest terms what he is doing wrong.
When God reveals sorry details in His Word, it is always to 1) affirm His own righteousness, 2) point out the reach of sin in the human heart, 3) call us to avoid doing the wrong others have done before us, and 4) reveal the incredible greatness of His grace. When we broadcast ugly secrets, it is usually to assassinate character. Or perhaps we want to pump our own ego. Maybe we do it to win people to our cause we otherwise could not. Likely it is all three. By contrast, when God’s Word gives us the gory details it is because we need in the worst way to hear them.
James says, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). As I contemplate these words and those of the Proverbs, I begin to feel that I still need more bridling. If the Bible has found out people like Julian Assange, it has found out me as well. As we think about the sins of the creator of Wikileaks, we should also think about our own, some of which might differ from his only in magnitude. With all this in mind, we need to pray for the man himself and the people he has misled—not because he has done well or achieved a great name. He has done neither. But Assange is loved by the Best and the Greatest, who came to earth to die an atoning death for people just like him.