Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.

This morning, The New York Times released several reports on “[a] trove of more than 700 classified military documents” concerning prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.” Last year these files were leaked to WikiLeaks, and someone with access to them at WikiLeaks just recently passed them along to The New York Times. naturally, the Obama administration condemned the leak.

Some Christians might be opposed to reading, sharing, and publicizing these illegally leaked, top-secret government files. As long as our government keeps us safe we can trust them to do what is reasonable and necessary, and if that involves abuse, we merely need to acknowledge that our enemies are religious fanatics, incapable of rational discourse, so some say.

Others might simply be indifferent. with all the more pressing problems in our own country, how can we possibly take the time to read reports about documents concerning certain prisoners held at a particular prison?

But if we are called to love those who curse us (which, I suspect, might literally be the case with some of these prisoners) should we assume that the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have been treated fairly, at least since the fallout from a few cases of abuse? Should we trust that our government shares our love of our neighbors, or at least acts in a manner that is consistent with such love, although the motives might be self-serving?

I’m certainly not going to suggest that it is every Christian’s obligation to read reports like the ones The New York Times released today; however, I will say that it is good and right for us to seek to hold government accountable for its actions, particularly since it reflects on us as citizens, and more specifically American Christians. whether or not we view Guantánamo Bay as a success or failure will probably help to shape how our government will incarcerate and try foreign combatants in the future, so it is significant and worthwhile for us to consider these reports.

It is right for us to be concerned about our national security. However, we must keep in mind that Christ calls us to be concerned about the well-being of our neighbors. Even the people who desire to kill us are our neighbors.

Guantánamo Files – Lives in an American Limbo – NYTimes.com.


  1. “However, we must keep in mind that Christ calls us to be concerned about the well-being of our neighbors and the people who desire to kill us are our neighbors.”

    I like this. It ignores the question of whether or not those in Guantánamo actually deserve to be there and instead goes straight to the heart of the matter: even if these people our threats and dangers to the American citizenry, should they be any less the targets of our love, compassion, care, and concern? Not according to Jesus, they shouldn’t. The Gospels will always be hard for us to swallow.

  2. There are a couple questions begged here.

    Should we blindly allow the government to handle this issue and others like it?
    Should we leak and/or spread information about this?
    Should we treat the prisoners with human decency?

    Well no/yes, yes/no, and yes-that doesn’t contradict no. Is that clear?

    Should we blindly allow the gov to handle this? No. We need to know what is going on, and have a structure that guides what their actions are. But yes, we need to let them do their job and there will always be gray area or questionable issues to the public, and there should be internal reviews and checks/measures for controlling it. That is part of the structure.

    Should we leak/spread this information? Yes. If there are breaches to the guidelines I allude to, and violations of human rights then yes we need to shout it to the world so they can know. But no, we need to ensure that national security is not hindered or that we do anything illegal in the process. There is a bigger picture.

    Should we treat people with civility at all times? Yes. There are human rights, and that concept only comes from a Christian perspective. We need to love others even if they are the enemy, love their souls and show them compassion. We are commanded to, and we were given the model to base it on because we were enemies of God and Christ died for us.
    But there is a thin line there someplace. These people are criminals and they need to be put in their place. Laws and safety must be upheld, and prison is prison, and international threats are threats. In no way does having compassion for somebody’s soul mean that the reality of functioning in this world is negated (it doesn’t contradict it). Christ loves everybody and wants all men to come to the Father through him. He died for everybody, even those he knew would reject him, blaspheme his name, and inject heresy into the church. That is love. But at the same time he judges justly, and when the religious leaders were impeding the people from seeking God he curses them (Woes to the Pharisees) and clears the temple by force (the 2 overturning of the tables in the temple).

  3. Two thoughts, and then I need to get back to my reading for school:

    What questions were begged?

    You mention that we must have compassion on their souls, but I think that is part of the problem: we have a tendency to see our love as spiritual as opposed to physical, when this opposition is false to begin with. In other words, it is not enough to have compassion on their souls but not their bodies.

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