September 19th, 2013

This summer the United States National Security Archives released about four hundred pages of CIA documents that, for the first time, officially confirm the existence of “the facility at Groom Lake,” more commonly known as Area 51. Although the facility, located in south-central Nevada, has been in operation since the 1950’s, the government has never publicly acknowledged its existence until now. Still, people have known about the 23 by 25-mile area, and have had suspicions about what goes on there. While you can get a decent look at Area 51 on Google Maps, those who have ventured too close have been turned away by heavily armed personnel.

After decades of keeping quiet, the CIA released information related to Area 51 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents released reveal that the government has been building and testing experimental military aircraft at the Nevada facility. The futuristic look of many of these aircraft might explain the unusually high number of UFO sightings near the facility. But decades of secrecy have given birth to all sorts conspiracy theories, the most popular of which contends that the government has been using Area 51 to cover up its knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrials. This theory says that the government has alien bodies in stasis chambers and is reverse-engineering and test-flying alien space ships.

Conspiracy theories aside, any work the military would do on their next-generation military aircraft would certainly be shrouded in secrecy. The stakes are high, and there is always concern that the technology being developed could be stolen.

Can You Keep a Secret?

The leaking of government secrets has been a recent news topic because Edward Snowden, who was working for the National Security Administration (NSA), went public with details about how the agency tracks people’s personal e-mails and telephone calls. Snowden believed that what the NSA was doing amounted to an invasion of privacy. The NSA, for its part, says that it relies on the data it collects to learn if anyone in this country is communicating with known terror groups elsewhere in the world. This summer the Justice Department charged Snowden with espionage.

The keeping of secrets is important to all of us, whether we have been entrusted with a friend’s confidence or sensitive information related to national security. Jesus valued secrets. After some of his healings, he instructed the persons he had healed to keep his actions a secret. And in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed his followers to keep quiet about their good works, praying and performing acts of mercy in secret. But when it comes to the good news of God’s kingdom, Jesus doesn’t want us to keep any secrets. Instead, he commands us to tell the entire world.

Don’t Say Anything

Many youth have friends in whom they can confide. And it’s good for young people to have trusted confidants. But in some situations secret-keeping can be confusing and troubling for youth. If a young person knows that a friend is cutting herself or is being physically abused, revealing a secret could save that friend’s life; keeping the secret would only allow the situation to continue. Determining whether or not to keep a secret often isn’t an easy decision. It requires prayer and discernment.

Even if we learn all there is to know about Area 51, there will be other secrets we will never know. And while humans can keep secrets from one another, we cannot keep secrets from God. God knows all, and our all-knowing God will guide us when we face difficult decisions about keeping and sharing secrets.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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