Someone in my Bible study this week suggested that if Jesus spoke today about our country the way he did about Rome, it would be high treason. This is my agreement.
A while back, I went to see a movie with a few very good friends. Beyond what comes next, I thought it was a good movie. It was not too presumptuous, nor was it boring or long winded, just an open window into a story from WW2 that to my knowledge had not been told because primary sources did not want to tell it. It concerned a group of freedom fighters who were not anti-war activists or especially decent folks, but they united together to secretly plot for the good of Germany over and against Hitler’s mad schemes. Full disclosure time, and if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t worry, I will only spoil minor plot points, but the crux of the movie revolves around an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. Apparently, many clergy at the time were involved in attempting to assassinate the guy with the fuehrious mustache.
My favorite line in the movie was from the following exchange between tom cruise’s character and someone who he has just hired as an assistant in a government job. Before his actual job begins, Tom Cruise’s character, in an act of brazen and fairly reckless abandon says to the recruit, “”I am involved in high treason with all means available to me. Can I count you in?”
Can I count you in? That is the question I find myself confronted with when Jesus talks. Literally. He is not reacting against the moral decay of western civilization, he is not trying to get us to rebel against hell itself or abortion, or gay marriage, or biblical illiteracy, or rap music, or rock music in church, or conservative politicians, or even liberal politicians. He was inviting us to stand up against Rome and the leadership of Israel, which at the time were the physical instruments and in some cases the actual embodiments of what Walter Wink calls the Domination System, what the Bible calls Satan, what we in our culture might describe as Technological, Militaristic, Therapeutic, Consumerism (according to Walter Bruggeman).
Jesus was involved in high treason against the God of this world. The powers, principalities, the anthropomorphic descriptions of the collective spirits of our institutions such as families, places of worship, governments, and entertainments that have taken a life of their own and like a computer virus unleashed by a pimple-faced, too-smart-for-his-own-good-hacker, it has spiraled out of control and now threatens the very people that created it and are now subject to it. Like Germany was to Hitler.
One particular part I liked about Valkyrie, was that in the midst of trying to wrest power from Hitler, they almost succeeded. They had a grand plan which had fingers extended into every possible power structure of Germany and once unleashed, they were able to take power fairly easily and at one point, Tom Cruise asks a compatriot how a certain front is going and he responds positively, noting that “not one bullet was fired”. Ghandi was once asked if his non-violent political action would work against Hitler. He said he didn’t know until it was tried. And that is one of the single most repeated questions I am asked when I talk about non-violence. What about Hitler? Well, I think Valkyrie gave me a window into what is possible. If a few German officers were able to almost take control of Germany in a matter of hours, given less than a year to plan, what might have been possible for others who might have followed in their footsteps? Would Hitler have ever been deposed by anything less than a violent solution? Who knows? But I believe Jesus invites us to think harder about those kind of questions, because when Jesus asks if he can count us in, violence and war are large parts of what he is involved with treason against. Jesus refused to use the enemy’s means to fight for his ends.
In a world where might makes right (yes you mr. bullhorn in downtown Fort Worth, and you mr. sit back in washington and send my friends to Iraq, and lets not forget you mr. too-big-to-fail banker who screwed us all where it hurts with your business practices and when your business is heading towards bankruptcy the government gives you lots of dough which you keep to buy other banks and give large bonuses, and lastly you mr. gas-guzzler maker, who cries in their soup when america won’t buy their crappy cars anymore because the other countries can make them better, most cost effective, and export them cheaper than you can make them here, and then you ask for handouts from the taxpayers to bail you out, having flown in your freaking private jet to get there!), Jesus asks us to join him in high treason, not against people, but against the System.
Can we count you in?