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?

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0 thoughts on “Treason

  1. Paul

    Chad I appreciate your words here. I try to speak out on the idea of being kingdom citizens instead of American patriots and it never goes over well. People are offended and put off by this message and I think it’s unfortunate because they’re putting their trust in a human institution that is destined to fail. Keep preaching bold words of love.

    1. Optimistic Chad Post author

      Thanks, Paul! Here in Texas, you can imagine how preaching that seems “unpatriotic” is not accepted well at all. Still, we use whatever little influence we have to change hearts incrementally.

  2. Rod of Alexandria


    You know what, you are unpatriotic! But I guess that would make me unpatriotic as well, huh?

    I cannot stand the Hitler question, but I did try to answer it in my 3 part series responding to N T Wright and his bogus just war/expanded U.N. claims. It was entitled “The Gift of Meekness.”

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  5. Justin Tiemeyer

    I like the idea that, like in the situation of non-violent responses to violence and also in your posts regarding cracking down on living a better life, Jesus calls us to think, to be critical and to be intentional about our actions. It is interesting that this thinking and criticism is often absent in “reacting against the moral decay of western civilization, [rebelling] 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” and radically places one in opposition to “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).”

    Many would agree that we are to join Jesus in battling Satan. But whereas the many would take the “battle” metaphor from its figurative meaning into a literal meaning, perhaps we ought to understand joining Jesus as engaging in critical analysis, battling as non-violence produced by this critical analysis, and Satan as none other than the various gods (patriotism, consumerism, militarism, etc.) that get in the way of respecting God and those beings created in God’s image.

    As for the patriotic versus unpatriotic discussion, I think both of you (Chad and Rodney) are incredibly patriotic, at least by my loose understanding. Though we can doubt the intentions of the founders of this nation, I think it is hard to doubt the America that people dreamed of as they suffered and died crossing the ocean, and the America that they hoped could come about when they were struggling and suffering in ghettos and even occasionally in more open communities. There is a dream of America in the heart of those who suffer, and I think that your protest against the powers that quell this dream is patriotism. Of course, I don’t see this patriotism as being separate from the message of scripture. How do we serve God? We serve those who were made in God’s image (and other things…). How do we serve America? We serve those people who dream of a better world but who cannot see it.

    Great post!

    1. Rod of Alexandria

      “I think both of you (Chad and Rodney) are incredibly patriotic, at least by my loose understanding.”

      Why Thank you Justin!

      We are still waiting to see amanda’s political views, she is Canadian, which means she is already suspect! oh! oh!

  6. Optimistic Chad Post author

    Admittedly, the received understanding of “patriotism” leaves me very outside the red-white-and-blue-blood club. However, I will cop to being a patriot, if and only if, we redefine patriotism as really having an affinity for the country of your birth, in a way that can recognize the inherent goodness of all other places of birth, and brings diversity to the table while working for the good of the world, not one’s own land. Like bringing America as a dish to a world potluck. Everybody wins. Unless you don’t like the taste of America. In which case, we have Turkey. Timing is everything, thank you folks.


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