Friday, January 09, 2009


"Our God is slow to anger, yet great in power. The Lord never leaves the guilty unpunished." Nahum 1:3

In the end, history (and Hollywood) seems to have vindicated the righteous. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the resistance to Adolf Hitler during World War II, was executed for his plot to overthrow the Fuhrer.

But 63 years later, in the movie Valkyrie, Stauffenberg (portrayed by Tom Cruise) seems to finally be given overdue credit for his efforts to bring Germany out from under the brutal regime of the Nazi Party.

In the discussions about war and pacifism, and when resistance goes too far, this movie will give people much to talk about. Theologians and Christian leaders have debated these notions for centuries, and still today we wonder what is the ideal response to hatred, violence, and evil acts.

In Valkyrie, Stauffenberg believes the only way to deal with Hitler is to kill him. Is he right or wrong? Regardless of how history turned out, how is a Christian to look at this situation?

These are the questions I wrestle with myself in the wake of seeing this movie. At first, I am there with Tom Cruise's character, rooting him on to succeed in the assassination attempt. But then I wonder if there could have been alternatives to this plan that did not involve murder.

In the history behind the Hebrew Scriptures, we come to learn that the Assyrian Empire of the Seventh Century B.C.E. was very similar to Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s. The Assyrians believed in expanding their control over the known world of that time, even if it involved killing or torturing anyone that got in their way. The prophet Nahum was sent to prophesy against them for their horrors:

"Woe to the bloody city, all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops... I will come against you and I will strip your power from you. I will show your nakedness to the nations, to the kingdoms I will show your shame." (Nahum 3:1,5).

But God did not tell the Jewish people to revolt against them (in fact, when they did, they were themselves destoyed). Instead, it was God's place to level the playing field: "Our God is slow to anger, yet great in power. The Lord never leaves the guilty unpunished" (Nahum 1:3). The people were to trust in their God to bring about justice.

(and for Colonel Stauffenberg, I suppose history is on his side since Hitler was severely punished in the minds and consciences of the generations after him and probably for many generations yet to come; God has not left the guilty unpunished, so it seems)

That does not mean that we are to stand idly by while injustice occurs.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells the followers of Christ to "put on the armor of God that you may be able to resist evil on the last days and hold your ground" (Eph. 6:13). But we must resist with compassion befitting a Christian, as Jesus told us also to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt. 5:44).

In my understanding of the gospel, it seems that the dialogue between pacificism and just resistance needs to continue. It's never a cut-and-dry issue. A well-made movie like Valkyrie is a great way to start that conversation. Let us pray that, through such discernment, we might find the will of God so that we can do our part to resist what is evil in our world in the most Christian way possible.

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