The Great Dictator
It was an ambitious and brave film, because at the time it was announced in 1938, The United States had a non-interventionist policy in Europe. There was a lot of anti-Semitism in the United States and also a lot of people with German background.
The British said they would ban the film because they were in 1938 still trying to appease Hitler.
By the end of the war, the world saw how evil and disgusting Hitler’s treatment of the Jews and others were and it was way beyond making fun.
…it was a very personal political statement he wanted to make about the nature of dictators.
Dictators represent that they have all the answers and they are going to make the country great again. Dictators say they will fix the economy and will wipe out the enemies and promise a promise land.
They often emerge after time of catastrophe, such as war or economic crisis. They often are good speakers, confident and charismatic.
They offer great rewards and promises and often tell people what they want to hear, but actually offer little substance.
They frequently will blame or scapegoat others, or minorities, or other countries and often use fear tactics to say that if you do not support the dictator, the others (ie. the minorities, the terrorists, the other countries, the criminals… whoever) will destroy them.
They look for loyalty and look to create followers and initially pander to the needs and wants of these followers and often try to whip up hate and outrage of the followers towards the target group that is considered the enemy.
However once in power, they brook no opposition, steamroll over opposition, make the decisions unilaterally, impose their will, use violence and exclusion and suppress free speech and use other nefarious tactics and all for their own glory and seldom for the common good.
And one day you will cry to be released from the slavery of the king.
Maybe the most important story in the whole Old Testament is the story of the Exodus. It is the story of the Jews who were enslaved in Egypt with the Pharaoh a hard taskmaster. The Pharaoh even went so far as to order the baby boys killed.
And then along comes a saviour in the form of Moses. Really the Saviour is God, and Moses is his human instrument, and there is a series of plagues and then the night of the Passover, where supposedly an angel of death kills all the firstborn of the Egyptians and spares the Jewish children, and the Pharaoh in grief lets his own son go.
In Luke’s gospel Jesus reads Isaiah and says that he is the fulfillment of the scripture and I quote:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me: He has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to captives, sight to the blind, to let the broken victims go free, to announce a year of favor from the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
We all have our Egypts and our Pharaohs that constrain us or enslave us.
For some it could be an addiction. For some it could be an abusive family situation.
For other it is lack of economic opportunity and/or decent work, that enslaves them in poverty.
Some people live where there are dictators and there is oppression, propaganda instead of free speech and severe violence and punishment for the slightest infringement of the rules and sometimes the rules are crazy.
He was arrested. He admitted it in tears and begged for forgiveness and was given 15 years hard labour as a punishment.
17 months later he was shipped back to the United States under mysterious circumstances in a vegetative state where he died a week later.
But when they came back from seeing “The Prince of Egypt” they said they hated it.
And if you don’t think this squares with the gospel of Jesus, you are right. There is a disconnect with the one who said: “Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not.” And the Passover
There is a disconnect from the one who ask for forgiveness for the ones who kill him and the Passover.
There is a disconnect from the one who practices and preaches non-violence to the story of the tenth plague and the Passover.
God is love.
We know about suffering in this world. Famine in Horn of Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea.
Children and civilians will always be collateral damage in war and conflict.
Some churches have enough trouble getting along with each other and being reconciled to each other, never mind being reconciled to North Korea and Iraq and Syria and Myanmar.
At first people think he would destroy the whole world, and then they think he burns cities that are bad like Sodom and Gomorrah, and then people think he destroys enemies, and punishes people for doing bad things, and then the book of Job wrestles with the issue and points out that bad things can happen to good people and God doesn’t cause the bad stuff.
But we do not really fully understand God until we see Jesus. And in Jesus we see the universal love and forgiveness of God. In God there is no darkness at all.
God has decided to work through ordinary humans like us. It is time for us to wake up and clothe ourselves with the love of Christ and work together and proclaim a vision not only of peace and love, but of equality and justice.
The Jewish Barber gets up to make a speech.
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within you” – not one person nor a group of people, but in all people! In you! You, the people have the power – The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give people a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!
It is the way to stand against hurricanes and floods and evils and injustice and even dictators
It is to love all our brothers and sisters and unite together working towards equality, peace, justice, compassion and service, for when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ, that is the name of love, there Christ is in the midst of them.