War is the great inevitability in this world, populated as it is with sinful men. Jesus said that we are either for Him or against Him; there is no middle ground. Although many will desperately try to avoid taking sides in the wars that rage all around us, eventually a decision must be made. Neutrality is not an option.
This principle is exemplified well in Valkyrie, Bryan Singer’s recent film about the detailed and nearly successful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. The story revolves around Claus von Stauffenberg, a colonel in the German army who puts allegiance to Germany before allegiance to the Fuhrer. Singer seems to hint that Stauffenberg is a Christian by having him wear a cross around his neck and flashing religious iconography on the screen when he ultimately makes up his mind to participate in the coup. By doing this, Singer shows that he understands that it is a conflict between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. Stauffenberg (convincingly played by Tom Cruise) agrees to take Part 1n the plot when he realizes that Hitler not only posed a threat to Germany itself, but also to the rest of the world. His willingness to deliver a bomb to the Wolf’s Lair, where Hitler and his staff were discussing war strategy, was only part of the intricate plan, yet he did it knowing full well that he and his family would be executed if his treason was discovered. Stauffenberg counted the cost and decided it was worth the risk.
What makes Valkryie such an important movie is that it shows how much planning and coordination was necessary to pull off this act of subversion. The movie takes its name from the long-standing operation of the German war effort that would institute a contingency plan if Hitler was ever killed. The German army, and the SS in particular, were well aware that anarchy was a very real possibility if word got out that Hitler was dead; Operation Valkyrie was designed to prevent this from happening. The assassination plot — which was only one of fifteen directed against Hitler during his reign as Fuhrer — involved individuals at the highest levels of the military and the political realm of Germany. It was not simply an individual effort by one disgruntled colonel.
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Organized civil disobedience is not only an option; it is a command for the Christian who finds himself torn between serving God and serving man. The Old and New Testaments are quite clear on this in the examples of the Hebrew midwives, Rahab, Daniel, Peter and John, and many others. “When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:27-29). This is not to say that the Christian has a right to disobey any time he doesn’t like or agree with what men tell him he must do, but it does illustrate that the Christian has a higher authority. When Pilate told Jesus about his authority to have Him killed, Jesus replied: “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). The higher authority always has the last word.
The lesson of Valkryie is a valuable one because it effectively teaches what modern Christians are so loathe to learn: organization and calculation. As Gary North aptly puts it, “you can’t fight something with nothing.” And, I would be quick to add, “you can’t fight effectively without a plan of attack.” Christians have been watching their influence and authority drain out of modern society at a dizzying rate without so much as a peep of concern. Individual Christians are certainly doing their part and raising a fuss, but without an organized front, their abilities and success will be limited and isolated. Individuals are like shooting stars, they burn out quickly, but if a group gets together and coordinates its efforts — distributing its collective powers where they can most effective and strategic — individual effort becomes exponentially stronger.
Stauffenberg would have certainly failed were it not for the team of which he was an important and necessary component. He failed anyway, even with their support. Despite all of their planning and thoughtful execution, their goal was ultimately thwarted by a table leg. Had Stauffenberg been willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure that the plan was completed, rather than making a swift getaway, the result may have been a different one. How many of us, like Stauffenberg, will say we are willing to go to death for the cause of Christ, yet look for an escape when the time comes? As Christians, we are quick to complain and gripe about the world we see falling to pieces around us, but how many of us are actually willing to lay our lives down to see the plan through? Ironically, this is exactly what is required of us: “We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Article posted August 6, 2009