The number of people identifying as having 'no religion' is rising....
Amazon's new series has received rave reviews. In this spoiler-free review, Kevin Bennett looks at what lessons Christians can take away from The Man In The High Castle
It's 1964. Adolf Hitler and the Greater Nazi Reich have conquered much of the world. Having been nuked into surrender, America has been partitioned between the Japanese Empire on the West coast and the Nazis on the East. With the allies defeated, the Jewish race has been all but exterminated.
This is the intriguing premise for The Man in the High Castle - the new 10 part drama series available exclusively on Amazon Prime.
The series is incredibly gripping, if somewhat confusing. Matters of faith are woven throughout the storyline and it's clear that the Christian faith has been suppressed by both the Nazis and the Japanese. The selling of a Bible is considered controversial and the Church appears to have been turned over to Shinto.
Responding to occupation
One of the most interesting aspects of the series is watching the three very different ways that the characters respond to the occupation. We would like to believe that in such circumstances everyone would valiantly rebel and subvert the tyrannical state around them. The truth is sadly much more prosaic. Most people just get on with their lives. They might begrudge their oppressors, but providing for their families and trying to stay out of trouble are the concerns of most people.
Not everyone behaves this way and we have two groups at either extremes. On the one hand we see the collaborators - people who enthusiastically embrace their new masters and seek to both serve them and find power for themselves in the new order. At the opposite end is the resistance. These people are working covertly, and sometimes violently, to try to disrupt and overthrow their occupiers.
The Bible tells us that our world is also under occupation. We are under the occupation of sin, death and the Devil. We don't have to look far to see this reality - just reading the news each day continually brings the point home. The Bible also talks about an opposing force - the kingdom of God - with the Church being the vehicle through which this kingdom advances.
As Christians we, like those in The Man In The High Castle, have three choices. Will we be part of the majority of the population who just keeps their heads down and gets on with life as normal? Will we be a collaborator - a person who enthusiastically embraces the world as it is? Or will we be a resistance fighter?
We are called to be part of a resistance movement called the Church. Our goal is to disrupt and push back the 'dominion of darkness' (Col 1:13). We are not to do this with bombs and bullets but by living truly radical lives; loving our neighbour, challenging injustice, proclaiming truth and seeking holiness. If we're honest, we can all see the collaborator and compromiser in ourselves. We must instead see ourselves as resistant fighters in a spiritual battle.
A prophetic voice
The core of the plot revolves around the discovery of films that are causing both the Nazis and the Japanese to worry. In the style of newsreels they seem to show a reality where the Allies won World War 2. Are these films just clever propaganda? Or are they in some way truly showing an alternative world? Whatever the answer, almost everyone who watches these films sees the world differently afterwards. They begin to believe that change is possible and start to act on that belief (which is why the authorities are doing everything they can to suppress them).
The films contain a kind of prophetic power because they show an alternative world. As Christians we too are called to provide a prophetic voice to the world. Our acts of prophesy have the power to open people's eyes in ways mere human words cannot. Jesus' words to the woman at the well in John 4 is a perfect example of this. When Jesus tells this woman 'everything she ever did', the woman is amazed and then believes in him as the Messiah.
Are you being a prophetic voice in the lives of those around you and in your community? Prophesy can take many forms, it may be speaking out against injustice or it may include saying things that could only be known by supernatural means. In either case my favourite definition of true prophesy is 'the act of speaking God's words after Him'. The Bible tells us to seek prophesy above all the other spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). We must all seek this gift by first, listening to God more closely. Secondly, when we hear something for us to share we must boldly be that prophetic voice.
If we do, I believe the people around will start to see the world differently. We must also remember our role as resistance fighters in a spiritual battle against the sin and death that we see around us. If we can do these two things then maybe box-setting Man in the High Castle for 10 hours will be time well spent.
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