Last week, I watched “The Great Dictator,” a film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin. Well-known for his silent films, the comic actor speaks for the first time in this political satire revolving around World War II. Chaplin plays the 2 main characters, an unnamed Jewish barber and a dictator named Hynkel, a parody Hitler. The humble barber stands up to Hynkel’s injustice and becomes a wanted man. Throughout the movie we see the contrast in personalities between the characters who look alike. [Spoiler alert:] Eventually, towards the end of the movie, the 2 men are mistaken for each other: the dictator ends up in jail while the barber finds himself having to give a speech to the warring nation. The barber reluctantly goes up to the microphone, and starts off by saying that he doesn’t want to rule over anyone, he just wants to help everyone. Suddenly, before he knows it, he goes into a powerful address about the state of humanity due to the hardness of hearts and the thirst for power that leads to hate, and how meaningful life becomes when it is lived for others. I think that the whole movie was made just for that one scene decrying machine hearts and minds—its a scene thats viral on YouTube or Facebook because it rings true to this day. It was recently mentioned by rapper Mos Def in an interview.
Obviously, the message from “The Great Dictator” is especially relevant today in light of recent violence all over the world, in Lebanon, France, Kenya, and Nigeria, not to mention Iraq and Syria. “ISIS” and Boko Haram persecute and murder human beings, distorting religion and dehumanizing themselves in the process. People persecute and destroy their own brothers and sisters, because their machine hearts and minds fail to see human dignity. They are all tyrants who seek to dominate and subjugate, like the imitation Nazis in “The Great Dictator.” They need to regain their long-lost humanity by replacing their brutality and hatred with kindness and love. And we shouldn’t think that we don’t need to change ourselves— the barber’s admonition is for all of us. Every last one of us must be the change that we wish to see in the world. We need to look out for one another and strive to make the world a better place in which to live. The transformation of society begins when love rules hearts. That is the only power that should dominate our lives. That brings me to the point of this post.
This past Sunday was the Solemnity of Christ the King. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world— he is a king unlike the kings and rulers of this earth. His kingship is one of love and mercy. Jesus Christ laid aside his heavenly crown and took upon a crown of thorns, he stepped down from his celestial throne and ascended the throne of the cross. Kings don’t usually love their subjects with a self sacrificial love. Jesus Christ is a king who serves, who lays his life down freely so that his people can be free, truly free every sense of the word. His dominion is not one of domination and subjugation. He doesn’t take our free will away or force us to serve him. If we choose to serve this King, our lives will change. He is the King of hearts and he wishes to reign in hearts. And if the Prince of Peace, the very source of love is enthroned in hearts, they would no longer be machine hearts, hearts of violence and hate.The more hearts that allow him to reign within, the more society itself changes, the more love reigns over society. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is what this world needs now more than ever before. “Thy Kingdom come!”