There are plenty of obvious messages to avoid in the world. Instinctively, Christians can hear a song, see a movie, read an article, or hear words of clear deception and discern what their intentions are. The biggest challenge that we’re faced with is in dealing with the less-obvious messages, the ones that sound good to our flawed human minds but that hide within them dangerous messages that can send us down the wrong path.
This is a topic that we will cover in great depth over the next few weeks, but I wanted to give you a little taste with this example of a “beautiful and stunning” message that has been called by many the greatest speech ever given in a movie. It’s from the 1940 film The Great Dictator where Charlie Chaplin plays a poor Jewish barber who looks just like a particular infamous ruler at the time dubbed “Adenoid Hynkel”. The final speech is moving. It has some great messages. It even mentions a Bible verse. The challenge is that Hollywood (as it often does) dramatizes a wholly non-Christian and non-Biblical view.
That’s the power of deceptions veiled in some truths and wrapped in the dramatic fashion that only politicians, religious leaders, and Hollywood actors can deliver. They start saying one thing, then shift it ever so slightly to turn the message negative without anyone even noticing. Deceptions that come in this fashion are much more dangerous than the obvious attempts to shake your Christian beliefs. As you’ll see and hear when you watch the video below, the concepts are not evil. They are simply misleading.
There are three parts to this video. In the beginning, the tone is solemn. It is the unifying portion of the speech. Using universal “perfect world” ideas against hate and promoting unity, it establishes in the first two minutes that he is speaking truths we all want to believe in and embrace.
The second part is when he breaks away from the camera and talks to the military audience in front of him. The tone instantly becomes angry and he starts giving instructions to the soldiers and condemnations of the leaders. This is a short but important portion because by giving instructions to others, we are able to “take a break”. He isn’t talking to us. The truths are still mostly universal and agreeable but we are bystanders to a series of orders. It’s an absolutely perfect setup for the pitch that’s about to come.
In a stark shift, one that is intentionally unnatural, he shifts at the 2:31 mark to talk directly to us for the third part of the speech. This is the pitch. By now, most who watch this will be hooked to the point that the message will be able to strike home. His pace quickens. His demeanor goes from angry to passionate, urgent, and righteous. He loosely invokes a portion of Luke 17:21. Then, the real message of the speech is delivered.
“You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, 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 men 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 their promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
“Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
Pretty clever, right? The message is this: since the kingdom of heaven is in you, it is you that has the power to create happiness, to fight for a new world, to do away with national barriers, to fight for a world of reason where science and progress lead to happiness. Most importantly, he mentions “by the promise of these things” and “they do not fulfill their promises,” a subtle but powerful rebuke of promises from authority. To many, this all sounds like a positive thing. Unfortunately, it all leads down a dark path.
Here is what Luke 17:20-21 actually say according to the Complete Jewish Bible:
The P’rushim asked Yeshua when the Kingdom of God would come. “The Kingdom of God,” he answered, “does not come with visible signs;nor will people be able to say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘Over there!’ Because, you see, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
Yeshua wasn’t saying that we have the power to create happiness or that we should rely on science and progress. Still, the message was delivered that way, working a deception into our consciousness by hiding behind a veil of truth and showcasing it all through passion.
Be mindful of messages that are intended to take you down the wrong path. Refer to the Bible often. Pray for guidance when there is any doubt at all.
Below are two variations of the same speech. The first is the raw footage from the movie that is unfortunately accompanied by music added after the fact. It’s very nice music – “Time” by Hans Zimmer – but I would have preferred just the speech itself. The second is a compilation of the speech with modern images worked in. I include this one to demonstrate that the power of technology has helped to enhance messages and can make them even more compelling than the words alone. Again, not all of the ideas in the speech nor the compilation video are bad. If they were, the speech would not be nearly as effective because people would see if more clearly for what it is. By mixing lies with truths, the recipe for the most dangerous deceptions is invoked. Be aware.