Again, I'm settled into a living room at a friends house, some wine has been poured, and Che Part One: The Argentine begins to play. Many years have passed since I had last seen Che in film. Then, the film had ended with him deciding that he would not continue on his journey with Alberto. His heart had been changed at the sight of injustice throughout South America, as the indigenous and the peasantry were exploited by the empires of colonialism, and the rich, corrupt landowners in each country. It seemed that borders did not isolate the problem within certain nations. This film begins in conversation with a young Fidel Castro about the need to overthrow Batista in Cuba.
There will be critics in hindsight who will say that the regime that the Castro Brothers and Guevera ushered in has oppressed the island of Cuba, and I think that argument is for another conversation. In this conversation, the oppressiveness of the American empire on a island nation at that time is fair game. When the richest nation in the world is getting richer on your behalf, and your poor descend into new levels of poverty, something should change. It was in this climate that Che steps into his revolutionary shoes, seeking to right an injustice.
While working with revolutionary forces, there's are many scenes in which Che offers those who have tagged along the opportunity to leave, go home, and not be involved with the armed conflict. He says they will have to live with the shame of not fighting for their own sovereignty, but that there will be no consequence otherwise. Many break ranks and return home to their families and livelihoods. Each time as they live, he declares that while some leave now, others will feel compelled to join and fill their vacancy. Not just that, but their community of revolutionaries will grow.
If you read this blog lately, you might notice the scripture that was jumping into my head while these scenes were taking place. The parable of the great dinner kept coming to mind as some reject the initial invitation to join the rebels and liberate the island. They had said yes, and now said no. Such were the guests who the master invited. They were once "Yes"s and when the slave was sent to get them, they were "No"s. So others were compelled and brought in by the slave, and those originally invited were unable to share in the great feast that was prepared. Likewise, I'm sure the people who left were unable to share in the victory of the revolutionaries, whereas the new recruits - those compelled by a cause to join - could celebrate freely.
Che... What's the deal? You're living out these kingdom of God parables, and showing the consequence of invitation and rejection. You're closer to portraying it than most of the church is.
We (the church) rarely invite people to something good, like sharing table in the kingdom of God; what's more is how often we come up with excuses to reject the invitation to be with Jesus:
"Sorry, I can't come. I know I said yes, but it's past dark, on the other side of town, and I don't like riding the TTC"
"Sure I said I would support the church, but with Christmas shopping and credit card debt, I don't think I can do it anymore."
"You're right. I did say I would be hospitable and welcoming to those out-of-towners, but midterms are kicking my butt, and I can't afford to host a meal when the biggest test is next week."
"My partner and I don't get much time together, so Sunday mornings is our date time at Starbucks - a cup of coffee while we both read the paper."
Do we actually believe that the kingdom of God is good? Would we be willing to invite someone else to try it out? Is it good enough to sacrifice our time, money, energy, etc., to just show up and see what the "big meal" is going to be like?
Sure Che is involved in the killing of many people (change through violence) - something that is truly inconsistent with the peaceful teachings of God's kingdom; but he truly believes that he's inviting people to something that is good for him, good for them, and good for others off the island. That's more than many can say.
Again, the enigma that is Che and the kingdom.