Last night my family went to a fun, family event in Bozeman: a movie night on the jumbo-tron at the MSU football stadium. We laid out blankets and chairs, and sat on the field with a thousand other people, eating popcorn and watching the new kids’ movie, Ferdinand. What a great night!
Now, for those of you who haven’t read the children’s book or watched the movie, I’m about to spoil some of the plot. Essentially, the movie is about a massive bull who would rather smell flowers and roll in the grass than be a world-renowned star in the bullfighting ring. Ferdinand doesn’t have a violent bone in his body, but is constantly hounded and harassed about his need to fight. He’s relentlessly mocked for his weakness and cowardice—for being ‘soft.’ To exist in his world is to fight. That’s just the way things are. If you don’t leave the ranch in a trailer heading for the glory of the ring, you eventually leave in a trailer heading to the meat-packing plant. There’s only those options: kill or be killed.
The Empire is everywhere. It mocks weakness and tempts us toward violence. It sells the false narrative that violence, power, and control are normal. It hypnotizes us into believing its lie of ‘might makes right’; tricks us into thinking there is only one way to the top.
But Ferdinand doesn’t buy the lie. He is never persuaded to violence. When he’s paraded into the ring of death, to kill or be killed, he constantly and insistently chooses peace over violence. And even when the matador has finally cornered Ferdinand—the unwilling participant in this imperial sport of violence and death—the mighty bull plops onto his haunches and refuses to fight back.
And the beauty of Ferdinand’s non-violent resistance to the violence and evil of the empire was that he won over the crowd, who insisted on his life being spared. Peace had conquered violence; death had been defeated.
Ferdinand is Jesus. I proudly worship a non-violent savior—who refused to fight back amidst mockery, suffering, and death—and in doing so, exposed the impotency and cowardice of the empire and made a way for death to be defeated and a new life-giving way to emerge. And Jesus invites us into this same way of creative, prayerful, non-violent resistance to the status-quo of the empire—the quest for money, power, and self-gratification. We are called to lay down our swords, absorb the violent barbs of the empire, and reveal to the world a new way of peace and love.
I know it’s just a movie, but may we have the courage of Ferdinand—to stand up to the powers and ways of the world that directly oppose the way of Jesus. May we be strong enough to be weak; brave enough to be peaceful; heroic enough to step out of the false-binary of ‘fight or flight’ and find a new Jesus-centered third way to engage with the world.