What is the Difference Between Dictatorship and Christianity? Where would you draw the line? What would you do if everyone you knew decided to become part of a cult that commits crimes and continually tows the line of morality? This is the question that the German film “Die Welle” (the wave) deals with.

The film depicts a teacher who, after being unable to choose the subject that he wanted to teach for the week, decided to show his students how it feels to be in a dictatorship, which is the subject that he ended up having to teach. The first day of the week, they start off with the question: “would a dictatorship, like the one that Germany had during World War II, still be possible in Germany today?” The characters get a clear answer on the last day of the week, but the audience likely understood by the third day. The answer is yes.

As they go further down the rabbit hole, they do more and more drastic things, from vandalism to finally being ready to kill someone at the end because he disagrees with them.

This film shows the way that people can get caught up in their identity as a group. They neglect their own individual identities and focus on the unity brought to them by a common leader, the teacher.

This is why it is important for each and every member of the human race to be individuals, that we not have the mindset that either we all rise or we all fall together. If we have that mindset, then we will surely all fall, in at least the spiritual sense, because, despite what some may say, one person cannot drag another to heaven. With good and pure influences, a person could eventually be persuaded to walk the path of the just, but, like most things, it is easier to destroy a soul than to rebuild one.

None of this is to say that community is not important, but community comes from a genuine love for God and one’s neighbor. A dictator might care about his or her subjects, but it is less of a selfless, sacrificial type of caring and more of a caring that is selfish. If a dictator’s people thrive, then the dictator himself thrives. He is not giving of himself. In fact, many, if not all, dictators expect things from their people. And in return, they give the people the satisfaction of knowing that they are on the right path and that those who disagree with them are wrong. That is everyone’s dream, is it not?

Contrast this selfish, self-aggrandizing leadership with Holy Mother Church’s perspective.  People talk about the Church’s hierarchy is problematic, yet the Church’s structure is based upon service.  We are all to be servants of those in our care and obey the legitimate authorities in our lives.  The Pope is Christ’s bishop and therefore is responsible for assisting to steward the souls of a billion Catholics.  What an awe-inspiring responsibility.  Not one that a person should sign up for lightly.  To serve his flock, he must be their shepherd, giving up even his life for them if called to do so.  This is the opposite of dictatorial leadership.

All anyone wants is to be confirmed to be right and correct in all things. And when one offers the people what they want, they have nothing else to do but follow… Unless they are authentically Christian, attempting to live out the teachings of Jesus.

Die Welle, or The Wave, like most films, depicts a world without God. And so the characters behave like people who do not believe in God.

I am in no way saying that people who do believe in God are not able to succumb to the same temptations as those who do not. I am saying that faith is supposed to have the characteristic of being transformative. Consciously giving yourself over to God changes a person, or it should.  In the Church, we have indicators that faith is manifesting itself:  the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the regular reception of the Sacraments, and daily prayer with an examination of conscience. Each person then behaves accordingly.