The Killing Fields – Power Corrupts

Theme:Power destroys, humility brings life
Biblerefs: Daniel 3 vv 1-7 and vv 19-22; John 13 vv 13-17; Luke 23 vv 1-12
Location of clip: 1 hour 25 mins to 1 hour 31 mins

Film Description:

On17th April 1975 the Khmer Rouge marched into the Cambodian capitalof Phnom Penh and took control of the country. At first they were hailed asconquering heroes but it soon became clear that they were murderous,bloodthirsty tyrants. Intent on returning the population to a life ofpeasantry, they slaughtered teachers, doctors, nurses, architects – anyone whowas educated.  For the next four yearsthey held a vice like grip on the land and forced everyone to undergo re education.1975 was labelled year zero and the past was abolished. Everyone lived in workcamps, labouring in the fields and existing on starvation rations. It was adisastrous time. Two million died. This film tells some of that story, as seenthrough the eyes of two journalists, American Sydney Shanberg, and hisCambodian friend Dith Pran. When the country fell Shanberg was able to escape,but Pran stayed, and lived through years of hell at the hands of the KhmerRouge.

Clip description:

DithPran now lives in a labour camp in the forest. His days are filled with longhours of work, and in the evenings he attends the re education classes. Heexplains how the Party indoctrinates everyone, and that they now live under theall-powerful Angka. Angka is all that matters now. The people must not thinkabout life before the revolution. God is dead and now the Party will provideall they need. There are enemies everywhere and they can trust no one. Theymust only love Angka, they must only think of the Party. Although people starvethey must not grow food. They are indoctrinated all the time. They must have nopast. There is only year zero. Dith must show no understanding, no emotion, nointelligent thinking. He must pretend he is just a lowly peasant worker. Callsare often given out for teachers, students, professors – anyone who is educated– to come forward. But when they do they are never seen again.


Mostcorrupt regimes turn in on themselves and collapse – but only after inflictingappalling suffering on countless innocent people. The Bible tells the storiesof many such regimes and the madmen who ruled them. Like Pharaoh who murderedall the children when Moses was born, and Herod who did the same when Jesus wasborn. Nebuchadnezzar with his gold statue, and Eglon, the Moabite who gorgedhimself on the goodness of Israel. Madmen who bring only selfishness andsuffering.
Shadrach,Meshach and Abednego lived under a tyrant like this. Nebuchadnezzar was soincensed at their refusal to bow down to his inflated gold statue that hehurled them into a fire so hot it burnt up some of his best men. Fortunatelyfor him he repented when he saw the power of God at work.
Daniellived under several such manic and mad dictators.
Hefound a way to walk a fine line between compromise and courage. He didn’t juststand up and say: “You’re a dictator and I’ll only serve God.”
Ifhe had he would have been killed instantly and we’d have no book of Daniel.
Jesus was born under the reign of the corrupt Herod the great. he was already dying and slowly going insane – mad enough to punish Bethlehem by ordering the murder of all the male children there. Nick Page suggests that Bethlehem was the first community to be persecuted for welcoming Jesus in their midst.
Jesusencouraged his followers to pursue a life of service. He talked about the wayearthly leaders dominate their people and urged his disciples to follow adifferent kind of leadership, leadership that set the good of the people abovepersonal gain.
Corruptdictatorships frequently lie to themselves, talking about the good of thenation while actually merely pleasing the people in power. This was certainlythe case in Cambodia, between ’75 and ‘78.
Beingin control is a precarious thing. Paul informed us that leaders and preacherscarry a lot of responsibility, so they should be very careful. This makes metremble in my trainers. Don’t judge me by what I do – judge me by what I write.It’s a lot nicer!


1.         Duringhis forty days in the wilderness Jesus had to wrestle with the temptation to havea ministry of power rather than service. In the end he battled through. Whatabout you? Do you have to wrestle with the temptation to lord it over others?
2.         Jesus’sministry quite clearly demonstrates that God is not a control freak. Yet manycome in his name who quite clearly are. A friend once said to me, “Scratch aChristian and you find a control freak underneath.” What do you think aboutthis?
3.         Manyin the world still suffer under corrupt regimes. Is there anything we can doabout this?
4.         Do you vote? Should Christians be moreinvolved in politics?
5.         Did the clip make you think about anything else?

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