‘The Refusal,’ Franz Jagerstatter’s Martyrdom

The Refusal is the first film made on Franz Jaggerstatter. It was shown simultaneously in Austria and Germany in 1972 and again in 1975. It generated a storm of conflicted passions and viewpoints in both countries at the time. Artistically, it differs from the recent wonderful movie on Franz, A Hidden Life. It is in black and white and runs only134 minutes as opposed to three hours. The photos of the people and the surroundings seem closer to Franz’s moments in time. Almost every word Franz speaks is directly from his letters  and small personal reflections, none of which were ever intended to be public documents. Gordan Zahn, who discovered Franz in a footnote while researching on a Fulbright Fellowship German Catholics involvement in Hitler’s war and authored the original book about him, In Solitary Witness, co-authored the screenplay with Helmut Andics. Like A Hidden Life, it unambiguously reveals the Austrian Catholic Church as a significant contributor to the cross on which Franz was crucified, as well as, the institution that gave him the foundation for his moral and spiritual life and decision to listen to and follow the Word of God.

That Franz is even known is a miracle in itself. While here and there his witness has impacted a person, it has made little operational and incarnational difference in the  Catholic Church or in any of the mainline Churches of Christianity. On October 26, 2007, he was officially Beatified a martyr by the Catholic Church, but that is no more than, to use Jesus’ own words, “building tombs to the prophets that your fathers have killed.” I suppose this was a fitting and right ecclesial tribute, but it is light years from the repentance to which  the Word of God calls all Churches through the life and death of  Franz Jaggerstatter.

Since Franz became known in the mid-1960s Catholics and Christians from North America and Europe have unjustly killed millions of people as part of military operations in foreign lands with  the blessing and backing of their Churches and Church leaders. And, there is not a sign on the horizon that Catholic and Christian Churches and their leaders have any intentions of responding any differently than the Catholic and Christian did who surrounded Franz Jagerstatter in his day.

If you have seen,The Refusal, before it is well worth viewing periodically. If you have not seen it, do take the time to watch it. There is a possibility, maybe a probability, that today or tomorrow you may see a train speeding down a mountain into hell on which everyone is enthusiastically jumping, and the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ, will say to you, “Do not get on that train!” Then, an iron hand, human or AI, will offer you a ticket for that train and insists you take it and drink the refreshing KOOL AID that awaits you on the train—or else!

You are alone. Your Church and Church leader are already aboard the train. Do you refuse and obey the Word of God? Or, do you accept the ticket? Has such a choice already been placed before you? Have you refused or taken the ticket? If you have taken the ticket the Word of God is calling to you to “Jump off! Come back to mebefore the train reaches its destination!” Franz got on the train twice and jumped off twice before the train arrived at its final stop. “Jumping off,” repentance, change of mind is a good, holy loving and saving act. Going along for the ride while drinking the KOOL-AID is not.

Do take a gander or two or three at The Refusal. It may come in handy for hearing the Word Of God, Jesus, today or tomorrow.

The Refusal:

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