I saw Hacksaw Ridge this evening with a few good friends. I felt like we needed to have a small group discussion afterward, but a movie theater is an awkward place for that sort of thing, plus everyone needed to get home to get ready for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day festivities. I decided to settle for trying to put a few of my thoughts into words.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a movie based on the real life Private First Class Desmond Doss. Private Doss was a WWII Conscientious Objector (He termed himself a conscientious cooperator.) who nevertheless enlisted out his desire to serve his nation. He trained as an army medic. His religious faith, as well as a traumatic childhood, were the things that drove his moral resolve to never touch a weapon. In spite of ridicule and abuse for his faith, and his assumed cowardice, from his fellow soldiers and his commanders, he stuck it out. Eventually he saved the lives of many of those same fellow soldiers on the bloody battlefield of Hacksaw Ridge. Because of his tireless and courageous work over a few days, he was able to bring around 75 soldiers off the battlefield to safety. Because of this, those who originally thought of him as a coward now praised him as the bravest man they ever knew. Also, he became the only Conscientious Objector from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award.
First of all, the movie is very well done. It is directed by Mel Gibson. This story of a man doing his best to live out his faith in horrific circumstances, and with unimaginable opposition, is perfectly suited to his direction. I should say that if you get queasy at the sight of blood this movie may not be for you. However, I think the realistic depiction of war is what gives power to the difficult moral choice faced by PFC Doss.
Some have compared this movie to Saving Private Ryan, and certainly the scenes of wartime fighting are the most graphic I’ve seen since that great movie. This one might even take it a step further. But other than that, and the fact that they are both set in WWII, these movies are completely different.
Hacksaw Ridge does not leave you with the patriotic, heart-stirring feelings of Saving Private Ryan. It challenged me on a much deeper level. I came away asking questions about my own faith. What do I believe? To what degree will I be willing to live by those beliefs in the face of opposition? Am I willing to reach out in love, to those who have opposed me, regardless of whether they agree with me? Even if it could cost me my life?
To me, this movie speaks directly to 21st century Christians. Ok, maybe not directly, but we shouldn’t miss it. Those of us who believe the Bible, and do our best, however faltering that may be, to live out a biblical ethic in every area of our lives, are very much in the minority. Not only that, we are often viewed with suspicion. Our morality is increasingly seen as antiquated and silly, or at times, downright hateful and dangerous.
Can we change their minds about this? Maybe.
But it won’t be done with our words, our moral outrage, or even our flawless logic.
It will only be done when, like Desmond Doss, we pray, “Lord, help me get one more.”
Then we lay down our lives for them.
Interestingly, that’s exactly what Jesus told us to do, anyway.
I don’t know if this was the main point of the movie or not, but it’s what I came away thinking about.