I don’t see a lot of movies at the theater.
But when I do, I want to see something that fully leverages the big screen. That meant Hacksaw Ridge for a date night with Lib this past weekend. When we watch Netflix, she often gets her way with love stories. But when we go to the theater, I tend to get my way with action. As it turns out, on this evening we both won (despite having more than Lib’s preference for blood and guts). Mel’s Gibson’s new movie Hacksaw Ridge is an entertaining, moving and enlightening piece of work.
Part of me wanted to go to the movie just to support Mel Gibson. He was in a tough way a few years ago with alcohol problems, muttering anti-semitic statements and other bad behavior. While not good nor godly moves, at the time I felt that the culture police were taking great glee in the fall of a man who created “The Passion of the Christ.” (He has since apologized for his behavior and says it was in part due to his alcoholism.) Yet for many elites this isn’t good enough. As American culture sprints away from her roots in a Judeo-Christian worldview, our society knows increasingly little about giving grace and second chances. This is a shame because not only do we all need a second chance eventually, but the very character of God mandates we give it.
I went hoping to see a good war movie and to support the notion of a second chance. I received that and much more through an incredibly moving 2 hours and 18 minutes. Holy schnikies! I was unprepared for the transcendent theme of this movie that makes it a must-see for every man and woman in our country. My eyes were moist on numerous occasions.
Whatever motivates Gibson, the staunch Roman Catholic, to make redemptive movies, he put it on display with the true story of the first Medal of Honor winner in American history who never picked up a gun. Desmond Doss was a conscientious objector who went into battle to save lives rather than take them.
Reading the Medal of Honor citation of WW2 veteran Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss is a moving experience in and of itself. We all know that Hollywood doesn’t portray reality. “Based on a true story” often means something like “some guy had the same name and also liked to drive cars.” Yet what Gibson portrays of Doss’ heroism on Hacksaw Ridge during the Okinawa campaign is dead-on.
What made this movie so moving for me isn’t just that Doss is a Christ figure who goes into battle to save wounded people left for dead. That’s what we all are spiritually according to Ephesians 2:1–5. What hit me so hard was seeing the “five marks of a man” vividly portrayed in the life of a godly Seventh-Day Adventist who had a heart for the scriptures and a heart for manliness. I absolutely believe that a warrior can fight in a conflict like WWII, take lives, and be honoring God in the process. And at the same time, I absolutely believe that no one should violate their conscience (1 Timothy 1:5).
I would love to reveal the twists of how Doss lived according to the marks by having a vision, being a protector, a worker, a team player, and all while taking a minority position. But to do so might ruin some of the joy of discovery that you will undoubtedly experience should you shell out the big bucks and head to the theater.
We live in a culture where men are obsessed with the easy road, morphing to the pack and living a life of ease. A culture which has us focus more on the externals of manscaping and less on the internals of godly, manly character. The five marks are always the basis of every godly man’s character. Mel Gibson probably couldn’t name the five marks, but he didn’t have to. He only had to know the life of Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss and accurately tell his story.
Go see this movie. Then work toward having your personal story — in its own unique circumstances — mirror the life of every godly man who has ever walked the planet. And don’t leave the theater early. You will be treated to excerpts of an interview this man gave in his 80’s (before he died at 87) after having lived his post-war years with only one lung due to his heroism.
Thank you Mel Gibson. May I have another!?