Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Hacksaw Ridge May or May Not Teach Christians About War

There's nothing more wonderful than hearing true life stories about American soldiers, courageous individuals who devote part or all of their lives fighting for our nation. This is not only humbling for many, but also invokes a strong sense of pride. Hacksaw Ridge is a movie based off the true story of Desmond Doss a Private First Class (PFC) in WWII who served his country without bearing arms due to religious reasons. What caught my attention was the television trailer for the movie where Doss’ mother tells the young Desmond that taking a person's life is an ultimate sin. It is this particular lesson that remains with Doss throughout his life and military career.

The big question is, “what’s the problem?” After all, it’s a true life story of courage and honor, which most certainly should be celebrated? What was it that shot through my heart when I saw the television trailer for such an awe-inspiring movie? As an advocate of service members and their families, being a counselor in training, and being a Christian, I want to make sure that there is a balance between the Christian views of war.

My husband and I have spoken at lengths about the implications of the Christian view on war especially in terms of developing any mental disorder after service. My husband, a veteran himself, informed me that many soldiers were often complexed when it came to God’s view on being a soldier. These were men or woman who possibly had to see or do unspeakable things in the name of good, including taking a life. Speaking frankly, the view of killing someone as an ultimate sin cannot and should not be in a general context or ever blanketed. We cannot say all killing is a sin no matter what. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (New International Version) states, “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

These men and woman are servants to the governing body of our government. These are individuals who are willing to lay down their lives in the name of freedom. God is not angry with them for being soldiers, for taking a life if that it what they needed to do. They have not committed a sin that they cannot come back from; it is not as ultimate a sin that should cause anyone to loose the love of others because they will never loose the ultimate love of God.

Conversely, I urge soldiers to act in the name of the Lord. These men and woman cannot and should not commit atrocities to benefit their own need for revenge. Proverbs 3:31-32 (NIV) commands “do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.” What implication should this have for soldiers? It means that although God has decreed war as necessary, taking up arms can be found necessary, cruelty towards others is not okay. Do not defile others in the name of war.

Back to Hacksaw Ridge, what should absolutely not be lost on the story of Pfc. Desmond Doss is the fact that he stuck to his beliefs; he remained steadfast with his beliefs. The Lord was calling upon him to react in a remarkable and completely polarizing way than others. This was God’s calling and purpose for Doss. Absolutely nothing should be taken away from this story in terms of resolve and respect. However, Doss is not better because he refused to take up arms. He is not more courageous nor should he garner more respect than a man who has had to kill men in battle. Equally, those who took up arms are also not better; they are not better reflections of men. Courage is courage is courage, I cannot stress this enough when it comes to the brave men and woman who serve in the military. The ultimate truth, God’s grace belongs to everyone, and true forgiveness is there is one only believes and asks.

A great article to further elaborate on the Christian view of war is Phillip Jensen’s article titled “What is the Christian Perspective on War?” found at the link below.

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