|Louie (Left) in a Japanese POW concentration camp|
It was hard for me to even contemplate that one man could inflict such torment upon another. And it gave me a clearer understanding of why my father, a WWII veteran, who served in the Pacific, had a lifelong contempt for the Japanese. I am not condoning his attitude or feelings, but I'm sure that the memories of hearing the stories firsthand from returning prisoners was something that was hard for him to let go. It takes the redeeming act of Christ in one's life to overcome the effects of such evil, and that's how Louie was ultimately able to survive.
His complete rescue did not come immediately upon his return home. For a time, he endured alcoholism and marriage troubles. Then on one fateful night, he attended one of a young Billy Graham's first revival meetings, and there he found the saving grace and love of God. He was able to finally let go of the anger, the hatred, and the burden of his rage against his Japanese captors. He was able to forgive them, and even personally made a trip to Japan to meet them face to face. Only "The Bird" refused to see him. At the end of the book, I was in tears for Louie -- for the agony and the pain that he had endured at the hands of a madman; for the camaraderie and loyalty that helped him and his fellow prisoners endure; for the faith that he found and which he shared for the rest of his life.
It was this last phase of his life that was all but virtually ignored in the movie, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie. I applaud the actor who played Louie. He mirrored the Louie that I imagined while reading the book; his character was reckless, feisty, determined, stubborn, and unbeatable. The scenes in the concentration camps were realistic and haunting. Louie's unbroken spirit came through loud and clear. But I wanted more of him; I wanted the "whole" Louie to be exposed. What's more, I wanted the audiences across the country to receive the real reason Louie was "unbroken".
|Louie (on left), with Billy Graham|
But that does not do justice to Louie Zamperini, or to his faith. What he believed in was not merely what one sees in the sunrise, or the providential appearance of food after tortuous days at sea on a raft. Louie believed in what the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross did for him. It allowed him to forgive his enemies; the forgiveness that was Christ's gift to him, he was now able to extend to those who had made his life hell. In one interview on Youtube, Louie recounts how he fell to his knees at that Billy Graham revival, and asked God to forgive him for not keeping the promises he had made while on that life raft or in that concentration camp. He asked Christ into his heart, and he said, within mere seconds he knew that he no longer craved alcohol; and that his anger and confusion over his captivity were all gone. He was a new creation.
That would have been a powerful testimony for the conclusion of Louie's life, yet it was decided not to include these years in the movie. Why should I be surprised? Hollywood would rather glorify the perversion of sex in a graphic preview of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, than the grace and mercy that comes with accepting Jesus as your Savior. And perhaps Hollywood is only able to see Louie as a hero when he overcomes sadistic physical enemies. It is sad they don't see that overcoming spiritual enemies makes him a greater hero to those who need to hear his testimony.
We know that Angelina Jolie was able to share the movie with Louie (on her laptop computer) in his hospital room before he died in July of this year. We can only hope that he was able to share his faith with her, and that his story might impact her life, as it has everyone who has been touched by this brave and faithful man. Rest in peace, Mr. Zamperini! Your life is still reaching people for God's Kingdom.
You can also read Louie Zamperini's own account of his war years and the lessons his faith has taught him. This book, titled "Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life", was delivered to the publisher just days before his death in July, 2014.
1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."