A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

December 30, 2014

"Unbroken": A Life of Redeeming Faith

     I was one of the millions of people who eagerly awaited the release of the movie Unbroken.  Having read the novel by Laura Hillenbrand of the heroic life of WWII prisoner of war, Louie Zamperini, I was looking forward to seeing his powerful journey portrayed on screen-- from misfit kid, to Olympic track athlete, to tortured prisoner of war, to tormented husband, to at last finding peace and solace in his salvation through Jesus Christ.
Louie (Left) in a Japanese POW concentration camp
     The world needs inspirational movies like Louie's story.  If you've read the book, Unbrokenthen you know what I am talking about.  It was a difficult book for me to read.  The sheer depravity and evil that Louie suffered at the hands of "The Bird" in the Japanese concentration camps was hard to digest.  Ms. Hillenbrand was able to capture the pain, and the wretchedness, and the sheer sadism that the prisoners experienced; with Louie, for some reason, becoming the main target of that hellish existence for two terrible years.
     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
     Instead, what we got was a few sentences in white type, on a black screen at the end of the movie, that explained that Louie found God at a Billy Graham meeting and his faith lasted throughout the remainder of his life.  For the Director, Angelina Jolie, it was enough to "hint" at his faith.  "That is what we tried to get into the film. We wanted people to understand that it is not that you suddenly realize there is something beyond you in the world," Jolie told Christian Broadcasting Network.  "That man is not alone is something we wanted to say from early on in the raft to the prison camp, that there is this, whatever your faith, there is something there," she added. "And whether you choose to see it is your choice and when you come to it and when you feel it, it is there for you ... And so, it was very important to us that sometimes in the mother praying, sometimes in the sunrise, there is always what we would refer to as the light in the film," she said.
     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."

1 comment:

  1. Another good article about the movie missing the most important part - his life in Christ. http://www.goodfight.org/a_v_unbroken.html