I was intrigued by the movie trailer of Mel Gibson's new movie, Hacksaw Ridge. As Director, how would he incorporate God into a story of the hell that is War? His movie, Passion of the Christ, had moved me over a decade before, depicting both the tragic human story and the glorious divinity of my Savior, Jesus Christ. As it turned out, he stayed true to the real-life account of his movie's hero, and this man's story is enough to inspire all of us who love the Lord.
I have to admit that while watching the carnage of the battle to capture the Maeda Escarpment, an imposing rock face the soldiers called Hacksaw Ridge, tears streamed down my face, as I thought, "How much God must be grieved by war; to see the brutality that His creation can heap upon one another." But I can say that there were an equal number of tears at the depiction of the man who unfailingly and ceaselessly displayed Christ in the midst of that hell on earth which was Okinawa in World War II.
Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic who, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, served in WWII as a conscientious objector... and won the Medal of Honor! That's right ... Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor, which is the United States of America's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. And he did it without ever carrying a weapon or firing a shot!
Doss was certainly heroic on the battlefield, dodging a barrage of gunfire and explosions, as he crawled on the ground from wounded soldier to wounded soldier. He dragged severely injured men [who had been abandoned as the Americans retreated] to the edge of the ridge, tied a rope around their bodies and lowered them down to other medics below. And then he returned to the battlefield again... and again ... and again. He repeatedly ran into the heat of battle to treat a fallen comrade and carry him back to safety; all within a 12-hour period. In his customary modesty, Doss estimated that he saved 50 soldiers. The Army estimated 100; so the official record settled on 75. In Doss's own words, he says: "I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, 'Lord, please help me get one more.' "
While his performance on the battlefield defied the odds -- one veteran of Hacksaw Ridge said, "It's as if God had his hand on [Doss'] shoulder. It's the only explanation I can give" -- it was how he conducted himself prior to going into battle that inspires me and causes me to take the measure of my own commitment to my faith. Desmond took the teachings of the Bible seriously and literally. He fervently believed in the 6th Commandment ... Thou shalt not kill ... and was convinced that he could meet the moral obligation he felt to serve his country [defending not only freedom, but religious liberty] by becoming a medic, and as he put it, “be like Christ: saving life instead of taking life.”
His official biography reads [partially] as follows: "Eventually, the Americans took Hacksaw Ridge. Okinawa was captured inch by bloody inch. Several days later, during an unsuccessful night raid, Desmond was severely wounded. Hiding in a shell hole with two riflemen, a Japanese grenade landed at his feet. The explosion sent him flying. The shrapnel tore into his leg and up to his hip. He treated his own wounds as best he could. While attempting to reach safety, he was hit by a sniper's bullet that shattered his arm. His brave actions as a combat medic were done. But not before insisting that his litter-bearers take another man first before rescuing him. Wounded, in pain, and losing blood, he still put others ahead of his own safety. He would choose to die so another could live. After all, that's what he read in his Bible. Such was the character demonstrated by Jesus Christ".
As one magazine article characterized him, "Private Desmond Doss walked into the bloodiest battle of World War II’s Pacific theater with nothing to protect himself save for his Bible and his faith in God". And I think it was his confidence and trust and unwavering belief in the God of the Bible that so moved me. He took the assaults on his physical body and his character as a badge of honor; to suffer for Jesus was his due. He took the words of the Bible in 1 Peter 2:20-21 seriously and personally: But if when you do what is right and patiently bear [undeserved] suffering, this finds favor with God. For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you may follow in His footsteps.
From the time he was a child and gazed upon a large framed picture of the Ten Commandments in his home, he felt God telling him, "If you love Me, you will not kill". He stayed true to that conviction through brutal and sadistic hazing in Boot Camp; through attempts by the Military Command to prove him mentally unstable (due to his faith); and through the courage he displayed as he charged into certain death to save another man ... this latter description depicting the simple truth of Jesus Christ.
While there are some who are criticizing this movie as American war propaganda, it is obvious they do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. The movie certainly depicts the ugliness and terror of war; spotlighting the blood and guts and gore that can be inflicted upon the human body. But at the heart of this movie is one man's love for, and obedience to, his God. It is about unfaltering, relentless, and unquestioning faith in the face of human injustice and diabolical brutality. The simple, sincere way in which Desmond Doss practices that steadfast faith is beautiful to watch on screen. If you are a Christian, he will make you jealous of such ardent and passionate faith. Desmond Doss will move you to tears, and make your heart swell with respect and admiration for him and for the film. To watch a movie that doesn't shy away from promoting such fierce faith -- and to make it authentic and honest as the central storyline, without pandering for the "Faith Dollar at the Box Office" -- is both encouraging and heartening. The young actor, Andrew Garfield, who played Desmond Doss, is outstanding and portrayed Doss's sacrificial faith with a genuineness that cannot be faked.
I highly recommend that you see this movie. It glorifies the life of a true Christian hero. But more than that, it is a film that displays what the power of Jesus Christ in one man can do to change the lives of so many others. I have no doubt that Desmond Doss received crowns in heaven, and this film is a crowning accomplishment for Mel Gibson as its Director. I could watch it again and again -- it's that inspiring.
Isaiah 40:31 "But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired".