Fighting war with peace isn’t a groundbreaking suggestion. Plenty of people have suggested that. But how about going to the frontlines of war and wielding peace as your weapon? Have you ever thought to charge into battle, without violence or intense combat techniques?
Hacksaw Ridge comes to cinemas in November, directed by Mel Gibson. Like his phenomenal Passion of the Christ, Gibson’s latest feature is based on a true story of godly conduct in the face of vicious opposition.
Filmed across New South Wales and starring Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) and stacks of homegrown talent, Hacksaw Ridge spotlights a Christian who fought in World War II – without a gun.
Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector in the US Army to receive the Medal of Honor. Serving as a paramedic, Doss refused to bear arms, even though he provided medical assistance under fire. “I’m a conscientious collaborator,” Doss describes himself in Hacksaw Ridge.
Gibson’s heartfelt, potent drama builds to a brutal battle in an intense location where Doss (Garfield) drags out injured solider, after injured soldier. You’ll think director Gibson has exaggerated Doss into a movie hero of ludicrous proportions… until you find out Doss did rescue between 50 and 100 men, in one night. What? Such bravery is almost unbelievable.
Since he was a child, Doss was strongly convicted about what God commanded about not killing others. From working class stock, Doss grew up in a home with an abusive father – and a framed poster of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.
“And when I looked at that picture, I came to the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’” Doss explained to an interviewer. “It put a horror in my heart of just killing and, as a result, I took it personally: ‘Desmond, if you love me, you won’t kill.’”
And he didn’t. The collision in his home, between human violence and God’s teachings against it, lodged in the heart and mind of Doss. Yet his desire to honour, obey and serve God didn’t stop him enlisting and heading into the firing line. As Doss puts it in Hacksaw Ridge: “The world is trying to tear itself apart. I want to help to put it back together a little bit.”
I’m gobsmacked at Doss’s response to God’s commands and his lifelong willingness to obey. Without arguing for or against being part of any military campaign as a Christian, Hacksaw Ridge presents a searing picture of sticking to the “guns” God provides – His mercy, love, peace, compassion, strength and selflessness.
The moral certainty and personal campaign for pacifism which Doss waged as a one-man war, had a powerful impact upon those around him. Without telling anyone else how to live their life, he showed how God had called him to live his — and he kept telling people who his commanding officer is.