Still haven’t gotten around to seeing American Sniper–it hasn’t aged nearly enough. The Passion of the Christ came out in 2004. I didn’t see it in the theater that year or on video–remember VHS–or any of the other medium available until Netflix streaming came into our lives and I promptly put The Passion at the very top of my watch list. Where it stayed, unwatched, until a couple of years ago. I’m glad I waited, because those intervening years are years I didn’t have images in my head I can’t erase. Knew it would happen.
American Sniper is everywhere in the news these days. I instinctively feel the urge to defend any movie both Bill Maher and CAIR disparage. It’s an Eastwood classic about valor and the price of war, I feel myself saying, you worms wouldn’t know anything about it. I lack nothing in that assessment but personal credibility.
So, stipulation in place, here is the inescapable “wolves, sheep and sheep dogs” speech that we have all absorbed by exposure. There is an attractive idea in this brief scene. Frank acknowledgement of evil embodied in the Wolves as the camera pans a well-thumbed Bible and toy soldiers on a bureau. A serious father/son talk about the “blessings of aggression” used righteously and a stern benediction to the self-aware son, the Sheep Dog. No spoiler alerts, please, but I assume tragic irony follows.
Warriors. In the truest sense, protecting every tribe, every people, since recorded history. That whole tribes, peoples, cultures have been wiped out by superior military power doesn’t lessen the valor of the defeated. A little Catch-22, MASH, Slaughterhouse-5 sensibility, has slipped into the narrative for two generations. But then so did The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which the mild, reticent but plucky, homespun hero’s of WWII Briton are celebrated as mythical Hobbits. They live for simple comfort, hearth and garden, but are willing to fight Evil against impossible odds in defense of Home.
Well and good. The concept of the Just War is one we have to live with it seems. I don’t think ISIS will respond to good intentions and capitulation with anything other than slaughter. They are the most vicious pack of wolves ever assembled, to judge by YouTube videos. Just the sight of them–they’ve accomplished this much–is enough to make the mildest heart want to see ISIS bodies dead in the dust.
But where does this leave Christ’s commandment: Love your enemies.
Turn the other cheek. Do not resist an evil person. Put up your sword, Peter. If My Kingdom were of this world, my followers would fight for me, but My kingdom is not of this world..Greater love has none than this, to lay down your life for your friends.
Nothing about killing for your friends. Not a word. Marching orders from the Prince of Peace.
How do we reconcile this, Christians? How do we honor both the Sheep Dog and the Lamb of God?