I am not especially interested in war movies. I am not especially interested in any movies, generally. Surprisingly, Mel Gibson’s new release has made me a believer on both counts.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is a true story of honor, conviction, and learning to love an unlikely hero. The movie is based on the life of Desmond Doss, a corporal in the U.S. Army in World War II.
Doss was a good man. He was a charitable man. He was a religious man. But he was not recognized as fit to be a service man. Doss felt a strong sense of moral and civil duty to enlist when all his peers were going to fight. The movie portrays him as coming from a family in which he learned deep and powerful lessons about his obligation to protect others when others sought to harm. These lessons also led him to resolve that fighting back, for him, would never include violence. Doss was a pacifist to the core.
When a pacifist enlists in the military, it can get pretty confusing for those around him. Doss was never confused, though. He knew why he was there and what he was called to do. Doss never wavered in his conviction to keep his personal vows to God and remain a non-violent man set staunchly on serving others in remarkable and heroic ways. He knew what he was doing. He knew what he was not doing. And, though his label as a conscientious objector cast many doubts on his military reputation, he knew exactly who he was despite others’ disapproval.
Now that is a man we do not encounter every day in the world we have today. A man who lives by faith in God and his beliefs no matter what the personal cost is quite a rare find in our society. Often, diamonds like Doss are wholly misunderstood, severely mistreated, ever underestimated, and altogether rejected by almost everyone around them. The very presence of someone who is unreasonably different has a way of cutting open the hearts and minds of men to such a degree that it brings them to a place that they are not willing or comfortable being. Repercussions inevitably follow.
Rejection is a powerful tool hanging on the belts of the insecure and fearful. Doss’s life proves that it is also a defining mark of a man not sold out to the status quo. It is a defining mark of a man not owned by popular opinion. It is a defining mark of a man who understands who both his God and his conscience insist that he must be. Doss’s example of willingness to persevere despite overt rejection, intense intimidation, and self-interested manipulation offers great encouragement and hope to those whose path proves particularly lonely. He was a man so stayed on the course he’d been given that he simply could not be moved. No pain, punishment, persecution, or personal injustice caused him to consider the cost too high because he knew the one who he ultimately signed up to serve. This was truly a man working boldly and walking worthily toward a city whose builder and maker is God.
Doss’s story reminds us all that we do not have to waste our time fighting for a seat at the table. It reassures us that our place really has been reserved since the foundation of the world and that no worldly rejection will ever exclude us from sitting squaring in the seat Our God has set especially for us. For we fellow hardcore non-conformists, this movie was a cup of cold water. For anyone who has ever doubted their place, calling, worth, or necessary-ness this movie is an imperitive.
“I would say anyone is wrong to try to compromise someone’s conviction. That’s what you are.” ~Harold Doss, brother of Desmond Doss