To End All Wars


Our pastor talked Sunday about Peter's denials, which came so quickly on the heels of his promise to follow Christ through any adversity. Perhaps it's the case that Satan doesn't ask for many of us the way he asked for Peter, but it seems clear that we fall so very easily. I think when most of us ponder the evil that proliferated in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, we tacitly place ourselves on the side of light. It was those people who participated in a murderous bureaucracy, those people who sent fellow citizens to work camps. Having never faced persecution, most of us can't help but underestimate its power to force us into self-delusive compromise.

This came to mind as I watched a film that I wholeheartedly recommend: To End All Wars. It is based on Princeton Chapel Dean Ernest Gordon's story of Scottish and other Allied soldiers (of which he was one) held in a brutal Japanese POW camp during World War II. Forced under spirit-breaking conditions to build a railroad in Thailand, many of the prisoners descended into backbiting, betrayal, and despair. But others ascended to the heights of grace, forgiveness, and love. In their lives we see the duality of sinful, grace-covered man.

The Christian theme is evident to those with eyes to see, though in the interviews accompanying the DVD, not all the actors seemed to get it-or perhaps they didn't want to talk about it in those terms. I suppose that's always been the case where the Gospel is concerned: Some don't see it, and others are embarrassed to talk about it. And maybe it's for the best, since labeling something "Christian" seems to guarantee a lack of honest evaluation on both sides: Too many non-Christians decide it will stink, and too many Christians decide it's awesome.

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To End All Wars isn't flawless, but it is engaging and well-crafted. While other films steeped in a Christian worldview can come across as preachy, sentimental, and quite simply bad from an artistic point of view, this film is well-written, and its characters are genuinely complex and interesting. Even though its creators avoided sticking a big fat CHRISTIAN label on it, and included the violence and profanity that one would expect in such a place, the film still had trouble getting financing and distribution. So given its quality, I'm hoping it does well on the DVD market. Good modern Christian art is a much-needed rarity, and so we ought to support it when it appears.


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