Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge and The God Who Does Not Grow Weary (3)


Prior posts here and here.

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The connection between Isaiah 40 and the narrative of Desmond Doss is a carefully chosen one.  It is not on accident or arbitrary that the movie opens with those words.  The connection is essential, I think, to understanding the story.

So what is the connection?  I’d suggest that in this particular case, we should use Doss’s story to inform how and why Isaiah 40 is being used.  Only then can we say what it is that God “does not grow weary in doing” as was originally asked.

There is little doubt that the verses from Isaiah could be used as a sort of war cry, an enchantment designed to provide comfort that one’s cause is righteous and will prevail in the end through military might.  If you “wait for him”, God will strengthen your arms for war.  Your bullets will fly straighter.  Your bombs will land with greater precision and effect.  And perhaps the aim of the enemy will be just a bit off.  The conquest narratives of the Old Testament provide just the sort of “biblical” backdrop that we’d be looking for as support.

And perhaps we could find a way to squeeze Desmond Doss into that narrative.  We, those observing the movie from our comfortable chairs with popcorn in hand, notice that he’s doing a pretty good job as a medic.  So maybe he doesn’t need a gun to be a medic.  His convictions can, perhaps, exist as an interesting subplot within the war narrative.  Cool.  It’s sort of inspiring.  But that Desmond Doss is nothing more than an oddity.

And while Doss is certainly an “oddity” in one sense, the narrative centers around HIS actions.  We need to look at HIS narrative as THE narrative, regardless of how “odd” it might be.

When does Doss “now grow weary?”  When does he have strength when others do not?

The answer to me is obvious.  It’s when, out of fear, weariness, and death, the battlefield clears of all but Doss.  It is then that his particular narrative sets itself part as the one that reflects “not growing weary”.

And the implication of this is also obvious.

Doss does not “not grow weary” in killing.  Or in vengeance.  No.  He doesn’t grow weary in saving.  Even his enemies, those mindless enemies (here the portrayal as merciless zombies running into bullets is all the more relevant).  He sees something deeper than an enemy.  “Please Lord, help me get one more.”  This is the power given to the faint.

So this is the connection made to Isaiah 40.  These are not verses that can applied to any and all circumstances without respect to an end.  God, the everlasting God, Creator of all things, is one who does not grow weary in saving.  This is God’s “understanding”.  These are God’s “ways”.  This is God’s strength.  And so this is, in the end, what His strength is given for.

Many things about our life in this world would seek to label this as foolishness.  The Hebrew Scriptures, after all, are NOT foreign to violence as retribution and hatred - even divine violence.  That is a separate issue, but a closely connected and important one.  Here I simply ask: Do we possess an imagination that can see this connection between Doss and Isaiah 40?  What gets in the way of this?  Can we find a way to live in which this sort of “weakness” is actually “strength”?

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