Hacksaw Ridge: An Introduction Without a Finale

As someone with a rich Anabaptist heritage, the story behind director Mel Gibson’s recent film, Hacksaw Ridge, greatly intrigued me. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, a WWII veteran that participated in the action in Okinawa in the Pacific theater of war, 1945. What set Doss apart was his unbreakable affinity to nonviolence as a Seventh-Day Adventist. The film portrays Doss’ participation as a combat medic at Okinawa which earned him the first Medal of Honor award ever given to a conscientious objector.

For all his concentration on nonviolence, something which I believe is wholly biblical, Gibson spends an incredible amount of time crafting nauseatingly pornographic scenes of violence. In effect, he ennobles what he seeks to protest. But perhaps this was Gibson’s point. It’s only in the truly macabre display of bloodshed that Doss’ nonviolence is given a piercing contrast.

While there’s much good to affirm in Gibson’s portrayal of Doss’ Christian beliefs, the final result falls short of a truly nonviolent message. Doss’ convictions stem from a fascination with the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13), a passage only understood in the context of Gen. 1:26-27. At one point, Doss does allude to Matt. 5:21-26, implying a rudimentary understanding of the New Covenant. But unfortunately, Jesus as the slain Lamb of God who conquered by being conquered is seemingly absent from Doss’ worldview, leaving Gibson’s message caged in the Old Testament devoid of the power of the resurrection—victory in defeat. Gibson’s film, while poignant, is grossly incomplete.

Book of the Month: ” A Glorious Dark” by A.J. Swoboda

During my last trip home to Pennsylvania, I paid a short visit to a small used bookstore that carries a lot of manufacturer overstocks or slightly damaged books. I happened to find the very last copy of A.J. Swoboda’s A Glorious Dark lying askew on the shelves. I’d heard it recommended in passing by several others, so I jumped at the chance to pick up my own copy.

51cfd9xbkl-_sx322_bo1204203200_A Glorious Dark uses the three days of Easter–Friday, Saturday, and Sunday–to talk about the different emotions in the Christian life. Friday is the day of hopelessness and despair as the disciples watched their savior die on a cross. Saturday is the day of deep questioning and doubt. When your savior is brutally murdered, where else do you have left to turn? Sunday, then, is the day of elation and joy as you run to the empty tomb to find that your savior has miraculously risen. God is present in the sorrow of the cross, the silence of the tomb, and the joy of the resurrection.

Using personal anecdotes and his conversational tone, Swoboda relates each of these emotions to the Christian life. In the tension between belief and disbelief, hope and despair, and joy and sorrow, God is still a loving and good Father. While A Glorious Dark does turn into a collection of random essays without much cohesion, the author easily weaves together truth and prompting. It’s an encouraging book for both those hurting and those rejoicing. One thing Swoboda really excels at is retelling biblical stories in ways that pinpoint often overlooked details to paint a brand new picture. His connections between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary are absolutely brilliant. But I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Let’s Talk About: Social Media

A few years ago, before I began attending Eternity Bible College, I took a class at a Pennsylvanian university in child psychology. Though I forget her name, the professor was the best professor I ever had. She connected well with her students, she was extremely passionate about the subject, and she designed every assignment with a specific purpose. In class one day, as she leaned back against the metal desk that stood in the corner of the room, she tossed out a question to us: “What impact do you think social media has on the development of children and teenagers?” Since then, I’ve never viewed social media the same way. Continue reading

4 Things to Remember About Bible College

It’s my least favorite time of year again. It’s the time to stop going to the beach every weekend, put down your summer reading list, put away your game controllers, your movies, and cancel your Netflix subscription. It’s a time to take your vitamins, to stock up on Ramen, and install new locks on your doors so that you can find some privacy. It’s time for the summer curtains to fall away to reveal the true antagonist of this year like too many villains in too many Scooby-Doo episodes: The winter semester. It’s time to go back to school. Continue reading

How Helpful Honda Hurts Human Hearts

You may have heard their commercials on the radio or seen them on TV. Those kind and thoughtful Helpful Honda people are always around when you seem to need help. Whether your mom needs a new air conditioner, the football program at your underprivileged school needs some financial oomph, or you just want free gas, Helpful Honda people are looking for ways to meet needs in your community. I really want to travel to Europe sometime and I could use a new car because my “Little Ford Focus that Couldn’t” keeps breaking down. Maybe the Helpful Honda people will see this blog and give me a brand new Honda and an all expenses paid trip to Rome. One can dream, right?

Christians can learn a thing or two from the Helpful Honda campaign. For one, Helpful Honda people are willing to seek needs rather than waiting for needs to come knocking on their showroom door. Second, Helpful Honda people are doing really good work restoring schools, helping underprivileged communities, and blessing people with free gas. When was the last time you bought a tank of gas for someone? But that’s where the dark side of Helpful Honda shows through. Behind all the philanthropic positives and kind Mr. Rogers-esque enthusiasm about helping your neighbor, Helpful Honda is a shockingly accurate reminder of sin.

See, Helpful Honda runs on the basis of karma: “I’ll help you meet your need to make myself look and feel better.” It’s a program designed not to help people as it claims but to give Honda a better reputation, provide content for marketing campaigns, and get people in the door to buy a new car with low interest rates. The end goal of Helpful Honda is not to help people. The end goal of Helpful Honda is to manipulate people into buying more Hondas. Karma, masquerading as Helpful Honda, is selfish. It’s all about using and manipulating someone to make yourself look good and feel better, and maybe something good will happen to you as a result. Someone who believes in karma doesn’t open the door for me because they want to serve me; they open the door for me so that something good will fall back on them. Karma isn’t externally focused at all, and it’s one of the most deceptive ideologies in our world today. Thankfully, Jesus came to save us from karma.

In 1 John, the apostle John writes that our human understanding of love was incomplete until Jesus came and died on a cross for us. In 3:16 John writes, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Jesus, quite literally, redefined love for us by coming to serve instead of be served (Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45). He showed us that loves looks a lot like crossing your legs in the dust of Nazareth with the least of these—the lepers, the blind, the paraplegics, and the demon-possessed. Jesus showed us that love looks a lot like a King washing the camel dung and dirt off of 24 calloused and bunioned feet before breaking bread with His betrayer. Love looks a lot like a King born with chords trumpeted from the throats of donkeys and sheep rather than brass melodies. Love looks a lot like a cross. It looks like helping people who can’t return the favor and dying for your enemies. Both Jesus and karma died on a cross 2,000 years ago, but only One raised three days later.

Karma is a painful reminder that no matter how “good” of a morally upstanding citizen you claim to be, you’re still hopelessly wicked. No matter how many good things Honda tries to do, it’s still a flawed system. People nowadays call that manipulation and it destroys healthy relationships all the time. I’m very passive aggressive, I should know this.

But like Tim Keller once mentioned, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Even the most seemingly innocent worldview, karma, is completely broken without Jesus. Even the nicest, most well-intentioned people are still the most wicked and selfish jerks deep down inside. But Jesus died for broken systems filled with vicious jerks. Just look at me.

Book of the Month: “Death by Living”, N.D. Wilson

Students at Eternity Bible College learn to love (or at least tolerate) reading, probably because students read anywhere from 2,000-4,500 pages their first year, not including the Bible. As a friend once told me: Readers make leaders. In fact, on a recent trip to Michigan to attend the wedding of a former roommate, two other students and I made it a point to stop at a used Christian bookstore to see if they had any good finds. We’re nerds and proud of it.

51e-ok5bIlL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_One of the authors that has made his rounds among groups of Eternity students is N.D. Wilson. He’s written several young adult fiction series, including 100 Cupboards and The Ashton Burials, but he also wrote two nonfiction books, one of which is Death By Living. Wilson is a terrific writer with a way of telling stories that tie together a cohesive theme. Ironically, Death By Living coincides well with one of Eternity’s mission statements: Training students to live and die well.

In Death by Living, N.D. Wilson argues that we’re all storytellers. We’re all cooks in God’s kitchen pulling together experiences, people, and other stories to create a worldview that we then live out through our own stories. The real challenge is to live a good story. In order to live a good story, Wilson shows that we have to refocus on eternity past, present, and future. We need to realign ourselves to the big picture. Only when we grasp both the temporality but importance of this life through the lens of the biblical story that God invites us to join are we able to live meaningful stories and touch other lives in light of eternity. Our focus is shifted away from the fleeting pressures of our world and onto the permanent glories of our eternal inheritance. We’re able to live and die well.

Death By Living is a book that kicks you in the butt. It’s a book that’s great for high school students, college students, or anyone needing motivation to take a step of faith and pursue their passion.