Hacksaw Ridge
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

A film directed by Mel Gibson and released in the USA by Lionsgate. Directed by Mel Gibson, starring Andrew Garvield et al.

A biographical depiction of the life of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector who overcame tremendous resistance from the military establishment in his effort to become a battlefield medic due to his refusal to touch a gun. Probably the first challenge that conscientious objectors must deal with is the accusation that their real motive is cowardice; this movie eliminates that motive in Desmond's case by having his heroism exceed that of his comrades in the Battle of Okinawa.

Historical Anabaptists have a long history of conscientious objection during periods of military conscription. Under Hitler, many were sent to concentration camps, mental institutions, or even were executed. In many Western countries, however, individuals can be directed to perform an "alternative service." In this movie, Desmond rejects that option, accepting the risks of combat--but only on his own terms.

At the heart of this movie is the question of whether there can be a "just" war. In fact, some have categorized Hacksaw Ridge as an anti-war movie. The church has dealt with the question of just wars many times, usually deciding on the affirmative. Augustine rejected war, but later changed his mind when the barbarians were beating on his gates. Among Anabaptists, however, the idea of a just war is anathema. While Desmond cites the Sixth Commandment of Ex. 20:13 ("Thou shalt not Kill/Murder"), probably the most important reason that a Christian may have about participating in war is the possibility that one might kill/murder another Christian who happens to be on the other side! These are some of the points that might be included in a home church discussion of Hacksaw Ridge.

What should a believer do when a military mobilization is announced? Should one follow Desmond Doss and be the first one in line at the recruiting station, but insist on conscientious objector status? What is the best Christian witness?

For another example of how some Anabaptist believers have dealt with military conscription, please see the last chapter of Vernard Eller's Christian Anarchy, where he describes how his son Elton dealt with the government when his case went to trial.

Warning: before viewing this movie, one must be prepared to see a great deal of simulated battlefield gore and brutal violence.

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