Monday, March 28, 2005

"Gunner Palace"

Continuing my unitended tradition of seeing movies on major Christian holidays (happy late Easter), I saw "Gunner Palace" last night. I highly recommed it.

The story of an American unit living in the former palace of one of Saddam Hussein's sons, "Gunner Palace" is a trip behind the scenes of war, into the lives of the people that are living it. Through their music (there are some talent rappers) and recreation (the Palace has a massive swimming pool), we are forced to see these soliders not as distant and detached army men, but instead as brothers and sisters to a common upbringing, a common way of life. We learn to value their personal sacrifice, even if rejecting the decision to put them in harm's way.

The community that the troops share and their commitment to one another is truly inspiring and, perhaps, truly Christian. "I'm not fighting for the freedom of Iraq," one solider says. "I'm fighting for my buddies and to stay alive." Following the death of one of their own, we later see a GI carrying around a coin - his buddy's image on one side and John 15:13 on the other:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Still not convinced that soliders can be models of Christian behavior? Consider this: when asked if he regrets killing a man, one GI - deep in contemplation - responds that it bothered him at first. After realizing that it was either "him or me," however, the GI concludes: "I'm not the bad guy, I know that much. I'm just following orders. That's my job."


At 12:46 PM, Blogger Infission said...

I am still "not convinced that soldiers can be models of Christian behavior." The soldiers' other-regarding commitment to their "buddies" is noble indeed. But we are to love ALL of our neighbors as ourselves -- even those outside our community and even our enemies. When Jesus was asked "who is my neighbor," he responded with a story about a Samaritan, someone emphatically outside the Jewish community. Indeed, Jesus was clear that loving only those who love us (loving only our friends) was no great achievement. "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matt. 5:46.

Moreover, I'm not sure what relevance the "him or me" nature of battle has to Christian ethics. In such a situation, the ultimate Christian response would seem to be self-sacrifice: to refuse to kill the Iraqi insurgent -- to turn the other cheek to our enemies even to the point of death.

This is not to condemn the soldiers. I come no where close to living up to my Christian ideals. And in a similar "him or me" situation, I'm not sure I could make the ultimate sacrifice. Although I do not judge them, I can not hold them up as some sort of Christian model to be imitated.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger 42 said...

Maybe you missed my point or I wasn't clear: my point was that the COMMUNITY they share - outside world (Iraqis) excluded - is a model of Christian behavior to be imitated: sacrificing on behalf of someone else, and openly encouraging that behavior. Also, oftentimes a soldier's "buddies" are just fellow soldiers - complete strangers - not necessarily someone that they even know personally.

I agree with you that the ultimate in Christian sacrifice would be to lay down you life before taking someone else's. Under the hope that what the soliders depicted are doing is actually more akin to police work than combat, it seems to me that they are there more to protect lives, not destroy them. Putting one's own life on the line to protect others may be the greatest sacrifice that we humans see on a fairly routine basis.

My "I'm just following orders" point probably should have been cut; it's intention was to place more of the moral blame on the politicans/leaders that make decisions to go to war.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger 42 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous donzelion said...

Big ethical dilemma here. Do Christian soldiers reflect Christian values when they sacrifice their lives for one another?

Well, either: (1) Christian courage is identical to non-Christian courage or (2) there is a difference.

If (2), then you should be able to see the difference in outcome (by their fruits shall ye know them). Thus, if a Christian does a courageous deed, it will look different or yield a different outcome than when a Muslim or Jew does a courageous deed.

But there's no difference here: Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, every faith has figthers who will die to save their comrades, families, and even strangers whom they share identity with. If Christian courage works the way you are suggesting, then even when Roman soldiers were killing Christians, so long as the soldiers were willing to sacrifice themselves for their comrades-in-arms (thus showing "love"), then they would be doing it in a Christian manner.

Thus, I'd reject (2).

At 1:57 PM, Blogger 42 said...

I should sleep more before rushing a post. I agree with both of you but, again, that wasn't the point I was trying to make.

Taken apart from any killing or any actions that they may take, the COMMUNITY that the troops in this movie share is Christian in it's sacrificial commitment, exemplified by the coin quoting John. Ideally, that community would be used to feed the hungry, help the least of these, etc, but ideally I would be doing the same thing and not sitting here typing on a keyboard. My bigger point (which I should have made after more coffee): I wish there were more instances of such strong community in this world that weren't associated with an us against them mentality. The only places where I have seen - or felt - such strong community: soldiers in the trenches, and Texas A&M football.


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