"Put your sword back in your sheath, for all who live by the sword shall die by the sword." Matt. 26:52
After seeing 300 a few days ago, I am still wrestling with reconciling its glorification of war, brutality, and violence with the fact that it was a really captivating, exciting, adreneline-rushing movie.
This film follows Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and three hundred Spartan warriors as they take a stand against an invading Persian army and hundreds of thousands of their fiercest troops at Thermopylae in 480 b.c.e. Regardless of being excessively outnumbered, Leonidas and his men fight to the death to keep these invaders from overrunning his homeland.
300 shows us that heroes take a stand no matter what the odds are, never letting size or numbers frighten them into submission or surrender. As the Psalmist sings, "Countless dogs surround me, fierce bulls encircle me... but the Lord is never far away." (Psalm 22:13, 20)
The legend of these three hundred Spartans is an example of active resistance to those that would put us down. Leonidas put the dignity of his people ahead of his own life; he knew his soldiers were outnumbered, but he knew that the people of Sparta would be enslaved, victimized, and terrorized if he did not take an active stance.
One could argue that this gives amunition to the agrument for war; if Sparta could wage a pre-emptive strike against the Persians, why can't the United States do the same to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or North Korea?
Why not? Simply put: we've evolved as a human race since 480 b.c.e.
In 2007, we have the priviledge of reading the non-violent teachings of Christ in our Bibles and of witnessing the examples of non-violent heroes of the past 100 years such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. But Christ and these great warriors of social justice were doing the same thing King Leonidas did, taking a stand when all hope was lost and when death and sacrifice seemed inevitable.
In the New Testement, before Jesus was taken away by the violent Temple guard and the Roman military garrison, the disciples asked if this would be the one exception to Jesus' command of nonviolence. If ever there was a worthy cause to take up arms, wouldn't it be to defend God in human form? But even then, Jesus said, "Put your sword back in your sheath, for all who live by the sword shall die by the sword." (Matt. 26:52)
In 2007, two millenia after these words of non-violence, are we finally capable of being a more intelligent, more compassionate, more peaceful human race? In 2007, do we still have to resort to violence, aggression, and war to take a stand or make a point?
The movie 300 gave us a flurry of excitement and adreneline, but perhaps it wasn't because decapitations and slow-motion swordfights are fun to watch on screen.
Perhaps the flurry of excitement and adreniline that has entralled audiences is so riviting because we, too, crave to take a stand against those who take away human dignity. Perhaps it can give us strength and courage to take that stand, even if we stand alone.
And now that we are a human race that can solve its problems without war and violence, just imagine what we can do when we attain the courage that once permeated the battlefield at Thermopylae in 480 b.c.e. and that God now graces us with today.