Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Kingdom

"You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you: offer no resistance to one who is evil."
Matt. 5:38

The Kingdom troubled me. But will it trouble others, too? We can only hope.

Advertised as an action film about the current situation in the Middle East, this movie was meant to get action-film fans into the theatres and pack them with a troubling message about the war overseas. It meant to convey an real-life, gruesome, Saving Private Ryan-like bloody image of war, hoping that action fans would think twice about this quagmire we're in over there.

Unfortunately, I don't think it had that effect. As I sat in the theatre, audiences cheered loudly when Jennifer Garner's character brutally killed a Saudi insurgent. I am not excusing the terrorist for their actions in the film; however, the message that violence begets violence seemed to delight the audience instead of repulsing them.

Perhaps it is an indication of the spiritual journeys of where we all were in the audience. War and violence sickens me. Even the so-called "just war" is disgusting in my eyes.

So to see the downward spiral of violence in this movie, with one act of war followed by a greater response, which in turn propels an even worse response, leading to even worse retaliation, and so forth. The Kingdom shows us just that. But what is our reaction to that sickening cycle?

This seems to be the way of things in our world outside the movie theatre, too.

Overseas, suicide bombers and sharpshooters are killing American soldiers and people throughout the Middle East because of the United States war there for the past six years. And that war was launched because of the attacks of September 11th. And that terrorist attack was a response to American foreign policy in the Middle East in the late 20th Century. And so on and so forth, a real-life downward spiral.

The Kingdom is a fictional snapshot of how that all unfolds. Even the final words of the film show us that this crisis may never end: both Jamie Foxx's character and a Saudi terrorist cell leader both confide that their whole motivation for their actions in this movie were simply out of retaliation - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This movie reaffirmed my stance on war and violence, which stemmed from my reading of Matt. 5:38: "You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I say to you: offer no resistance to one who is evil." Jesus commands me to love my enemy, even if he or she hurts me. No matter how much pain others cause, his challenge is to love, not retaliate.

In my own life, I try to live by that standard. And in this nation, I pray that more people (especially those to whom elected office has been given) find inspiration in this standard as well. I fear, especially as I sat in that theatre a few days ago listening to the hoots and hollers of a delighted audience, that we are living in an eye-for-an-eye world. Can we ever get people, starting with actual Christians, to think as Jesus thought?

If we don't, I fear what this downward spiral might one day bring.