Tag Archives: Heroism

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” shows why America goes to war

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL
Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL

John Nolte explains why so many people are going to see it.

He writes:

“American Sniper” opens during the worst days of Fallujah in Iraq. Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is the eye in the sky watching his fellow warriors through a sniper scope and protecting them when necessary with the kind of precision shooting that will quickly make him a legend (and target).

Through a door, an Iraqi woman emerges with a boy who can’t be older than 10. They walk towards a group of Marines. She hands the boy a large grenade. Kyle has been told by his superiors that what happens next is his call.

Before Kyle can make what seems like an impossible choice (“I’ve never seen such evil,” Kyle says later), Eastwood and his screenwriter Jason Hall take us back in time with one of the best flashback sequences you’ll ever see. The economy is brilliant, and in just a few minutes we see what made Chris Kyle Chris Kyle: His Christian father’s strict but loving moral code, his days as a rodeo rider, his romance with Taya (a terrific Sienna Miller) — the woman who will become his faithful wife, and why two pre-9/11 terrorist attacks on American embassies led Kyle to become a Navy SEAL at the ripe old age of 30.

The rest of the story, which is every bit as compelling (this might be the best-paced film Eastwood has ever made), centers on Kyle’s harrowing four tours of duty and his troubled home life. This is a man deeply in love with his country (“I’d die for this country. America is the greatest country in the world.”) and his young family. He can only be truly faithful to one. “God, country, family,” are the man’s priorities.

“American Sniper” is refreshingly told only from Kyle’s point of view. He reminds a doubting comrade that we’re fighting these “evil f*****g savages” (terrorists) in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them in San Diego. And Eastwood doesn’t flinch from showing these evil f*****g savages for the evil f*****g savages they are. You won’t soon forget watching terrorist mastermind Zarqawi’s chief enforcer, a monster nicknamed The Butcher, slowly torture and murder a young boy with a power drill.

War is ugly and it’s not pretty watching our guys kick in doors. But there are bad guys behind those doors, and no matter how bad those guys might be, Eastwood makes sure the audience knows Americans don’t carry power drills or take lives out of any motive other than self-defense.

There is nothing even close to moral equivalence in “America Sniper,” only the truth: that there is no equivalence between the barbarians who target the innocent and the American heroes who target those who target the innocent.

[…]The Big Emotional Question that drives much of “American Sniper” is whether or not, after it’s all over, Kyle still believes in who he is and what he’s done. The film’s best moment comes when that question is answered, when we learn just what is that is tearing Kyle up inside. “I will stand before my Creator and justify every shot,” he tells a military therapist.

You see, it’s not Iraq or Bush or the military or the mission or even those 160 confirmed kills. What’s eating Kyle alive is that he didn’t do more — didn’t save more United States Marines.

This movie made $90 million on its opening weekend. Why aren’t there more movies like this made in Hollywood?

I’m a big fan of war movies – have been since I was a kid. I like war movies that tell the stories of famous battles a lot, but my favorites are movies that show why we have to fight, and the fundamental goodness of fighting evil on the battlefield, when we are threatened by enemies who cannot be dealt with any other way. My favorite war movies are the ones where there are clear-cut villains, like the German Nazis or the Japanese Imperialists or the North Korean communists. I think Islamic extremists belong in there. Why are people so cautious about celebrating our armed forces for confronting evil as clear-cut as any we have had to face in the past?

I really don’t know what’s gone wrong with this country when we celebrate artists, musicians, actors and athletes more than people in the military, the police and the clandestine services. When I was a young man, I would spend hours making and building model jet fighters and drawing pictures of all kinds of military vehicles. Model jet fighters hung from my ceiling. I had maps of all the allied advances during World War 2 on my wall. I read books like this one, which tells the story of every man who won the medal of honor in World War 2. And when I got older, I read military history and military biographies. For me, the idea of stopping a violent evil person has always been a good thing.

You can read more about Chris Kyle on military.com.

What does God want Christians to accomplish in this life?

Your choices today are part of an ongoing relationship with God
Your choices today are part of an ongoing relationship with God

Melissa writes a post about it on her Hard-Core Christianity blog. I heartily endorse this post, and it represents my experience learning from C.S. Lewis’ writings as well.

Intro:

Over the past year I’ve thought a great deal about the brevity of life when it is considered in the context of eternity. I’ve pondered this so often, in fact, I’ve begun thinking of my current mental preoccupation as a sort of mid-life crisis. I’ve felt God impressing this idea–of our temporal life being a precious drop in the bucket of time–upon me more and more, and I haven’t known quite what to do with the emotions and the thoughts that have surfaced. I wouldn’t call them negative or depressing; I’d describe them as mysterious, pulsing, non-yet-solidified. I suppose I should have realized before now that God was indeed taking me somewhere in the heavy yet gentle way only He operates.

Excerpt:

HERE’S WHAT I AM COMING TO UNDERSTAND…

This is not just a life to be tolerated until we reach our eternal resting place. This is our single, fleeting opportunity to prepare ourselves for the day when we step out of these Shadowlands and into direct fellowship with God; everything we allow Him to build and nurture within us here will come to ultimate fruition and purposefulness in Heaven. A sobering thought, is it not?

My favorite analogy is that of a soldier being honed by battle after battle with the Enemy. Lewis says,

Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage…He wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.

Through temporal life, the soldier is consciously and intentionally growing wiser and more competent; when he finally presents himself to his beloved King, he will be sublimely outfitted for a purposeful place in the eternal Kingdom. Lewis continues:

…it is quite true that there will probably be no occasion for just or courageous acts in the next world, but there will be every occasion for being the sort of people that we can become only as the result of doing such acts here.

We live at a very special point in man’s history. We can stand on the shoulders of great Christian men and women who have much to teach us if we will but read and study their legacy. God has raised up great theologians, apologists, philosophers, writers, and artists to steer and inspire us, if we will only take notice. It boils down to how we choose to dedicate our time and energy.

I implore you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ: Learn about our faith. Understand the history of Christianity, the essential doctrines, and the historical and scientific support for the reliability of our Scripture. Open your mind and heart to what the Spirit wants to teach you. Use these lessons to recruit and help train fellow soldiers. We are preparing for the Kingdom to come!

Read the whole thing!

And when you’re done with that, read this excerpt from Mere Christianity, entitled “The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”.

Excerpt:

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God… And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not only different (they would always have been that) but actually opposed.

The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit  the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that  might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be  killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man-a real man of a particular  height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby,  and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from his Mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine Son. Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, “killed,” He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn-poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed-killed every day in a sense-the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier-real tin, just like the rest-had come fully and splendidly alive.

I think there are two ways to work at not being a tin soldier. 1) Reading apologetics books in order to be able to be a friend to God by telling people the truth about him, with evidence. Those shared experiences of you speaking up for your friend because you know what you are talking about get you out of your own desires and build a self-sacrificial friendship with him. And 2) Studying public square issues like abortion, divorce, marriage and so forth in order to articulate intelligent reasons why the Bible is correct in what it asserts about moral questions. The experience of talking to other people about economics, politics and foreign policy builds the relationship with God. And the more you know, the less freedom you have to make bad decisions – learning the truth about things is how you make doing evil unthinkable.

These are the good insights in C.S. Lewis books that help people who would like to become Christians to know how they are supposed to go about doing that. I have had non-Christian friends read them in order to understand at a practical level what Christianity is all about. These books are excellent to read when you are in high school and college. My favorites are “Mere Christianity”, “The Problem of Pain”, “God In the Dock”, “The Abolition of Man”, “The Great Divorce”, “The Four Loves”, “Miracles”, “Christian Reflections”, etc . I have never read the Narnia books, though. I also recommend that non-Christians all read the gospel of John as a snapshot of what Christianity is all about. You can read it in a few hours.

I would really recommend this lecture (MP3) by Walter Bradley as well, which is the best thing I have ever encountered about the Christian life. If you are not training hard, learning new things, and having people ask you questions about your faith every day, then you are doing it wrong – you need to get a intellectual/professional mentor and get moving forward. The normal Christian life is full of dangers and adventures! If you don’t look in the mirror every morning and see a heroic knight going out to try to slay dragons, then you are doing Christianity wrong.

By the way, if you are a Christian woman and you want to impress a Christian man, you need to talk about your Christian life to the man like Melissa does – with reference to books. Melissa is a particularly good example of how to behave because she is heavily into science apologetics. She is also fiscally conservative.

I recommend the movie Battle: Los Angeles to my readers

ECM recommended this movie to me and I saw it and it was AWESOME.

Here’s a review.

Excerpt:

“Battle: Los Angeles” takes a big “what would happen if” premise – in this case, a massive alien invasion – and then fulfills that premise by taking it seriously. Not self-seriously. The movie is lots of fun, but it stays true to the terms it establishes, telling the story through the eyes of one Marine platoon assigned to rescue civilians in Santa Monica.

[…]Essential to the movie’s success is Aaron Eckhart, who plays a Marine staff sergeant as though he were in a World War II movie: no camping it up, no comedy, no winking at the audience, no smiling. He’s just a tough guy, with lots of emotional scars, who is very good at his job. Eckhart’s commitment to the movie’s reality, which is as fierce as the sergeant’s commitment to his men, takes what otherwise might merely have been outlandish and makes it believable, and frightening.

[…]Advisory: The aliens are ugly, and there are a lot of dead bodies. But these have to be the politest, cleanest-talking Marines ever. They don’t even curse at the aliens. They want to take back Los Angeles while avoiding an R rating.

The movie features a very positive portrayal of military professionals, especially of the U.S. Marines – the Wintery Knight’s favorite military branch.

I am not saying that Battle: Los Angeles is a courting movie, I am saying that this is a FUN movie, and recommended for children ages 16 and up. The PG-13 rating is a little low, because there is some swearing and one F-word. But there is also a V-22 Osprey! Several of them, in fact!

When it comes to movies, I am a stickler for realism, especially with spy movies and war movies. The new James Bond movies are not spy movies, they are stupid movies. Danger Man and Secret Agent shows with Patrick McGoohan are real spy shows. Real war movies are movies like Gettysburg and We Were Soldiers. Battle: Los Angeles is science fiction, but the movie has a realistic scope, and there is no ridiculous video-game style running and gunning. The weapons and vehicles were realistic, although the tactics could use some work. (I saw little suppressive fire and flanking, for example).

The story is very plain and believable. Simple objective for the mission, easier to follow, and showcasing U.S. Marine initiative and ingenuity. If there is one thing that the Corps drums into their recruits, it’s to accomplish the mission by any means necessary, and to take the initiative to act without orders if necessary. That’s why the Corps makes new Marines read books like “A Message to Garcia” and “Riflemann Dodd” – to drum into their heads that what superiors want from them is RESULTS, not questions. Find a way to achieve the objective. Think for yourself.

Just FYI, here’s my list of movies that I do use during courting:

  • Rules of Engagement (Samuel L. Jackson)
  • Bella
  • Henry V (Kenneth Brannagh)
  • The Lives of Others
  • United 93
  • Taken (Liam Neeson)
  • Cinderella Man
  • The Blind Side
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu)
  • Amazing Grace (Ioan Gruffudd)
  • Gettysburg
  • We Were Soldiers
  • Stand and Deliver
  • Blackhawk Down
  • The Pursuit of Happyness
  • High Noon

If you don’t want to see a good heroic conservative action movie, watch one of these.