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Posts Tagged ‘Black Hawk Down’


I eagerly anticipated the movie Dunkirk. That was a pivotal battle in WWII, and it was directed by one of my favorite directors, Christopher Nolan (I’ll forgive him for Interstellar). So I went to see it on Saturday.

There was a confusing element I didn’t sort out until after the movie. It was comprised of 3 inter-related story lines but they didn’t happen simultaneously. They took place over 3 different periods of time but ended at the same time. Does that make sense?

He introduced the story lines based on location and then there was a period of time for each. The movie flipped back and forth between the story lines so the events were not portrayed consecutively.

The Mole (1 week) |———————————————————————————–|

The Sea (1 day)                                                                                                |————————-|

The Air (1 hour)                                                                                                                                |—|

As a result the story dealing with the Mole, the name of the “pier” they used on the beach, and the men trying to flee the German armies was compressed and told alongside the expanded story of one of the boats (fishing, commercial & recreational) sent to rescue the soldiers, and a trio of Spitfires that provided support in the Channel during the time just before the boats arrived.

So, this interesting way of telling the story was confusing until I figured what was actually going on. “Hey, why is it night time at the Mole but in the middle of the day in the Channel?” As a result, some events are retold from a different perspective (the Spitfires, then the boat and perhaps then the men escaping the Mole). Interesting film making.

I was surprised when the setting was described as “The enemy” cornered the “French and English armies” at Dunkirk. Not the German or Axis armies. The enemy, which is quite generic and possible designed to not ruffle any feathers. I don’t recall even seeing a German soldier. The closest was the shots of German planes. You saw the effects of soldiers, gun fire, but they were an invisible enemy. Or nearly so since the focus really wasn’t on them. It was really on the main characters of the story lines.

The Mole: You are initially introduced to the main character as his squad is ambushed. All are shot except him, and he gets within the perimeter established by the French forces. He then meets another soldier who is finished burying a soldier after taking his boots, to add some ambiguity to the story. These two men repeatedly try to get off the beach, only to fail with increasing measures of danger. At times they cut to the British Army and Navy commanders who discuss the bigger picture: Churchhill needs an army but can’t risk all the planes and ships due to the seemingly superior German air force and submarines. We see a number of ships get sunk by them.

The Sea: A father and his son, aided by a young deck hand, pilot a boat dispatched to rescue soldiers. They don’t wait for the men from the navy to commandeer the vessel but go so they can pilot their own vessel (some of the boats used in the film were part of the actual rescue- this is why you watch the credits). They were not the only civilians to do this. Along the way they encounter sunk ships and rescue men. The focus is on the bravery of ordinary civilians heading into a war zone for love of brother and country.

The Air: In the first encounter with the enemy the leader is shot down, and the focus in on a particular pilot, Farrier played by Tom Hardy. We only hear the voice of the other pilot until he is shot down. We see the courage of these pilots who repeatedly risk their lives in dog fights, or in running out of fuel, in order to save boats filled with soldiers.

So there is a contrast between the desperate fear of the guys who want to get off the beach (for good reason) and the bravery of those coming to rescue or support them. The same circumstances produced very different responses. This contrast is repeated at the end. The rescued soldiers feel like failures and in some cases cowards. But the crowds welcome them like heroes knowing they still have an island to defend and those men must do it. Their future is bound up in the ability and confidence of these shattered men. They soldiers even misinterpret some of their actions based on their erroneous perception of things. But then there is the media who laud the rescue effort but focus on the immanent threat of invasion such that it all seems like a failure.

This is an often intense film, aided by Hans Zimmer’s score. It is not flowing and majestic but often minimalist. It is not gruesome (like Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge), but tweens and teens may not be able to handle the intensity. There are men trapped in boats that are sinking. Men with no where to go as a German, or “enemy”, plane bears down on them dropping bombs and shooting bullets. While not as intense, or perhaps disturbing is a better word, as Black Hawk Down, the realities of war are in your face. [A friend asked me whether his kids might be able to see it.]

So are the vagaries of war. Who lives or dies. Which boat sinks or floats. The existential absurdity experienced by some of the men as every attempt fails despite being increasingly dangerous, despite getting seeming closer to safety. Each time the enemy foils the plan at the cost of many other men’s lives. You feel their frustration and want to say “No, not again!”

A great movie has you thinking about it after you’ve left the movie theater. Not thinking about the special effects or a few lines. Thinking about the plot, the story telling, the themes. This movie accomplishes that. I left pondering the courage of ordinary people in the face of the unpredictable horror of war. But it also left me wondering why there was a warning about distracted driving at the end of the credits. This is a movie worth seeing, and on the big screen.

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It is easy to look over the fence, so to speak, and see how another church is better. When we are feeling smug and self-righteous we usually see how they are worse. But we can look and get discouraged.

I pastor one of 4 churches of my denomination in our city. We are the oldest, and the smallest. It is easy to look at them and go “why are we the small church?” We don’t simply want growth from people who move to town, we want to see conversion growth. Aside from our children we are not seeing much of that. Our gifted evangelist had been sick for years and died a year ago. Evangelism is a struggle for us.

It isn’t for a lack of trying, at least in some ways. In my series on John I emphasized His mission and therefore ours. I’ve done a SS class on evangelism in the past. We’ve done an outreach the last few years. But the bottom line seems to be we are generally introverted and busy people.

I want us to change, and pray for us to change. That is a good thing. I don’t want us to be disobedient to Christ.

But I also don’t want us to be filled with envy (look at those churches) or discouragement (from beating ourselves up).

Old SpurgeonEnter Spurgeon. I’m reading Morning and Evening this year. I didn’t bring it with me on vacation so I’m reading 2 days’ worth to catch up. Almost there! But I read July 18th today.

In the morning he covered Numbers 2 addressing the location of Dan in the camp. They took up the rear, but were not to be discouraged about their position in battle formation. He notes that they experienced all of the same spiritual blessings as the rest of the tribes.

They might have thought themselves useless as a result. Kinda like Grimes in Black Hawk Down whining about being the one who always makes the coffee and doesn’t go out on missions.

Spurgeon notes they had a useful place. As the “stragglers” they picked up lost property. He expands:

“Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons.”

In other words, every church has a place in the kingdom but a different place. Some are gifted evangelistically and it shows, and some are not. But they can be a refuge for Christians who have been burned out or used up, hurt or …. introverts and doctrinally oriented folks.

Spurgeon notes that they are the rear guard, which is also a place of danger. Dan suffered attack from Amalek, for instance. All churches are vulnerable to spiritual attack, to false teaching and habitual sins.

Just because your congregation isn’t on the “cutting edge” or growing quickly doesn’t mean your church isn’t a disobedient or bad church. It may just be a different church.

In the evening he looks at Joel 2:8 and talks about balance. He mentions how the virtues should all be there- we don’t focus on one at the expense of others. But just as importantly the same is true for duties. We can not become preoccupied with one duty and neglect others. It is easy for a church that isn’t growing quickly to obsess about it and neglect their other duties.

“We must minister as the Spirit has given us ability, and not intrude upon our fellow servant’s domain.”

We tend to think of this within congregational life, which is true. We should enable all to serve according to their gifts, abilities and passions. None of us can do everything. But in the Body of Christ everything gets done.

The same is true on a larger scale, I suspect. No one church can do everything- though the bigger they are the more they can do. Smaller churches live with greater limits. This can be frustrating to members (and pastors) who see we aren’t doing something and think we should. It requires wisdom in accessing abilities, gifts and resources.

Some of us are Type-A Christians. We always want more. The answer is not to attend a Type-A church. Smaller churches do need a push, someone who calls them out of complacency. But there is a balance must be sought. We can’t help our congregations be the best they can be in light of who God has made them. And God has not given all churches the same gifts, abilities and resources. As part of a larger Body we recognize our place in the Body, the function we are to perform which means our church won’t be like other churches who have different functions to perform.

Don’t be embarrassed to be like Dan, in the rearguard. But rejoice in Christ who has made you a part of the Body and given you a role to fulfill in that Body. Seek to understand that role your congregation plays instead of trying to be a congregation you aren’t- by the providence of God.

 

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