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January 30, 2007

Love Goes Behind Enemy Lines: Some Reflections on ’Blood Diamond’

This past weekend I went to see the movie Blood Diamond. Honestly, I’m not sure whether or not to recommend the film to you. It was horribly violent, but the violence was of the kind that is regrettably true to life. As I watched the horror of evil men training up child soldiers to be killing machines, it vividly brought home to me the horrors that children, particularly in Uganda and other parts of Africa, are facing even as I write. It is the kind of evil that I want to shut out, but which I know I am called to be aware of so that I might do my part to fight against it.

I was reminded, however, that Hotel Rwanda handled an equally violent subject just as powerfully, but with much more finesse. The word “obscene” actually comes from Greek theater. There were certain things that were left ob scena, or literally off stage. If you take the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex, for example, we only hear of Jocasta hanging herself, we don’t see it on stage. Similarly, in the film Hotel Rwanda, we see a van as it strains to move across a bumpy terrain shrouded in fog. Only after some moments do we realize (though we don’t actually see) the reason the van is moving so laboriously is that it is rolling over dead bodies. This scene made a vivid impact on me, without branding my brain with direct pictures of mangled bodies. Let's just say Blood Diamond was not as deft in its treatment of violence.

I did see in the film, however, a stunning (though unwitting) reflection of the Gospel story. When Solomon Vande is ripped from his son, Dia, there is nothing that will stand in the way of a father’s love. Solomon risks life and limb to track his son and rescue him from the Revolutionary United Front forces. These forces, and Solomon’s personal enemy, Captain Poison, have brainwashed Dia, who is now one of the many “baby killers,” or ruthless child soldiers. (Spoiler Warning.) After a near-death brush with the R.U.F. the night before, Solomon shrugs off caution and walks right into the heart of the enemy camp to find and rescue his child. Seeing Dia, he puts his hand on his shoulder and calls his name. Surprisingly though, Dia not only repels his father’s attempted rescue, he turns his dad over to his leaders. Later, when the bad guys lie dead and the prized pink diamond is finally back in Solomon’s hands, the camera turns to show us Dia, pointing a gun directly at his father, who has risked it all to rescue him.

Solomon talks sense into his son by reminding him of his identity. He passionately reminds young Dia, saying, “You are my son!” Solomon tells Dia that while he may have done bad things, his identity lies in something much more profound, his sonship. He reminds him of his love, of a future without the violence and the pain; in short, he pleads with his son to remember who he is.

Something in this scene stirred me profoundly. In our old nature we, like Dia, were slaves to the enemy. We were brainwashed to love evil and love the Father of Lies, our true Father’s sworn enemy. Evil had so engulfed our thinking, however, that even when presented with rescue and truth, we stared blankly at it. Through Christ though, God has brazenly walked into the very heart of the enemy camp to rescue us. We need such strong love to ever have a chance of escape. For, like Donne wrote in his famous Holy Sonnet 14, God must imprison us in Him, or else we will never truly be free. Likewise, in our life as Christians, as we remember our true sonship, we can turn from the distorted thinking that used to characterize us, and choose to do what is right. Knowing our true father and his love for us makes the difference.

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