Thursday, June 5, 2008

with blood on our hands

I just watched the most recent installment of “RAMBO.” It is very popular these days to talk about the affects of violence in the media on young people or society in general, but this is not what my post is about. This Rambo is the fourth movie in the series and comes late in Sylvester Stallone’s career. Recently, Stallone has been resurrecting his classic action characters “Rocky” and “Rambo.” Rocky (2006) supposedly portrayed elements of Stallone’s recently rekindled faith in Christ. According to Catholic News Agency, Sly considers Rambo to be a “Christian film” as well. The movie was just released on video and I decided I could handle some mindless entertainment. Also, if I’m totally honest, I was a Rambo fan before I knew it wasn’t okay to enjoy that kind of film. I know it’s embarrassing but sadly true. This post is not, however, a confession of my admittedly bad movie taste either.

So what is this post? It is about RAMBO’s so called Christian character. Specifically, I think it is clear that this movie is an accurate portrayal of much of contemporary Christianity’s slavery to death. The plot of the movie is as follows: John Rambo is a sort of nihilist with a big heart and even bigger muscles. While living a sad and angry existence peddling poisonous snakes in a filthy tourist spot in Thailand, Rambo is approached by Christian missionaries who want to take medicine, bibles and medical care into the war-torn nation of Burma. After initially refusing, Rambo finally gives in to the request of the only female missionary who asks real nice. She says, “Trying to save a life isn't wasting your life, is it?” Apparently not.

So, Rambo takes them up river. Unfortunately, they run into some Burmese pirates that “force” the big lug into killing them. The missionaries are outraged, but Rambo is justified by the fact that his new female missionary friend would have been raped. Rambo drops the daring do-gooders off with an awkward goodbye then goes back to snake selling. Predictably, the missionaries fall into the hands of the evil Burmese military. The pastor of the church where these missionaries came from is forced to hire mercenaries to go rescue them. Rambo takes a second trip after confronting his own demons and realizing that he is just meant to kill. The irony of the mercenaries is picked up by their leader “So, they send in the devil to do God's work.”

As you might expect Rambo does more than just take these guys up river. Rambo opens u up a can of “Whoop A**!” He breaks out his bow and arrows to bring the hurt on some evil Burmese soldiers. He spends the rest of the movie selflessly killing everyone who does wrong to save the missionaries, particularly Sarah Miller (his new female friend). By the end of the movie even the missionary who was so quick to condemn Rambo’s pirate killing has blood on his hands. The movie ends with a man redeemed by his own violence. Things really can change; it just takes some good ole fashion killing to make it happen.

According to IMDB, this Rambo boasts a kill count of 236, the most for any in the franchise. It averages out 2.59 killings per minute. No gore is spared either. The movie shows limbs being ripped off, guts spilling out and various projectile weapons dismantling bodies. Rambo is a perfect example of the kind of propaganda that masquerades as entertainment. It is a monument to death. William Stringfellow, the great lawyer/social activist/Christian theologian discusses the powers of death over humanity in his book Free in Obedience. In the same book he concludes a section, “So men, in their falleness, are found sometimes idolizing themselves, sometimes idolizing snakes or bugs, other creatures, or natural phenomena, or sometimes idolizing nation, ideology, race, or one of the other principalities. It is to such as these that men look to justify their existence, to find and define the lost meaning of their lives, and to fill the place of God himself.” In the struggle against death men participate in it. Their killing is justified by their intention to rid the world of killers. Rambo is redeemed by the blood of the Burmese soldier and if he were at Calvary Jesus certainly wouldn’t have died.

One thing that is terribly real about the film is the portrayal of the military junta in Burma, one of the worst human rights violators in the world. Watching this movie in conjunction with reading Stringfellow has prompted me to consider what a faithful Christian response to the situation in Burma/Myanmar might look like. So, in conjunction with previous postings about confession of corporate sin this is a beginning of a series of posts asking what Christianity might look like in Burma and how Christians in America can spread the Kingdom of God while living in a world of death. I pray that our answer does not lie with Rambo redemption.


Unknown said...

the lesson went really well! thanks for asking! we're most likely moving to keokuk in a month! the elders voted yes, and now the congregation has to vote and for whatever reason, that wont happen until june 29th, so we're waiting to put our two weeks in at our jobs until then, so we're guessing mid july-ish we'll arrive in keokuk! four hours away from ya'll!

Alex said...

Glad to see you're reading Harry Potter. It's good for you.

Alex said...

Here is a video clip from MadTV that reminded me of your post...which is a really good post, by the way. I hope you guys are settling in well. I pray for you. Give you wife our warmest regards.

It's kinda funny.