“Help me get one more”: Reflections on Hacksaw Ridge

Since its November release, Hacksaw Ridge has been the talk of Hollywood. It’s the first film that Mel Gibson has directed since Apocalypto, and possibly the best war film since Saving Private Ryan. It’s already picked up awards left and right and recently received six Oscar nominations. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, read our review here!) But for many, the film is about more than World War II. It is an inspirational story of pacifism and bravery finally brought to life for many Seventh-day Adventist Christians.

I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. (You may have heard of us thanks to one Ben Carson, who recently attempted to run for President of the United States. Trust me, we aren’t all as crazy as he is.) If you’re curious, what sets our church apart from many other Protestants is that we worship on Saturday, emphasize health, and believe in the state of the dead. Like any church, we have more than our fair share of crazy conservatives—but we also have a widespread mission field full of people who want to make the world a better place by serving others.

So what does this have to with a war movie?

Desmond Doss, the real-life hero of Hacksaw Ridge, was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, and it was his spiritual beliefs that led him to save the lives of 75 soldiers during the battle of Okinawa—without carrying a weapon in self-defense. He also lowered some wounded Japanese soldiers to safety, not seeing skin color or a uniform. As a medic, all he saw were human beings. He went on to be the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, honored for his service above and beyond the call of duty.

While the year has been full of amazing cinematic landmarks, Hacksaw Ridge stands out as a bold statement to me—particularly with the current American political climate. It’s easy to say “make love, not war” when you’re sitting on your butt at home, retweeting memes. It’s another story to face your opponents head on with the conviction to save lives instead of taking them. It’s difficult to stand up for what you believe when the people in power are telling you that you’re wrong. But the events of the 1930s and 40s are repeating themselves today, and I know that there are Desmond Doss’s out there still. People who are unafraid of change, who look forward to the progress of humankind, who have a desire for peace and prosperity for every living person. People who don’t want to kill, but who are patriotic and will do what it takes to protect their country and their values. People who will fight for the rights of others in any way possible. People who celebrate our beautiful differences while also knowing that we are all made of the same flesh and blood.

Watching Hacksaw Ridge made me proud to call myself a Seventh-day Adventist. And whether or not it wins any Academy Awards, that won’t have been the point. I hope that those who have seen the film, and those who will watch it in the future, will see the message for what it is. It’s not simply a war film, or a melodrama, or a biopic about a Christian man. It’s a movie about the human heart in all its fragility, fear, and ultimately, its power.

See you at the Oscars!

The Collected Mutineer

P.S. Thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge or Andrew Garfield’s amazing performance? Tweet me @ImpalaMutineers.