Men of Conviction: A Response to Hacksaw Ridge and Silence Films

If you were given the opportunity to stand up for something of merit and value in a hostile society would you? If you were asked speak up for those with no voice could you? Issues of mercy and social justice seem to pervade every area of life these days. We live in such a world that each time we turn on the news, listen to the radio, or open up social media, prejudices against people groups and belief systems seem to be intensifying. Where are the men of conviction?

Men of conviction

Conviction: 1400-50; late Middle English, Late Latin convictiōn- (stem of convictiō) (noun) A fixed or firm belief, no clever argument, no persuasive fact or theory could make a dent in his conviction in the rightness of his position.

Recently, I watched two films starring Andrew Garfield in the lead role. Hacksaw Ridge and Silence have the same basic premise in which the lead character endures. He remains steadfast in his beliefs while undergoing hostility, torture, conflict, and hurt. However, the storylines depicted in each movie have profoundly different results. Without giving away the endings, the basic narrative for both films poses the same question to the audience,

Would you remain committed to a moral cause in the face of enemy fire?”

Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, 2016

“I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.” – Desmond Doss

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is set during the turbulent period of WWII when American forces fought in the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific. Army Medic Desmond T. Doss is a Seventh Day Adventist and pacifist who refuses to carry a rifle or kill people. This decision not only affects his standing within the company, and the division, but those closest to him.

During his initial training he is beaten, scorned, and bullied by everyone, including his superior officers. However, when they all face the grim reality of retreating in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War, Doss lays down his own life, and remains with the fallen men, displaying heroism with an act of redemption. Doss’s determination to stay true to his belief results in him receiving the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot. I was left asking myself if I would remain resolute under enemy fire.

Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, 2016.

“Step on your Jesus.” – Inquisitor Inoue

Silence is a film about the forbidden practice of Christianity in 17th century Japan. This account begins when two Jesuit missionaries, Rodrigues and Garupe travel to Japan in search of a fellow senior missionary, Father Ferreira, who’s gone missing and possibly walked away from the Christian faith.

During this fiery ordeal Rodrigues and Garupe come face to face with tribulation and experience persecution for living out their Catholic faith. They even face betrayal from those closest to them. As the film progresses, converts from each village are brought before the Inquisitor and made to give an account if they truly follow thei Christian God. They either profess or reject this God by placing their foot on an image. If they reject God, they are free to continue living their lives as normal. But, if they are hesitant to stand on it, they are called out and jailed before facing barbaric torture.

It is in the menacing and tear soaked prayers Rodrigues utters to God that cause your heart to break. He cries, “The weight of your silence [God] is terrible…” As this film comes to a crescendo you are left with one internal question that will haunt your conscience for days, “If you were in Rodrigues’s position, how far would you go if your faith was tested?”

The Challenge

While both of these films challenged me in ways I never expected, one thing that unified them was conviction. Each man at some point either fell or stood on a moral value that he believed defines him. Both men believe in the fundamental principles of their positions, but the outcomes for them are quite different.

As men, we have the opportunity each and every single day to make great changes in our communities. Yet, more often than not when we see injustices and things that are intolerable, we tend to push them under the rug. We think someone else more qualified will take care of it. Yet, each man at some point in his life is called to stand up for something of greater value. It is in the face of trial and fiery ordeals that each man’s faith and belief is tried. It is when his conviction is tested, that each man must remain resolute, and persevere until completion.

What do you stand for today? Does a cause grip you? Are people around you who you feel you need to step in and serve? Each man has one moment that will define him, but the question is, “will you do it?” Will we be men of conviction?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-3 ESV).

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2 Responses to Men of Conviction: A Response to Hacksaw Ridge and Silence Films

  1. Patricia Mayhew February 7, 2017 at 5:53 am #

    I have to disagree with you about the movie #Silence. I see it another way. Padre Rodrigues does doubt, but I see him overcome his doubt, and I believe that he was forced to choose a public denial of the Jesus he loves above himself, because he only has two choices left him by the Japanese Inquisitor, watch tens if not hundreds of native Japanese Christians be tortured and killed in front of him, and stay safe himself, or deny Jesus publicly but not in his heart, and save the lives of the Japanese Christians, or commit suicide. He chose to live out his life as a secret Hidden Christian to save the lives of the people Christ loves. There are numerous verbal and visual clues that lead me to say that Padre Rodrigues was a lifelong martyr and God granted him the grace to live a secret Hidden Christian life. Only his teacher, Ferreira, His friend and fellow Hidden Christian Kikijiro and his wife knew of his faith in Christ. A person can, under persecution, lie about denial of faith to save others, and repent immediately! That is what I see happening.The only other way out of his predicament would be suicide. The Roman Catholic Church sees suicide as unforgivable sin as one never has a chance to repent. I feel he was a heroic lifetime martyr! The Japanese were never going to free him, they would never allow him to leave Japan! He was forced to outward obedience to their will, but in his heart he remains and grows in faith under the suffering he must endure for life. That is a real Christian testimony! Please please see the clues that tell of his great faith! The deep deep faith is never really shaken. And as Padre Rodrigues tells the Inquisitor Inoue at his trial, “You’re never going to change my heart.” And they did not.

    • Joshua James February 7, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

      Hi Patricia, I love your response, what a well thought out view of it. I took the same view as how you’ve just described. However, I did not mention anything that you’ve just mentioned in this article. As I stated I did not want to give away the ending, and anything too spoilery, and I wanted the audience to draw their own conclusions. However, you raised so e valid points that we all discussed afterward. I am sure of it that there were “secret Christians” in the guise as Buddhist monks. However, the main point I am asking is not if he denied God. The basic theme and question that we all asked after viewing this film was, “could we stay that strong until the end?” It was this question that challenged us all.

      Thanks for your feedback, some great points raised.

      Peace x Josh

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