Unbroken or Broken?

I saw the movie Unbroken during the Christmas holiday. I had read the book a couple of years earlier and wondered why they hadn’t yet made the story into a movie. It is absolutely unbelievable what Louie Zamperini endured. I cannot imagine being in that situation and surviving not just the physical suffering and deprivation of a POW, but the mental anguish and hopelessness that attends such a condition. As I watched the movie, the word “broken” kept going through my mind. I was assaulted by the brokenness of war; the brokenness of a world where people hate and attempt to dominate and denigrate those who look different and speak a different language; the brokenness of families and systems that grow children into adults capable of such atrocities; and the brokenness of the human heart riddled with sin and allergic to its Creator.

Louis Zamperini, though he endured, was actually a broken man living in a broken world. He was not motivated by love and forgiveness, but survived like so many people on the bread of hatred and the water of revenge. It was only after he gave his life to Jesus Christ at one of Billy Graham’s first evangelistic tent meetings in Los Angeles that he became unbroken; something that the movie unfortunately left out. One needs to be whole before they can be unbroken and Louie was anything but whole when he came back from the war. Whole people do not self-destruct, which was what Zamperini was in the process of doing. In a very real sense he was doing to himself exactly what the Bird (the commandant of the prison camp who was so cruel to Louie) had failed to do. And to further underscore his brokenness, Louie walked out on Billy Graham at the first mention of sin. However, Louie’s wife convinced him to go back on another night and he responded to the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. Louie became a whole man; an unbroken man, driven by love for broken juveniles and for his broken tormentors.

It is unfortunate that the message of forgiveness and reconciliation was a mere echo in the movie because it is this message that our broken world needs so desperately to hear. Instead we hear hatred preached across the racial divide in our own cities, revenge practiced by the purveyors of Islamic fundamentalism in France, and power-mongering violence of the Assad regime in Syria pushing millions to refugee status and to the brink of starvation. Where is the message of reconciliation for the Palestinians and the Israelis? It lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ; the very message our broken world does not want to hear (like Louie, at first) because of its brokenness.

I recommend the movie even though it misses its chance to be prophetic. Perhaps it will influence people to read the book. By the way, another movie that you may want to see is To End All Wars (2001). It is a true story about four Allied POWs who endured incredibly harsh treatment in a Japanese prison camp during WW2. The movie is based upon the real-life account of Ernest Gordon contained in his book Through the Valley of the Kwai. It is not an easy movie to watch but you will see and hear the message of costly sacrifice and reconciliation that is at the heart of the gospel.



Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said that the NAE recently surveyed evangelical leaders to ask whether Congress should authorize US military intervention in Syria. “Sixty-two and a half percent said ‘no.’ Thirty-seven and a half percent said ‘yes.’ I was surprised because I expected the answers would be the other way around.” Evangelicals do not often agree on a lot, but I think this is a significant response.

The Syrian civil war is a nightmare with more than 100,000 dead and over a million people displaced. The recent chemical attack which killed somewhere between 500-1400 has evoked moral outrage from most of the Western World. Since World War I there has been a general international consensus that “all is not fair in love and war,” and that chemical weapons should never be used. The fact that such weapons were used upon one’s own people presents a special case of injustice that begs to be confronted and rectified.

However, does that mean that there should be intervention even if it is a relatively limited punitive missile strike? Apparently our allies do not think so nor a majority of the American people. There are three major views that make up the landscape of Christian response to war and the use of force. The first is the Just War theory held by most Catholics and conservative Protestants who believe that war is justified if certain criteria are met. The second is the Pacifist position which believes that violence in any form is incompatible with the gospel and that Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” is not just a personal ethical response to evil, but a national one as well. Recently, there has been a third view called Just Peacemaking, which sees itself as a corrective to both of the major views.

In scanning the response of those who hold these views, I have seen a consensus that a punitive strike by the United States acting alone is neither justified nor wise. They have brought up a variety of concerns that no one is answering: What American interest are we protecting by such a strike? Won’t such a military action add to the human suffering and not alleviate it? How would this affect Christians in Syria and in that part of the world; would it add to their persecution like what happened in Iraq and is happening in Egypt? Would such a strike help or hurt Israel and Turkey? Finally, what is the point of such an intervention? A regime change; do we really know who the good guys are? I like what one proponent of the Just War theory said, “Saving national credibility is important but does not make a war just…It seems that the Administration is giving an altar call for a limited war, without having preached the sermon to make the case.”

What I hope for is that Congress will vote against such a strike and instead will draft a resolution that strongly condemns Syria’s action as unconscionable to the American people and to humanity. The resolution should call for the UN to live up to its principles by making a rigorous case for international intervention in the Syrian crisis and holding Russia complicit to the genocide taking place in Syria. As one writer in the Chicago Tribune said, “make Russia own Syria.” The resolution should also state that if the United Nations fails to act, the US will pull out and demand that the UN move its ineffective organization to Brussels or Geneva. This is a significant moment where we can use what moral leadership we have left to call the only organization in the world created for such a time as this, to put up or close up. One final point to the resolution, Congress should designate additional funds for the Syrian refuge relief effort and call upon the international community to also increase their efforts to alleviate the civilian suffering.

I do not expect Congress to pass my resolution. That is why we need to pray for our country, Syria, and the world—for God to accomplish what we cannot.