I remember the first time I saw Rambo 4. (I know this sounds silly, but if you haven’t seen it….go watch it.) I sat in the movie theater with my Husband, brother and sister-in-law. Half-way through this very heavy movie, I realized I had my hands pressed to the sides of my face. I glanced over and saw my sister-in-law sitting exactly the same way. Why? This movie was brutal. Brutal. Stallone didn’t pull many punches when he showed what life in Burma is like. (Actually, if you watch the special features, he tells you that there were many atrocities he couldn’t include due to them being so violent the movie would have been unwatchable.) I left the movie feeling sick, just sick.
Why did this movie strike me so hard? I’ve seen some pretty violent movies, read some pretty violent books, studied some pretty violent crimes. Why did this movie make me so sick? Well. If you’ve read my blog at all you know that I’m a Christian – an opinionated one. Rambo 4 is a story about a group of missionaries who go to help Christians in Burma being persecuted for their faith and their ethnicity. People praying and reading are blown up, hacked to pieces, raped, and tortured. The Christians are fed to pigs.
My parents didn’t believe raising kids meant protecting them from the world. They knew that someday we would have to live and interact with that big place and they wanted us prepared. Sheltering us from evil was only going to leave us unprepared to deal with it. They believed we needed a good grasp of history, and, as Christians, we needed to understand our own history. All that to say: I grew up with stories of the martyrs. Yes, the men and women fed to lions. Think about it. You’re standing in a sandy, bloody pit surrounded by screaming, cheering people. They are screaming for your death. They want to watch you get ripped to pieces by a lion. The gates open. (Can you imagine the fear twisting your gut?) A half-starved, half-crazy lion bounds towards you. This isn’t a quick death. This isn’t a merciful death. This is death as a sport. And don’t try to tell me watching an action flick is the same thing. It’s not. Watching warriors save lives, win the day, and do the slo-mo walk away from an explosion is not the same as cheering a lion on as it eats men, women, and children.
But, I live in America. I live in Texas – the Bible belt! I’m a pretty traditional American with American values, living a quiet life where I go to church, take care of my family, and help my neighbors. We have owned our own business, we work hard, and pay taxes. Pretty normal, right? Well, in this middle-class life we tend to lose sight of the suffering around us out in the world. We lose sight in our entitlement. We have 1st world problems. Now….many of us are aware of people starving. Small wars. Big wars. Terrorist attacks and such. But are you aware of how many Christians are being persecuted even today? 200,000 woman and children sold into slavery? A pastor in prison who is American citizens? Christians beaten, raped, murdered because they’re Christians?
I wasn’t aware this still happened in our ‘civilized’ world until I saw Rambo 4. I went home with the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I got when I was a kid reading about Nero’s lanterns: Christians stuffed in baskets and lit on fire. If you watch the extra features on Rambo 4, Stallone talks extensively about the conditions they faced, the actors in the movie faced after making the film, and what is really going on around there. This was the point I became a very strong Stallone fan. I wish more actors would design their movies around things like this. Can you imagine Stallone doing a movie like Rambo 4 on Sex-trafficking? Or the Christians being killed in the Sudan? See….in some ways movies, stories, get peoples’ attention more than a documentary. Why? Cause we love stories. Stories move us. Stories help us relate. Stories help us connect emotionally with what is going on. This is why we read historical-fiction. This is why many of us love fantasy stories – they take the human condition somewhere new and fresh and let us look at it from a different angle. How powerful a tool do we have in stories???
I hope to continue to do some research on the persecution being enacted on Christians today. There is much to learn. But, I believe that with all my war research of late, I’m in a good position to do some studying about modern persecution. And you never know what might happen from there. Studying often leads to writing and to stories.
Be aware. Don’t live with your head stuck in the sand. Don’t hide away. Make yourself understand what others are facing in this world. You may not be able to make a movie, write a book, or even donate money to help them, but you can pray, you can know, you can understand. There are real Christians facing horrible persecution in this world – don’t ignore that fact.
(Just a side note: I love the fact that Rambo 4 ends with the Christian acknowledging Rambo’s use of violence to meet violence. Early on in the movie, Rambo asked them if they were taking guns to the Christians. The missionaries were appalled at such an idea. He said if they don’t take guns they’re not changing anything. If they don’t help them have the power to defend themselves, to stop murder before it happens, they aren’t changing anything. By the end of the movie, the Missionary seems to understand this when he is forced to pick up a rock to defend one of the mercenaries that came to rescue him. Protection of home and family is not the same as murder. God said ‘thou shall not murder’. Murder is the blatant, hate-based planning of taking a specific human life because we are not being worshiped like we think we should be. (Don’t they know I’m god??? How dare they?) God, who said thou shall not murder, also instigated the death penalty for murder. The positive side of not murdering is defending life. Just like the positive side of thou shall not steal is private property – you can’t steal something unless someone owns it. At this point, arming the Christians was the best way to defend life. Armed they could fight back and keep their sons, wives, and daughters safe. Armed they could worship freely without fear of attack. This movie does a great job of showing this without getting preachy….like I am. :-))