Mel Gibson’s Hollywood Comeback:
Why Christians Should Respond with Grace
By Diana Tyler
After over a decade away from the director’s chair, Mel Gibson is back with the much-anticipated movie HACKSAW RIDGE. The film, which is already generating Oscar buzz, tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector in World War II who saved 75 of his comrades in Okinawa – and he didn’t even have a weapon.
Mr. Gibson, whom many Christians know best as the director behind THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and BRAVEHEART, told The Daily Mail that the movie is about “a man who wouldn’t touch a weapon and wanted to be part of saving lives in the worst place on earth. I mean Okinawa was a horrific place… there were over 300,000 casualties, mostly civilian.”
While Gibson, by admission, is opposed to war, he appreciates the sacrifices made by “warriors” and believes their stories need to be told. Here’s what Gibson said in an interview with France 24:
“Those guys that went to war. I appreciate and honor their sacrifice because many of them lost much; even when they come home they suffer; so, they need some attention.”
Gibson told France 24 that he chose to work on the project because “it checked all the boxes” for him. He called it “fantastic” and “very inspiring.” As with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, faith lies at the heart of HACKSAW RIDGE as the main character is driven by his deep-seated religious convictions. The trailer features the film’s hero, played by Andrew Garfield, kneeling in prayer beside his bed, asking God to help him “get one more,” that is, save another man’s life.
When Garfield was asked about his character’s religion, he touched on Doss’s profound humility:
“He takes no credit. He took no credit for what he did, which speaks to the man that he is … . He’s a truly humble man who just wanted to do his part and to get on with it and to keep his head down and receive no praise.”
Gibson summed up his own thoughts on religion, boiling it down to a single word:
“People sort of like, they have little places – there’s this religion, there’s that religion – they have flavors; there’s like 33 flavors. I think a religion worth its salt, at the heart – at the epicenter of it – has to have love. That’s all.”
After the wild success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Gibson’s life began to spiral out of control, which, not surprisingly, created quite a stir among evangelical circles who had once praised his masterful treatment of Jesus’ final hours. It’s an unfortunate fact that his mistakes, some quite egregious, are still well ingrained in the public’s memory. Indeed, his past indiscretions have placed him on a “quiet blacklist” among many of his filmmaking peers.
Grace, a single word which lies at the epicenter of Christianity – and only Christianity – is one followers of Christ should apply to their personal views of this director, no matter the number of skeletons in his closet. Paul wrote that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even though we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are still sinners, redeemed beings whose fleshly, sin-sick bodies wage war against our spirits. We may not all be in the Hollywood limelight, but all of us have said and done things we’d like to undo. Such things would blacklist us among colleagues and loved ones were they written about in our local newspaper or publicly proclaimed on Facebook.
At the recent SoCal Harvest hosted by Greg Laurie, Gibson was greeted with thunderous applause by a stadium filled with evangelicals. When the cheering died down, Gibson, visibly moved by the audience’s response, thanked them for their support when he was getting “the tar kicked out of [him]” after the release of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. “It was you people out there,” he said, “evangelicals who stood up and supported me, and I thanked you at the time, but I thank you again.”
Gibson may be on a blacklist, but may it never be that he feels Christians have turned their backs on him. Despite his personal struggles, it’s evident from his work that he has a passion for biblical messages of humility, faith, and sacrifice, and as the body of Christ, we can pray the Lord uses films like HACKSAW RIDGE to show the love of God to a lost and hurting world.
Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of multiple books on Faith and Fitness and she is a co-owner and coach at CrossFit 925. Diana can be found on Twitter here.
Sources: The Daily Mail (October 30, 2015); YouTube – “France 24” (September 8, 2016); The Daily Mail (March 22, 2016)
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