It Takes a Story

A few weeks ago, we spent time with Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), for me the most compelling character in the Lord of The Rings trilogy.  When you spend time with Sean, you realize how perfectly he was cast.Sean and his business partner Ned Lott are adapting Lois Lowry’s Number The Stars, one of her several Newbery Award winners, as a feature film.  Virtually every elementary school child in America’s first introduction to the Holocaust is through this remarkable little book about the Danish people’s valiant effort to steal away its Jews to Sweden under the Nazi’s noses.The book, and we pray the film to come, is critical to our efforts to remember; to never forget that humanity can be inhumane.  Equally important, however, the story reminds us that in the face of evil humans can be noble.  In the face of great challenges, we can rise to confront them.Whether because of natural disaster, economic collapse or oppressive military regimes, the world is giving us ample opportunity to live nobly.  We see young men and women in the Green Revolution standing against the oppressive regime in Iran, willing to give up their lives.  We thirst for men and women who stare down evil and face seemingly insurmountable challenges with courage and self-sacrifice, as did the Chilean miners with fortitude and faith.In True Grit, Rooster Cogburn turns back to stare down four armed villains, and confronts them with guns blazing.  In a rare film that actually surpasses its iconic parent, its theme of noble sacrifice resonated with me deeply.  After Rooster carries Mattie in his arms to safety we hear the hymn “Everlasting Arms,” and our souls were certainly singing along.In a remarkable film that was released a few weeks ago, Of Gods and Men, an order of priests makes the ultimate sacrifice to reflect the presence of Christ in conflict-ridden Algeria.   The film echoes the noble sacrifice of the Catholic priests in The Mission, perhaps one of the most profound religiously themed films ever made.In the face of the almost apocalyptic challenges we are facing in the world, we need stories to inspire us to live sacrificially and nobly.  In another film I hope to see made for a theatre near you, Congressional Medal of Honor winner Desmond Doss literally prays his way through enemy fire to lower at least 50 of his wounded soldiers down a cliff one at a time to safety.The Sam that J.R.R. Tolkien created was willing to sacrifice his life for his friend, the metanarrative of the Trilogy.  As Easter approaches, we are reminded that Tolkien told Lewis this theme is the essence of every great myth.  “All the other myths of the world are a mixture of truth and error,” Tolkien wrote.  “Truth because they are written by those made by and for God - error because written by those alienated by God. But the Bible is the one true myth. It is a true accounting of truth, while everything else we do is mimicking.”-Mark Rodgers