One of the movie actors I have watched through the years is Kevin Costner. He has played a wide range of characters, being everything from a washed up pro-golfer (Tin Cup) to a hero of the Old West (Wyatt Earp) to a Pentagon officer (No Way Out).
But there are two characters that he has played that I particularly enjoyed. The first was Elliot Ness in The Untouchables and the other was John Dunbar in Dances with Wolves. Both times he played a character that had an underlying code of morality and ethics that were consistent even as their personal situations kept changing.
In the storyline of the Untouchables, Ness wanted to make sure Capone was put behind bars. Capone was the source of much suffering and illegal activity. To do this Ness would have to face threats not just to his life but also to those he cared about. And he would do it for others (the people of Chicago) that he didn’t personally know.
Similarly, Dunbar, in Dances with Wolves, befriends a tribe of Sioux and faces threats to his life and all he has known. But he does so for others (the Sioux tribe he befriends), even with everything on the line.
Both characters would have personally benefited from stepping away from the conflict faced by these relative strangers, but they put themselves in harm’s way because they feel it is the right thing to do. Now, keep in mind that neither movie is a way to learn history. Elliot Ness in real life was not exactly as Costner portrayed him. And Dances with Wolves was the ultimate mirror image of the thousands of Cowboys and Indians stories that preceded it. Instead of two-dimensional red men bad guys, you got two-dimensional white men bad guys. Nevertheless, both movies were very entertaining, thought-provoking, and showed the difference someone committed to an underlying ethical and moral world view could, and would, make.
My question for this blog entry is, How do you think the church could be a better moral and ethical training ground for Christians? How can we tell the “Old, Old Story” in ways that help people connect the dots between the situations they face and the right and wrong of those situations? How can we help people not to panic and not to become just like their adversaries when they face conflict? Real life “Nesses and Dunbars” do not come naturally. It must be a way of life for them. Shouldn’t the church be instrumental in raising up real-life heroes and heroines? To use the words of one of Parkway’s elders, and put it in the form of a question, “How can we make church relevant for our members and friends?”
Which movie characters do you think of when you think of stories where good people stood up for others, even when it might cost them? Which ones make a difference?
All the best, Tom
P.S. Doesn’t a good soundtrack make a difference? Both movies mentioned above have great ones.