Thursday, June 23, 2011

Decisions of Conscience: Of Gods And Men

The French film, Of Gods and Men,  is about a community of monks living in Algeria.  They have a medical center for the poor and hire a number of people from the local village to support their cause.  They pray and have good relations with their Muslim co-religionists.  However, thinks turn dark when Muslim fundamentalist revolutionaries attempt to take over the region.  The monks offer assistance to all, but many are recommending, even demanding, that they leave the country.  Their lives are certainly in danger.

But what should they do?  Should they leave where they believe God has called them?  Or should they remain, whatever the consequences?  This is their basic struggle and the focus of most of the film

Below is an analysis which talks about the film in view of its ending.  If you don't want spoilers, then don't keep reading.  You have been warned.

The genre in which Of Gods and Men belong to is martyrography.  The Last Temptation of Christ is an example of this, as well as The Passion of Joan of Arc as well as The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.  But martyrographies go back to the first century B.C. with the book of IV Macabees, so it's got a long history.

In a martyrography, it basically describes the way someone dies in order to inspire them to be like the people who died.  The importance of the martyrography is not how great it is to die (well, most of them), but they are rather displaying such a good way to live that if it leads to death, so be it.

Of Gods and Men is a classic example.  The emphasis in the film is not how brave these monks are-- note that they jump almost every time a gun comes onto their compound.  Nor is it how noble they are-- many of them question their religious calling due to the danger that faces them.  Rather, the emphasis is on faithfulness in service.  That no matter what danger comes, we need to be faithful to love those whom God has given us to love.

The depth of this particular martyrography is that these particular Christians are being faithful to their Muslim brothers and sisters, even terrorist.  

One of the other martyr films I was comparing Of Gods and Men to is my favorite: The Mission, which IS a Hollywood film.  The Mission focuses on three men, and while I would have rather have had one of them be a native, the fact is it shows three different church perspectives, which I really appreciate.  OGAM is more shallow in that regard, only dealing with the doubts of some individuals, but the church seems relatively unified.

Honestly, Of Gods and Men is a textbook example of what Jesus is all about.  It's propaganda for my kind of Christian faith, which is Anabaptist/Mennonite. And this is what real missionary work is all about-- not the bastardization of it that the Mormons and evangelicals have.   It has all the verses, as well as some gorgeous poetry put to chant.  If they ever have a soundtrack of this movie, I will jump at the chance to get it. 

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