Hacksaw Ridge recounts the compelling true story of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a devout Seventh Day Adventist and the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his valiant bravery at the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. (See the movie trailer below.) The film chronicles Doss’s life from his childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to his enlistment in the US Army and heroic exploits on the battlefield. Set against the jolting backdrop of bloody, violent battle scenes, Doss’s faith is central to the film and is the motivating force behind how he lives and works. Desmond’s commanding officer and fellow soldiers scoff at his faith and equate his conviction to not carry a weapon with cowardice. However, before the movie ends, the men refuse to go back to the front line without Doss because this man of faith proved to be the most courageous among them.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer once said, “All truth is God’s truth.” This means, we can learn from this Seventh Day Adventist worldview. Here are a few Faith, Work, and Economics (FWE) themes to ponder.
FWE Themes in Hacksaw Ridge
1. Faith was the driving force behind how Doss worked.
“I don’t know how I’m gonna live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.” Desmond replied to his fiancé when she questioned whether he was following his own will instead of God’s by refusing to carry a weapon. This is one of several moments in the film when we see that Doss’s faith guides his thinking and behavior, including the way he approached work. If we think about it for a moment, most of us would be unwilling to walk into a battle without a weapon to defend ourselves. Yet Doss aspires to be a medic dedicated to saving lives, not taking them. Carrying a weapon would contradict his faith.
In the Evangelical community, a sacred-secular division is imposed when we classify certain jobs as being more holy and consider others to be unholy, secular or worldly. When we apply this perspective to work, we place pastors and missionaries in the “holy calling” category and put doctors, businesspeople or performers in the unholy category. However, the Bible teaches that every type of work – whether in Christian ministry or the world of business, medicine or the arts – is sacred because God created and ordained work as an act of spiritual worship. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that every aspect of who we are and what we do, including our work, is sacred.
2. Faith was the mainspring of how Doss lived, loved and served others.
In our post-Christian, post-modern culture, being an openly devout Christian and a person who holds strong convictions is not at all popular, but Desmond shows us it’s possible to live a deeply personal faith openly and hold strong convictions. In the face of ridicule from nearly everyone around him, he doesn’t hide his faith in God. He exhibits a gentle, kind, and humble character. Doss respects his leaders and comrades while maintaining his resolve to serve as a medic despite their attempts to get rid of him. As the battle unfolds, we discover the strength of his character and are amazed by how he puts his life on the line to save so many men from certain death.
“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to put a little of it back together.” (Doss) The workplace is one of the places where conflicts occur regularly and where our faith will be put to the test. God calls his people to be gentle, kind and humble in all circumstances. Romans 15:1-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29 instruct us to not please ourselves, but to build up our co workers. We are called to follow Christ’s example, working in harmony with our colleagues so they might see Christ in us and glorify God.
3. Our work matters to God and we can call on him for help.
During one of the most intense moments in the battle, when the American Army is forced to retreat, Doss experiences a defining moment. “What do you want from me?” he cries out to God while bombs explode around him. While the rest of the soldiers abandon the Ridge, he asks God for direction. Doss hears God’s voice in the midst of the raging battle and he lays down his life to save as many soldiers as possible. Desmond stays connected with God as he goes about his work. “Please Lord, help me get one more!”, he says at least 75 times while saving one soldier at a time. He proves that anything is possible when we invite God into our work.
James 1:5 and Proverbs 3:5-6 teach us that wisdom is found in God himself. In situations that don’t make sense to our limited human understanding, God will grant us divine understanding and direction if we ask him for it. God will help us navigate difficult situations at work when we cry out to him and look to him for guidance, wisdom, patience, grace, and love for our fellow workers.
There are many more profound moments about faith and work in Hacksaw Ridge. It isn’t an easy film to watch because the battle scenes are a shocking reminder about the brutality of war and the fallen nature of humanity. Desmond Doss is a character rarely portrayed on the “silver screen” and his life is an inspiring example of the power of living our faith openly and humbly, holding fast to our convictions, and laying our lives down so that some might be saved.
1. Do you consider your work to be a sacred act of worship or do you leave your faith at home when you go to work?
2. How might you close the gap in the sacred-secular divide in relation to your job?
3. What does it mean for you to be a Christian at work?
4. When you face a challenging or compromising situation at work, to whom do you turn for help? Do you believe God will help you navigate difficult situations at work?
Chery Flores is a cross-cultural missionary serving with Mission to the World in collaboration with Església Ciutat Nova 22@ in Barcelona, Spain. She is passionate about discipling and equipping people to build up the body of Christ and be a part of advancing God’s kingdom in the unique context where God has placed them. A CinemaForum outreach ministry is proving to be a great way to build relationships with non-Christians who enjoy watching English-language films and talking about them afterward. Conversations frequently center around faith, ethics, work, love, war and other topics portrayed in films.