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Violence, Friends, and Personal Resolve

 
"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."  (Matthew 2:18)
            "Blood Diamond" is very difficult to watch, because of all the personal violence, especially involving children.  The depiction of the recent civil war in Sierra Leone, with the slaughter of innocents, the amputations of civilians, and the training of boys to be guerillas with machine guns, is just heartbreaking.  And yet it's a powerful story about the transformation of several unlikely characters:  a village fisherman, who only wanted his family back together, but inadvertently stumbled on "the pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46), a Rhodesian-born mercenary, who thought he only wanted money, and a ticket out of the continent, and an American reporter, who thought she only wanted a story other than another one about helpless victims.  The thing is, they all found something they weren't seeking, and in a way, they all found what they needed, which was not necessarily what they wanted.  Redemption is in short supply in such a wildly chaotic, exotic place.  The Africans even fear that "God has left Africa" and "God will not forgive them" for what they have done to each other.  But who would have thought that culpability may even reside with the casual American shopper who purchases diamond ear studs, or a modest engagement ring?  "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains" (I Timothy 6:10)
            In "Charlotte's Web," there's some sadness, also, but it's no more than witnessing the great cycle of life, as one generation of barnyard animals gives way to the next.  This expertly-crafted version of the classic children's story features interlocking segments of animation with "real life" sequences.  The result is wholesome, winsome, and entirely recommendable to genteel folks of all ages.  Any film that emphasizes the value of diverse friendship, while providing a positive role model of family relationships, deserves to be patronized by church folks who would love to see more of this kind of "Christian value" movie lovingly and competently presented on the big screen. 
            "Rocky Balboa" is also difficult to watch, but wrapped around the very personal violence is a positive "family value" kind of message.  Sylvester Stallone, now 60, reprises his role as Rocky Balboa, the famous boxer from Philadelphia, by playing up the "old and washed up" angle.  Now he owns a little restaurant in downtown Philly, where he regales patrons with old worn-out stories of his boxing matches, now several decades ago. Just to prove how much he's living in the past, he visits the grave of his beloved "Adrian" every morning and places fresh roses on her tombstone.  He continues to visit the store where she used to work, and frequents their old haunts, remembering how young and full of life they were.  Yes, he's living in the past, and very awkwardly so, especially for Paulie, the one friend he seems to have left from the old days.  Rocky's also awkward around his grown son, who accuses him of "casting a big shadow" but is seemingly unable to find his own way.  Meanwhile, the heavyweight division has become most uninteresting because the champ, Mason "The Line" Dixon, has had no challengers who have even tested him.  The fans don't like him because he hasn't seemed to demonstrate any heart; any character.  Following a "computer-generated" match of Rocky Balboa and Mason Dixon in their primes, the stage is set for a "real" match, supposedly an exhibition for charity.  But we all know that it's only an excuse to cue the theme music and watch Stallone go through his workouts, so we can get to the fight night and witness their pummeling each other to a bloody pulp.  And somehow, at the end, everybody's a winner, because now Dixon has shown courage under pressure (like the cowardly lion in Wizard of Oz?) and Rocky, well, he's proven to everyone, once again, that he has heart (like the tin man?), even if his joints are rusty.  The moral?  "It's not that you've been knocked down, it's that you get back up (without complaining) and keep going forward."   Yes, there's a girl in there somewhere, too, but really, this movie is mostly just a valentine to self-reliance.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)  How easy is it to ignore another movie about violence in Africa?  And why is that?
2)  In the dressing room before the big fight, one of Rocky's friends reads to him Zechariah 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord…" and then adds "through Jesus Christ…"  Is it appropriate to "bring" Christ into a quotation from the Old Testament?
3) If the animals at your place could talk to each other, what do you think they would say?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas