I went to see the latest Hobbit movie with my family today. As we drove home, I started thinking about the sacrifices made by the characters in the movie, and the motivation behind them. Then, shortly after we got home, my wife told me that she had read where Clint Eastwood has apparently came out and said American Sniper and Letters from Iwo Jima are both supposed to be anti-war movies. Now I realize that — at first — it may not seem like The Battle of Five Armies and Eastwood’s anti-war movies might have anything in common, but when they are taken together, they remind us of a powerful truth — a truth that is essential to the survival of every culture, but also to mankind in general. Sadly, much of the Western world has not forgotten this truth, it has consciously rejected it and, unless we wake to our mistake, the consequences are inevitable.
I’ll start with Eastwood saying American Sniper and Letters from Iwo Jima are supposed to be anti-war movies; movies that tell the tragedy suffered by families as a result of war. I think I can speak to the subject of war from a perspective Eastwood cannot. You see, I earned my CAR (combat action ribbon) with the 2nd Marine Division’s breach force during Desert Storm. Now, I may not have seen as prolonged a period of combat as most soldiers fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, but then, most of those soldiers have not seen anything that even comes close to the highway of death. I did. I walked it the day after it happened. I should hope this is sufficient to say I have had first-hand experience with war and its human costs. And with that said, I would generally agree with the idea that war is something to be avoided — but not always, and definitely not at any cost.
This is where the Hobbit movie comes into the equation. If you watch it, you will notice that many of the characters die, and several others offered their lives, it just happened that fate did not take them. To someone who has never seen battle, it may appear that these characters died or offered their lives for different reasons, but they didn’t. They did so for the same reason. Each of them — the characters who died, and those who merely offered their lives in battle — each of them did so out of love for someone other than themselves. Even the dwarfs, who said they wanted to fight for honor, were fighting for their love of their fellow dwarfs. After all, honor is little more than an extension of one’s commitment to society, and society is the collection of individuals. Honor begets duty, and duty demands sacrifice, but it is all driven by a love for others, and this is at the heart of what drives the characters in The Battle of Five Armies — at least, it is what drives the characters on the righteous side of the fighting.
On the other side was the lust for conquest, power and wealth. There is never a justification to go to war for these things. War for the sake of conquest, power and/or wealth is evil — period! In any such case, I will stand with the anti-war crowed. However, there is also such a thing as a just war. Here is the truth that is revealed between the messages of the Hobbit and Eastwood’s anti-war flicks. When innocent people are attacked, they are not only justified in defending themselves, they have a duty to do so — a duty to every member of their society. If an innocent society is attacked, and a member is found in that society who still refuses to offer his or her life for the other members of that community, then there is no love in that person save for themselves. This principle applies to each of us in our private lives, as well: if there is no one in your life for whom you would die, then there is no love in you except for love of self — period!
This is an eternal truth. Whether you believe it or not, Scripture tells us that no one has any greater love than to lay down their life for another. But if we do not love anyone at least as much if not more than we love ourselves, then what could ever motivate us to risk our life for another, let alone die for them? And if we are not willing to risk our lives for anyone else, then how can our culture survive? In deed, how can man survive? The Western world has not forgotten this truth, it has rejected it. Sadly, the West has rejected most of what man has found self-evident for most of history — until now. Now? Now we think we have grown so smart that we can change the fixed and eternal laws which govern this universe simply because we desire them to change. Now the West doesn’t just claim to be God, it actually thinks it is God, and what god would possibly die for another — especially when that god thinks of the other as beneath them? Well, I can think of One Who did just this, and He is God, yet He loves each and every one of us so much He willingly laid down His life for us.
This realization left me to wonder: if God did that for me, how much easier is it for me to lay down my life for any member of my immediate family, or my extended family or one of my friends? Or for any member of God’s children? And if I cannot do so, then how can I tell myself I love anyone but myself? Oh, sure, I can tell myself I love others, but if I cannot bring myself to even offer my life for them, then it is just a lie I tell myself to make my narcissism a little easier to swallow and my selfishness taste a little less bitter. After all, isn’t love one of the things that separates us from the animals? For, if we do not love each other, then we cannot see the difference between right and wrong; and if we can neither distinguish right and wrong nor love another enough to put them ahead of ourselves, then we are nothing but animals. And if we are nothing but animals, it leaves us with one last question: why do we bother with laws, or even with society? After all, animals live by the law of the jungle, so shouldn’t we — if we are animals?
I can’t answer any of these questions for you. You’ll have to answer them for yourself. All I can answer is for me, and as for me, I can tell you that I can and have offered my life for the man next to me — and I didn’t even like many of them that much. However, liking and loving someone are two different things, and I loved every one of my brother Marines, as well as all of you who were back here at home — even those who, as part of society, sent me to war, then mocked, ridiculed and insulted me for doing what you told me to go do on your behalf. Still, I would do it all again, because I love my fellow man. And anyone who tells me that they have no part in sending others to fight on their behalf because they disagree with our nation’s policy… Well, I tell anyone who thinks that way that there is no love in them — no love save the love they have for themselves, and I would be ashamed to call any such person a fellow countrymen.
So, what say you? Do you love anyone enough to die for them? If so, then consider living for that person. Honor your duty to them, especially when the price is less that death or the risk of death. But, if you cannot say — without hesitation — that you love someone else enough to die for them, then I tell you that you are already dead.