I have not seen this particular film in a long time. It’s not really a family type film, it’s rough and crude, and most “Christians” would probably not ‘approve’. But in revisiting it, I see a message that I must have missed entirely the first go around.
That even those of us who seem to be on the brink of complete and utter lostness, blind, alone and half-insane with grief, rage, self-pity or hate, can be fully rescued. And in that rescuing, we can be transformed into a new creation which is in turn created to rescue and seek those which are lost. This is no bible-thumping, “repeat-these-words and you are saved” type rescue. It’s a full blown restoration of what we were meant to be. Of fellowship, purpose, meaning, and love. After coming through the storm, water in the ship up to the gunnels, we sail into clear skies and fair seas even more of what we were meant to be than ever before. And this Love compels us, enables us, to sail back into dark waters on the chance that others might be hearing the Fathers call of love and healing, hungry for his bread, and safe harbor
Slade is plunged into literal and spiritual darkness because of his own foolishness. And wallows there, until he’s ready to take his own life. He enlists the help of an unwitting accomplice, manipulating him as a chess master plays a piece. Slade is intent on tasting the few pleasures in life that made him feel alive, more as a reminder of what was once good, a last chance to worship lesser gods. Isn’t that how it almost always happens? Either by our own, or another persons, fault and foolishness we are plunged into an abyss of darkness, where prayer itself cannot escape the gravitational force of fear, self-loathing, and hatred. Jesus said the things that defile come from within. Sin, and destruction, are always a journey of self-discovery. The Gospel is a story of Redemption for all mankind. It is about the World, the Creation, but it is ALWAYS about transforming us. It’s always about us, individually and corporately presenting our moral failures, and hopelessness to see them crucified on the Cross. Nailed, tortured, and speared through the side. Laying cold in a tomb, until the Light of the World begins to warm and breath new life into the corpse that was our flesh. Offering our wounds and all those ugly things that come from within to Jesus, in simple honesty. And then having them bound up, cleansed and dressed, and being sent back out with bandages in hand, into the war zone to the ones who hear His voice.
Captain Slade seems a metaphor of the “Dark Night of the Soul.” A place where all we once loved is stripped away, and all we were seems lost. Meaning has lost its meaning, and we can no longer gain our bearings because the darkness is so very, very dark. Death strangely seems a friend, because it could end whatever pain we feel now. And the twisted moral failure we try to hide and run from within is revealed. The mask has fallen away, and you see me just as I am. Fallen, crawling toward the Light, but unable to make it on my own. I am no better than you, most likely worse. I have caused my brothers to stumble, been zealous for the traditions of my fathers, and set the world on fire by my tongue.
Until one day, riding on our horse, we are blinded by a Light, and hear a voice crying “Saul, Saul…” And our vision is suddenly changed, now able to offer rescue, love and mercy, to those we meet. Not in spite of our wounds, hiding or denying them, but because in our woundedness we have discovered a mercy and love, of the Spirit, that is greater than anything we’ve known.
Don’t watch this movie with your Sunday school class, there will be many clucking tongues. But if you have the chance, watch it alone, and see yourself.