Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Embracing Enemies

Fifty years ago, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and the three other American missionaries dared to make contact with the most violent society ever documented by anthropologists. This week End of the Spear, the story of their martyrdoms, hits the theaters, and the film makers hope contact will be made with another violent and spiritually blind society -- our own. It is a story that should be told in this age of ethnic cleansings, gulags, holocausts, genocide, and riots. When the film's director, Jim Hanon, traveled to Ecuador to get permission from the Waodani (formerly Auca) Indians to make the movie, the tribe initially refused. But when Steve Saint, Ned Saint's son, told them stories about situations like the Columbine shootings, the Waodani were electrified. "If this story will help your culture not live so violently," they said, "then we [want you to] tell our story." For those unfamiliar with the five men who risked and gave their lives to make contact with this remote and violent tribe in Ecuador, End of the Spear brings their story to life. But while the story of their deaths is important, what emerges more powerfully from this film is the life of those who carried on. Rachel Saint, Nate's sister; Steve Saint, his son; and the widows all risked their lives to travel into the Amazon basin and finish their loved ones' work. In the movie, Steve Saint meets his father's killer, a Waodani named Mincayani and fights an internal battle. Revenge is at the heart of the generations of conflict in places like the primitive jungles of Ecuador -- or the Middle East, or Croatia, or Africa, for that matter. Will he spear the one who speared his father? Or will he be able to conquer the impulse for revenge? Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian who was teaching seminary students while Serbians were establishing rape camps in and around his hometown, wrestled with this question in his 1996 book Exclusion and Embrace. Volf comes to the same powerful conclusion that is portrayed in the film End of the Spear. The only way to break the cycle of revenge is through the triumph of the cross of Christ. Volf writes this: "Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one," he writes, "can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without . . . transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness." As Steve Saint and his father's killer embrace at the film's close, Steve recalls, "For years, many people would tell me that they could identify with our loss, but they never could imagine how we'd experienced gain." This is the gain of the cross, and here, of course, is the real message of the movie: The Bible provides the only worldview that provides for reconciliation. No other religion does -- not the Hindus, who know no salvation, not Muslims, no philosophy. I hope you will get out and see this film and bring your neighbors with you. Let them see in a vivid drama the one belief system, the one hope for mankind, is found at the cross.


Chuck Colson


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