Discerning about what we want to do with our lives

I have been very impressed by the movie Lions for Lamb and the website that has been set up for this movie. I just want to share some impressions on the movie, in the hope of luring some of my readers into watching it. The movie is about people discerning about what they want to do with their lives, precisely in the tension field of individual decision and political and structural context. As it is easy to identify with the people in the movie, viewers and movie goers are also challenged to think, discern and decide. It made me reflect about what I do and where are my priorities. It made me also reflect how easy it is to throw away oportunities or not to make the best out of the gifts one has received.

The background situation is a military operation in Afghanistan and the fate of two concrete soldiers, whose decision to become part of the military is presented as part of the movie. This allows broader analyses: how the military work, how political decisions are taken (Tom Cruise plays the ambitious senator Jasper Irving), how the media reflect on their own role (Meryl Streep, as the journalist Janine Roth, is feeling uneasy about her work and how she is being used in political games), how important intellectual life and academic work are (Robert Redford, as professor Stephen Malley, confronts and is confronted by one of his very bright students, Todd, played by Andrew Garfield). The structure of the movie is impressive: on the one side the military action, on the other side two main running conversations (the politician and the journalist, the professor and his student), with a set of other smaller but not less important conversations and events (e.g. a class, the journalist and her boss, the very important contrast between the white Todd and the two students – a Latino and a black US citizen – who decide to join the military, …). To me, these two main conversations as part of the whole movie, have been crucial: I had the impression of being part of them.

The website reflects the desire of Robert Redford to make people face important societal issues and to call them to task: what is what you want and can contribute? do you want to contribute?

This is a movie I will ask my students to engage with. Of course, as a theologian I cannot but regret that so little is being said about religion and faith in the movement … although … is what I have just said really correct? Is this movie not about “religion” in the broad and deep sense of the word? Religion as the capacity to reflect (religion seems to be connected to the Latin ‘re-legere’, which means ‘to re-read’) about what really matters for us (religion seems also to be connected to the Latin ‘re-ligare’, which means to ‘re-bind’ or to ‘solidly bind’).

I was also impressed by one of the professor’s claims: “I have the ability to recognize great potential” … It’s a humble and an important statement. In the movie “Amadeus”, the composer Salieri is capable of recognizing Mozart’s genius, but he resents the fact that he doesn’t have that genius himself and he challenges God on that ‘injustice’. In the gospel, John the Baptist recognizes the Lord and is happy about being the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom himself. Professor Stephen Malley (R. Redford) in the movie, seems to be of the kind of John the Baptist.

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