Desmond Doss Council
Desmond Doss Council
In a world where the wrong hero is often celebrated, along comes the story of a very humble, brave man who served during World War II, Desmond T. Doss. A Seventh-day Adventist, Doss is the main character in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, a true-to-life war story. The movie highlights Doss’s war experience, his harrowing dilemma serving and being different, and his conviction to not carry a weapon. The movie goes nationwide on November 4, and is directed by Mel Gibson.
“Doss’s strong convictions, his Adventist beliefs, and his unshakeable confidence in God come alive, and hold the promise of inspiring a new generation of believers,” said the North America Division in a statement concerning the film.
Charles Knapp, chair of the Desmond Doss Council founded in 2000, and part of the Georgia-Cumberland Association, says, “Never has a multimillion dollar commercial film ever presented the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a more favorable light. Conversations on faith, prayer, personal convictions, the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church begin immediately before the theater empties. The Council has come to trust and depend completely on God’s leading. No greater opportunity has ever been presented to the Church to witness and begin a dialog that, if left to the Holy Spirit to guide and nurture, can produce fruit beyond our wildest expectation.”
While the movie itself is an exciting story, when Doss mentions that he is a Seventh-day Adventist, it gets real. This mention will make many ask, “Who are Seventh-day Adventists?” To help answer that question, here are a few tools you might use:
It Is Written has three television programs ready to respond with “The Heroism of Desmond Doss,” airing November 6; “Who was Desmond Doss,” airing November 13; and “The Faith of Desmond Doss,” airing November 20. All three are powerful testimonies that provide answers.
There are two missionary sharing books, The Faith of Desmond Doss, by John Bradshaw, speaker/director of It Is Written, and the Hero of Hacksaw Ridge, by Booton Herndon. The It Is Written book will have a response card customized to direct inquiries to the nearest Adventist church. Another book, Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge, by Booton Herndon, provides a more indepth version of the Doss story.
Knapp added, “Viewers of the film will sense God’s presence, protection, and power in the story. It is palpable. It is miraculous. While critics are rating Hacksaw Ridge as one of the best war movies ever made, all plot lines, themes, and the main character center around Desmond Doss and his unrelenting faith and integrity. Among the thousands of focus group viewers from dozens of faith communities and the general public who have seen the film, the response has been unbelievable.”
A Different Sort of Hero
I have a new hero and his name is Desmond Doss.
Mel Gibson was recently in town for a preview showing of his latest movie Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge recounts the story of Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. You probably don’t know his story, but his story is one Christians need to know. His example is one we need to emulate.
Desmond Doss was 23 when he enlisted in the Army in April 1942. Patriotic to the core and anxious to help America win the war over the Axis powers, Doss enlisted … as a conscientious objector.
Doss was willing to go to war, but he was unwilling to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his beliefs as a Christian.
Doss’ greatest enemy in the war may not have been the Japanese he encountered in the Pacific theater. It was his fellow soldiers! They couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t fight. They ridiculed him. Humiliated him. Scorned him. Beat him. In short, they did everything they could to force him to quit and leave the army, but Doss was not a quitter.
The officers assigned him arduous duty. Refused to give him liberty. Threatened him with court martial. Still he refused to quit.
Doss was a patriot. He wanted to defend his country. He didn’t join the Army to kill people. He joined to save them. He wanted to be a medic.
Eventually the army relented, allowing Doss to train as a medic, a role in which he would eventually distinguish himself. Hacksaw Ridge recounts his exploits on Okinawa in graphic — violently graphic — detail. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it is a story worth knowing. (I encourage you to read the Medal of Honor citation recounting his exploits.)
I was invited to review the movie. I went away from the movie thinking I had little to do with my analysis of the movie as a critic.
Desmond Doss is a hero of a different sort. Sure, his exploits as a medic are heroic. At least 75 men lived through the assault on Hacksaw Ridge because of him. He repeatedly risked (and almost lost) his own life to save them. That’s why he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first contentious objector to be so honored. For me, though, his heroism extends well beyond what he did in battle.
Desmond Doss was true to his Christian convictions despite unimaginable opposition from those closest to him. He never flinched or backed down from what he believed. That’s the story Christians need to hear and emulate. Why?
There was a time when the commonly-held values of ordinary Americans were sympathetic toward Judeo-Christian values. That time is quickly passing. Every day biblical values become more counter-cultural, more hotly contested, and more socially divisive. As adult believers, we need to be true to the Bible in both the public and private arenas. As guardians of the next generation, we need to teach our children how to be faithful to Christ, even if it is not popular to do so. In short, we need to live counter-cultural lives. and to teach our children how they can as well.
Private First Class Desmond Doss was true to his Christian beliefs despite severe opposition. As Christian beliefs become more counter-cultural, his story is one we need to tell. His example is one we need to follow.
Reprinted with permission from Tom Billings, United Baptist Association executive director, from his blog, From the Exec….
Southern Union | November 2016
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