The Great Enigma in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”: what is right?

The following exert was posted on another site. While the editors have their own views as to the proper action that should have been taken and was somewhat surprised by the decision made to save the protagonist considering it was day one and the previous experience of the captain. But that was not the story told, was it.

I really like and still will watch Saving Private Ryan.” But one of its major themes is questionable. A much loved and needed member of their squad is killed. an exceptionally good medic, and they capture one of the soldiers that did it. Emotions and practical choices are high. The squad cannot take the prisoner on their mission and are seemingly left with two choices: kill him or trust that he will be captured by nearby American forces and so let him go. Only the somewhat non-combatant, college-educated reporter, apparently liberal, there just for his language skills, is for his release. The Captain seems genuinely conflicted, then does what I feel is the right thing but many decent and even God-fearing men would disagree: let him go. And in this mix is one soldier just concerned about keeping military order and following the Captain’s command to release the German, willing to kill another American to maintain that order. (Kill another American for that obvious scum?) They eventually let him go.

What happens next? That German ends up killing the beloved and decent Captain, which leads the ‘the somewhat non-combatant, college-educated reporter, apparently liberal (who had an earlier scene of cowardice or fear, where that same German killed another in his squad due to his inaction) kills that captured German, while letting other captures go. I don’t think that anyone who has watched this movie even five times did not cheer or delight in that execution. Me included. Loved the Tom Hanks character, a good and brave man that lead his troops with honor and fairness. A real American. Was it worth the trade to be ethical? Was it ethical? Aren’t exceptions to be made in war? We targeted civilians to help end the war: does war change what is righteous and good? Killing innocents is murder, condemned by the Bible. Can we excuse those bombings by making a nation the enemy? From thirty thousand feet or through a sniperscope is how we should see others?

The Bible makes clear room with how the milk-fed and meat-eaters (curious differentiation) are to be judged. It is not easy to judge those who are not yet mature in spirit to do what is best or right according to God’s precepts. Love is the overriding law, yet not all Christians, and they are still Christians, can accept that simple and highly demanding place. Love is the ultimate in self-sacrifice and godliness. That they are judged by an apparent different standard does not make it situational ethics but something where only God can see into the heart and know the true motives.

How we see, think, and feel about this episodic moral play in that movie is good to examine the soul. Much can be learned, if we are honest with ourselves.

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