Ernest Gordon and the Wisdom of Forgiveness

Your assignment is to prepare and submit a paper on ernest gordon and the wisdom of forgiveness. At the mercy of their ruthless Japanese captors, subject to torture, execution, starvation and disease, they faced an age-old decision – they could give vent to an instinctive desire for revenge and kill as many Japanese as possible, or they could respond according to Christian principles of forgiveness and forbearance. Given the animal brutality of the Japanese and the harshest life-and-death situation imaginable, it seems incredible that anyone could even contemplate forgiveness. That anyone did is attributable to the intelligence and immeasurable moral strength of Captain Ernest Gordon, an officer of the 69th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who realized that the only way to defuse the situation was to forego displays of anger and outrage over their inhuman treatment. Instead, Gordon taught his compatriots that their best chance of survival depended on earning the respect of the Japanese, and to bear their hardships with grace and restraint. The 2008 film To End All Wars is a true-to-life portrayal of what these soldiers of the British Army endured and of the spiritual transformation that took place in the presence of the basest inhumanity. The film illustrates that a true and lasting devotion to peace calls for a far greater courage than is Ernest Gordon 3 required to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Gordon and the other prisoners of war find themselves in desolation, a wasteland of the body and of the soul. As such, they have nothing but each other to sustain themselves. “When you surrender in war, you’re stripped of your dignity as a soldier. And all you’ve got left is your fellow comrades, many of whom you’ve just met,” Gordon muses (Cunningham, 2001). Gordon is a realist in that he understands the prisoners are utterly alone and vulnerable, with nothing to protect or sustain them but the strength they have to put into their convictions. If they do this, he realizes, they have a chance of being useful and productive as prisoners. Indeed, it is their only hope: the code of honor by which the Japanese lived had no regard for soldiers who allowed themselves to be taken prisoner. For the soldiers of the Emperor, to be taken captive was an utter disgrace: Bushido called upon them to commit suicide instead. Consequently, their British Army captives had committed an unforgivable breach of honor and were not seen as deserving humane treatment. Gordon found himself in a deadly clash of cultural values. Determined to carry on after the death of the regiment’s commanding officer, Gordon organizes a “church without walls” and a forum for discussing and debating philosophical matters. In these gatherings, Gordon urges the men not to give up hope but to endure their suffering stoically as British POW Dusty Miller has done. Miller, a mild-mannered gardener with a strong spiritual sense, nursed Gordon back to health and, by example, began the young Scot’s metamorphosis from agnostic to avowed Christian. In his book, Gordon pays tribute to Miller’s quiet, dignified Christianity. “Within the camp there was…daily inspiration. The strong and simple faith of Dusty Miller was one of them. it suggested that he had found the Ernest Gordon 4 answer so many of us sought” (Gordon, 1963).

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