What the Movie 'Warrior' Teaches Us About Good Friday

"Your Jesus wasn't there; I guess he was down at the bar, forgiving all the drunks."


In 2011, a violent mixed-martial arts movie about alcoholism, broken families and deceit, not to mention one of the best Christian films ever, was released; it was called Warrior.  It features superb acting, a tight script, and well-staged fighting scenes.  More importantly, though, it powerfully portrays the search for redemption and reconciliation.  It also has a lesson for us relevant to Good Friday. 

In it, Paddy Conlon has been saved; unfortunately, not before his abuse and alcoholism drove his wife and one of his sons, Tommy, away.  His other son, Brenden, stayed behind, mostly because of his girlfriend, Tess.  But that didn't help Paddy -- as the movie begins, both of his sons are estranged from him.  However, Tommy, a war veteran, comes back, not because he wants reconciliation, but because his dad, for all his faults, is a fantastic trainer.  Tommy wants to fight in a $5 million dollar, winner-take-all MMA tournament.  In the first scene, it becomes clear that Tommy is still full of rage at his father, still angry about the abuse and alcoholism, still angry that he had to be the only person sitting by his mother as she died.  In fact, he seems resentful that Paddy has gone back to his faith and turned his life around.  In Tommy's eyes, his father deserves to be the same miserable alcoholic he was before.  Why should Jesus ignore his dying mother's cries while he was "down at the bar, forgiving all the drunks"? 

Tommy is also angry at Brenden, mostly for staying behind.  He hasn't talked to Brenden at all, and at one point tells him, "you ain't no brother to me.  My brothers were in the Corps."  Perfectly summarizing the family dysfunction, Tommy tells his father, "the only thing I have in common with Brenden is that we both have absolutely no use for you."

Throughout the movie, Paddy listens to Moby Dick on cassette tape.  One way of interpreting that choice is to see Paddy as the titular Captain Ahab, being cast about by the sea of his past mistakes and regrets, ever searching for the thing that will bring his family back together.  But I don't think that's quite right.  I think the use of Moby Dick in the movie has more to do with Tommy.  

One writer, in reviewing Moby Dick, points out that Ahab wasn't so much searching for the white whale as he was "fighting the God that lurks behind the unreasoning mask of the symbolic whale."  Ahab wasn't angry at the whale, who he must have known to be merely a beast.  Ahab was angry at the God that allowed the whale to ruin his leg.  Tommy is similarly broken and angry.  Broken by the pain of abuse, broken by the sin that drove he and his mother away, broken by his mother's death.  He is also angry; at his father, at his brother, at the nieces he's never known, at himself.  But mostly he is angry at the Jesus that would forgive his alcoholic father, but wouldn't save his pious mother.


Today, we remember the day that the One "that lurks behind the unreasoning mask of the symbolic whale" gave his life for the drunks, and the thieves, and the prostitutes, and the ones who hate Him.  And we remember that the world is full of Tommy's, broken and angry people in desperate need of the Gospel message; a message of love, a message of hope, and a message of redemption. 

I don't want to give away the movie; you should absolutely go see it for yourself.  But for those of you who understand the Gospel message, you basically already know how it ends.  Redemption is possible only through sacrificial love; a love that not only conquers hate, but actively seeks it out in order to smother it.  On this Good Friday, we see a lot of hate.  We see it in Brussels, where a few cowards set off bombs to kill a bunch of innocents they didn't even know.  We see it in our political system, where the politics of fear and hate have propelled a misyognistic bully to the forefront of our presidential race.  And we see it all across our country, as people lash out against a God they don't believe in, just as Jesus predictied. 

But Jesus already provided the command and the example of how to respond:  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," he cried out on this day, 2000 years ago.  We remember those words, and we proclaim them to a hate-filled world: by the power of His blood, Jesus is still down at the bar, forgiving all the drunks.