Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Moore About Good vs. Evil

My first memory of James Bond was sometime in the early '90s, before Pierce Brosnan stepped into 007's iconic tuxedo. There was an all-day marathon of Bond films on TV, and I unwittingly stopped to watch as Roger Moore was involved in a ski chase at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. At the scene's climax, Moore went sailing off a cliff. I held my breath as I watched him fall for what seemed like forever. When a parachute finally opened and the iconic 007 music started playing, I was hooked!

Roger Moore as James Bond
Roger Moore played James Bond, 007,
in 007 movies between 1973 and 1985
I probably watched 3 or 4 Bond films that day, and in the years that followed, I went on to collect the series on VHS and eventually DVD. I've also read most of Ian Fleming's original books, and find them fascinating. And you may recall that I wrote a post last year, "007 Lessons from 007's 007th Adventure", based on Sean Connery's 1971 appearance in Diamonds Are Forever.

The Connery films are my favorites, but I've found something to like in almost every movie in the series. Today, I'd like to zero in on a few things I noticed in a recent viewing of Roger Moore's 1979 entry, Moonraker.

Of course, James Bond has never made a great role model for Christian living, but as I illustrated before, Bond films still have a lot to say about the struggle between good and evil.

For instance, in one of Moonraker's early scenes, our hero gets pushed out of an airplane by Jaws - the villainous henchman who was so popular in the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, they brought him back for a second try! Over the course of this entry, 007 dispatches the metal-mouthed menace in several ways which would have killed any normal man, but somehow he always survives.

As I watched this, I thought about the battles each of us fight against our own worst enemies. The tempter knows our weaknesses, and he is relentless, showing up when we least expect, and returning over and over, even though we have sometimes defeated him. If you've ever seen someone give up an addiction, only to eventually return to the same vice, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The devil just won't give up, even though you fight your best and think at times the victory is secure. The battle may be won, but the war inside often seems to be far from over. The bright side is the Scriptures promise that God will not give us more than we can handle, but it is possible to have victory when we truly rely on the Lord's help (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 4:7). Thankfully, too, there is forgiveness and freedom still available, even when we fail! (1 John 2:1-2)

As Moonraker goes on, Bond finds himself fighting not just against Jaws, but against a variety of bad guys. Some, like Jaws, are obvious, but others, like Hugo Drax, are more insidious. Though we know from early on that Drax is a villain, Bond has to find it out the hard way. While Drax is pleasant to 007's face, we see him ordering others to attack Bond when his back is turned!

Corrine runs for her life
Corrine runs for her life before being "terminated"
due to James Bond's irresponsible actions
I'm reminded that sometimes we see temptation coming - sometimes we can easily tell the difference between right and wrong - but other times, it's sneaky. We don't always realize what we should've said or done until after the fact. Like the children of Israel often did in the Old Testament, we do what seems right in our own eyes, only to find out later that we've done wrong and we have to pay the consequences. Another example of this comes when Bond tricks the girl, Corrine, into showing him where Drax's safe is hidden so he can try to find out what Drax is up to, but 007 doesn't realize that they were being watched. His game ends up costing Corrine her life. What he thought was a good idea causes tragic consequences he's powerless to stop!

Instead of just doing what seems right in your own eyes, how much better it is to seek God's counsel first and live by his Word! (Psalm 119:89-105; Proverbs 12:15)

"There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way to death."
- Proverbs 14:12

One place where the super-spy gets things right comes near the end of the film. After finding out Drax's evil plan and tracking him to his secret space station, Bond gets captured while trying to alert the people of Earth to the danger they're in. Drax orders Jaws to destroy Bond, but in the moment, our hero thinks through the situation and gets Drax to admit the truth - that under his plan for the world, anyone who doesn't live up to Drax's standard will eventually be done away with. The implication is clear, as Jaws realizes that this means he and his girlfriend would also be among those eliminated.

The cynic could say that 007 was simply doing whatever it took to survive, but what I see is a commitment to truth and really an act of love for a fellow man. This is well in line with what the Bible teaches - that God is always in favor of truth rather than deception (Proverbs 12:22; Psalm 5:6; John 3:20-21), and being honest with each other is often the loving thing to do (Ephesians 4:15).

Bond vs. Jaws
Even the worst of enemies may be won over with love,
as difficult as that may be to believe!
This exercise in truth and love pays off, too, as it causes Jaws to open his eyes to the ultimate demise that would befall him if he stays on his current path. Even though he's helped the villains in two films, he now makes the choice to leave behind his evil life and join forces with the good guys. I think this illustrates the importance of Jesus' teaching that we ought to love not only those who are nice to us, but also those who would hurt us, difficult as that may be (Matthew 5:43-48). You may not be able to win over everyone, but you never know who might see your loving example and be influenced by it!

Loving others, in part, means speaking up when you see that they're in danger - sharing with them the truth about their situation and what they must do to change it. The most important way that we as Christians can live this out is by continuing to reach out to the lost, sharing with them the truth that their sins deserve nothing but death and Hell, but Christ died to save their souls and offer them power over sin and death. I'm not saying it's right to beat someone over the head with it, or to try to shove it down their throat, because that's more likely to drive them away than it is to draw them in. But if we truly believe what the Bible teaches, then we have to continue to speak the truth in love. Find ways to get through without being mean about it, but don't leave the truth unsaid!

Moonraker, like Roger Moore's other entries in the series, is a great escapist story. It's filled with all the things you expect from a classic Bond film - over-the-top villains, interesting locations, gadgets, girls, one-liners - and the plot is truly... out-of-this-world... But in the midst of this, there are still lessons to be learned about the nature of temptation and the consequences of our choices. As you press on against the pressures of life, I pray you will seek out godly wisdom and grow in love both for the Lord and for others.

James Bond will return (probably, eventually) in a future post.

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