Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


MandelaRobb.jpgForgiveness is hard work, requires a steely commitment to make reconciliation happen at the deepest and realistic levels, and filters down from a leader to the people. Sports and cheering for a team are capable of reconciling enemies and those deeply suspicious of one another. 

Such are the themes that emerged over and over in the movie Invictus. Morgan Freeman played Nelson Mandela well — though no one can capture the man completely or perhaps even well. That early scene with his daughter made Mandela’s approach come to life: nonviolent, seek reconciliation, think nation, don’t seek vindication, and work together and we can be a reconciled nation. Mandela clearly saw the potential of sports. But the movie is a sports movie, the story of South Africa’s win in the 1995 rugby championship. The movie’s not Mandela’s biography, which we need — and I hope the South Africans do it.
That Kris and I have been to South Africa, and that we saw places we’ve seen — like Robben Island and Table Mountain and the coast of Cape Town — gave the movie special meaning, and I thought Matt Damion had a credible South African (Afrikaaner) English accent. The first time we were in Stellenbosch, the Theo Geyser’s favorite Rugby team was playing in a rain storm and he and I and Kris sat at a fine little restaurant in Stellenbosch, watched and sipped fine wine and had a wonderful evening. Rugby matters to the South African.
The poem, Invictus, was a leitmotif but I didn’t find it mentioned in Mandela’s autobiography’s index — perhaps a Hollywood poem imposed on Mandela:


Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 


In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll. 
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

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posted December 21, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I’d give the movie a solid B. Was more of a sports movie than I expected and didn’t have the big climax/overcoming opposition that I expected. I loved how the theme of reconciliation was interwoven throughout the movie though. That was beautiful to watch.

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Paul Ede

posted December 21, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I am genuinely shocked that Hollywood has decided to take on the 19th centuries most pervasive and popular atheist poems and use it to create the background leitmotif for a film about Nelson Mandela, who surely would never cry “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” as Henley did, intending it as a refrain of defiance against God himself. Henley’s poem was in the 19th century and attempt to popularise an atheist stance – he did then in the realm of poetry what Dawkins has tried to do recently in the realm of science. I for one am much more taken with the rewitten version by Dorothy Day, herself seeking to subvert Henley’s awesomely arrogant poem, and I think this is a version that would represent Mandela’s faith more accurately:
Invictus rewritten by Dorothy Day
Out of the night that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
Despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.

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posted December 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

One commentator said that “all” of Clint Eastwood’s films revolve around one central theme: revenge. With Invictus, it is revenge upside down…reconciliation. Hmm.

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posted December 23, 2009 at 10:06 pm

This was my first encounter with Dorothy Day’s subversion of the 19th century poem “Invictus.” Countless times I have heard this poem quoted, particularly at high school commencements where well-meaning valedictorians have declared their personhood and determination. But as a Christian, I have thought — stirring rhetoric, lousy theology. I will cut and paste this one into my own blog, and share it often to help give clarity to those who need an anchor in Christlikeness.

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