Culture at the Crossroads
Power of Faith, Faith in Powers: Reflections on "Of Gods and Men"
The village and the monastery are portrayed as an island of sanity amidst a nation that is being plagued by political unrest. The irony is that this island is populated by people of different faiths who have, over the years, developed such a deep friendship that neither group can imagine living without the other. The monks, at first fearing for their lives, come to recognize that they have obligations to their friends in the village. And the villagers themselves express to the monks that they will be vulnerable without them. One can imagine that such a deep friendship was hard-won, having been carefully cultivated by both sides who looked past both national differences (French and Algerian) and religious ones.
Dom Christian wrote a testament two years before his death that describes what he saw unfolding around him. It is a remarkable document, both in its sobriety about his life as a witness to Christian faith and in its generosity toward the Muslims with whom he lived and worked. I will excerpt it at some length below, but I encourage you to read the whole thing (it's about a page and a half).
I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice
if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.
. . .
This is what I shall be able to do, God willing:
immerse my gaze in that of the Father
to contemplate with him His children of Islam
just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ,
the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit
whose secret joy will always be to establish communion
and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.
The film, like the story that it portrays, offers a hopeful glimpse at the future of religious faith in our age. Religious faith—by which I mean not some vague sense of being spiritual, but rather the ancient practices of religion that we inherit from the voices of the past—offers us the wisdom of how to grow in friendship. We need not fear those whose religious practice is different from our own. We should rather fear those who, looking at religion from an uninformed critical distance, fail to engage its deep wisdom.
Tim Muldoon holds a Ph.D. in Catholic systematic theology and is an award-winning author and Catholic theologian of the new evangelization.