Writer: Dave Arnold
Director: Dave Arnold
Music: John Campbell
Theme: Love always protects
Review Written by:
Ben Warren, Staff Writer
Rating (out of 5):
Eugene Meltsner and Red Hollard
tell the story of Sergeant Alvin York, a
troublemaker from rural Tennessee who became a
World War I hero.
We first meet Alvin York as a rebellious young man sunken
deep in the ways of society. After his conversion, we discover a man who
wants nothing to do with the happenings of the world around him. Then,
York sees he cannot simply remove himself; rather, he sees it is his
duty―a "terrible necessity"―to
become involved. Part of being a Christian, I think, means struggling to
find that balance between being separate from the world while being an
active member of it.
So is it OK for a Christian to participate in a war? This question has
been widely debated among Christians ever since, well, Jesus told us to
"turn the other cheek". After listening to
Adventures in Odyssey's position seems to be...
"Force can be a valid expression of Christian
charity. It is not a contradiction of Jesus' purported love ethic,
as some would vigorously maintain; rather, it is consistent with
love's demands". (J. Daryl Charles, Between Pacifism and Jihad)
argues this point well. Though, we shouldn't be surprised that
Adventures in Odyssey is choosing to tackle this idea at all.
They've talked about the issue of "just-war" plenty of times. For
instance, Isaac Morton in
Isaac the Chivalrous
"It was because of the Holy scriptures that I
couldn't fight. Sir William, Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and
to love our enemies and pray for them [...] There may be a time when
I'll have to fight [Rodney], like to defend someone he's hurting.
But to do it now would have violated what I believe in [...] It may
not be chivalrous, but it's something more important: it's
This same idea is repeated in
Telemachus wanted a "contemplative life" and, at one point, didn't feel
right about fighting robbers. He is told by his friend that...
"...when Jesus is master of a man's life, prayer
becomes action and action becomes prayer. The garment has no seam
[...] Can you love your neighbor as yourself and stand by as thieves
cut his throat? [...] Remember this: Jesus often withdrew from the
crowds to pray, but only to return to them again. If we flee from
the world, it is for the world's sake. If we are contemplatives, we
are contemplatives in the world".
And, yet again, in "Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom",
Dietrich says to his friend...
"If, as a pastor, I saw a drunken driver get behind a
wheel of a car knowing that he would soon race at a very high speed
down the hallway, is it enough for me to bury the victims he might
hit along the way or comfort the surviving relatives? No. It is more
important for me to [grab] the wheel out of the hands of
drunken...by whatever means possible".
Re-emphasized throughout many Adventures in Odyssey
episodes is the idea that if you're in a position to protect someone,
and you choose to do nothing, you are essentially aiding and abetting
the evildoers. This was, perhaps, even the point the writers made with
Memories of Jerry;
perhaps Adventures in Odyssey wasn't criticizing Plato's stance
on the Vietnam war, but was criticizing his refusal to do nothing.
What I wish the episode had made clear is the fact that every war is
different. We cannot understand whether a war is justifiable until we
can properly understand the motivations behind it. Since World War 1,
North America has had to make important decisions regarding World War 2,
Vietnam, The Cold War, Rwanda, and, most recently, the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Was the right decision made regarding those wars? Would
Alvin York have fought in any of them? We certainly don't want
children growing up thinking every war their country gets involved with
is the right one to personally get involved with, right? As J. Daryl
Charles, author of the book "Between Pacifism and Jihad", writes:
"Christians should particularly resist the theocratic
tendency and not make the mistake of Islam or of God-and-country
nationalism. The political order and the religious order are to be
kept distinct. The teaching of the New Testament is that the sword
must justify itself. Caesar and God are not the same"
fails to properly distinguish between serving God and country, this
episode could be construed by some as being, well, propaganda. It's easy
to think Focus on the Family is "pro-war" when it has produced episodes
Memories of Jerry,
The American Revelation,
The Price of Freedom,
Rescue from Manatugo Point.
Undoubtedly, the writers would respond to such a claim like those
responsible for the 1941 Gary Cooper film. Harry Warner (of Warner
Brothers) claimed their film was "a factual portrait of the life of one
of the great heroes of the last war. [...] if that is propaganda, we
Thankfully, what ultimately keeps
from being considered overly pro-nationalistic or pro-war is that it
noticeably doesn't imply that York's own choice was necessarily
the right one, or that his earlier choice of not fighting
was the wrong one. Why? In the wrap up, Chris says:
"Alvin York knew that the Bible was against murder,
but he also knew that sometimes fighting was necessary. How did
Alvin make his decision? He read and studied his Bible, he prayed in
his quiet place on the mountain, he talked to fellow Christians like
Pastor Pial. Those are good ways to learn what God wants us to do
when we reach those difficult choices. Then, once we know God's will
for us, it's time to take action and obey. Like we saw with Sergeant
York, when we follow God's will, there's no limit to how he can use
Notice that she isn't validating his final decision, but
is praising the way he made his decision; he "prayed and talked
to other Christians". Some issues, like the "just-war" one, aren't
clearly talked about in the Bible. Through prayer, Christians have
formed their own individual opinions on the issue. And, regardless of
what people's conclusions are, I admire the show for taking a stab at
this difficult topic and offering an honest and well-rounded take on it.
may have been one of the most difficult reviews to write this season.
For one thing, I don't know much about the real Sergeant York. They
could have called the episode
but told the story of Moby Dick and I might not have noticed. Did you
expect me to rummage through history books to see how accurately they
portrayed these events? I can only trust that
Dave Arnold tried to be as
accurate as possible.
First, contrary to what other
listeners have said, Red Hollard and Eugene Meltsner made a good pair.
Red, as Bernard and Wooton often did, juxtaposed Eugene's high-brow
mannerisms with his quaint and quirk personality, creating colorful
chemistry between the two.
And using the Kids' Radio to tell Alvin York's story was a good idea.
Although, Eugene caught me off guard when he said "Welcome to the
premier of 'Famous Men and Women of History'". Really? Is this really
the first time Kid's Radio had done a historical episode? Apparently
historical episodes such as
Patrick: A Heart Afire,
The Jubilee Singers
used some other storytelling method. The exception,
used a Kid's Radio show called "A Moment in Time". I wonder whether
Dave Arnold considered using
that old title here. Maybe Alvin York's story was considered too long to
be considered "a moment"...
At first I thought it was strange to have so many different types of
narrations. Although the story was told by Eugene and Red through Kids'
Radio, we also had 1st person recordings from secondary characters and
Alvin York's own narration. On the one hand, this mishmash of
perspectives was a little unconventional and a little disorienting; on
the other, it offered a fuller, well-rounded view of the events.
Dave Arnold seemed to use each
sort of narration for a different purpose; for instance, selections from
journal entries highlighted (I'm guessing) the more historically
accurate moments, while Red's narration―as
he admits himself at one point―embellished,
or filled in certain historical gaps.
Did it need to be so long? Hard to say. Compare Adventures in Odyssey's
take on the John Newton story (told in approx. 22 minutes) and the Focus
on the Family Radio Theatre one (told in approx. 80 minutes). Both are
well told, but Adventure in Odyssey's
went straight to the meat of the story instead of spending so much time
on Newton's sinful lifestyle. I think, if the Odyssey team really tried,
they could have told this story as a 2-parter, focusing on his decision
to go to war instead of on his conversion and romance.
However, while the story of York could have been told in less time,
cutting from Dave Arnold's
script might not have necessarily made for a better episode. He
manages to depict so many interesting moments, people, and places, that,
much like a good biography, we remain captivated with every chapter of
Alvin's life story. By the end, we feel like we know him intimately.
Long or short, the totality of Sgt. York's life is inspiring and
deserves the time it takes to tell it. This adaptation is a seamless and
sweeping journey about York's
physical and spiritual struggles. Regardless of your stance on
war, Dave Arnold has taken his
subject seriously, writing and directing an episode that is not only
entertaining and informational but thought-provoking, and certainly
worthy of the man it reflects.
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