On Thursday evening, authentic masculinity was found behind the doors of the Pugliese Auditorium, where at 7 p.m. Men’s Ministry screened acclaimed film Hacksaw Ridge, followed by a talk from Professor James Gaston.
The night opened with a period of fellowship, when the men gathered for food and conversation. After doors were closed, senior Steven Edwards provided a brief introduction for both the movie and the discussion to follow, the lights were lowered and the men enjoyed pizza, soda and beer.
Meanwhile, the real-life exploits of Private Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who nevertheless enlisted during World War II as a medic, played on the auditorium’s expansive screen.
In a plot structure which would lead organically into fruitful discussion post-movie, Seventh Day Adventist Doss, without formal education, joins the Armed Forces without the intention of ever wielding a firearm. The film follows his adventures as he first overcomes the naysayers present within his own company, subsequently leaving an indelible mark not only on the men who once ridiculed him, but upon the entirety of World War II.
The film concluded with a clip of the real Doss, who was interviewed before his death roughly a decade ago. Doss, in his 80’s, recalled his strategy as a medic on the battlefield, one of prayerful consideration and openness. With regard to the lives of those men strewn across the battlefield, he prayed, “Please Lord, help me get one more.”
The movie concluded at 9:32 p.m., and the night was steered naturally into an address from Gaston, who put his film analysis expertise to work, as he dissected the film’s tripartite structure for the men in attendance. Gaston, who holds a master’s in history from the State University of New York-College at Cortland, led the men through the film’s established foundation, character development, climax and resolution.
“Some of the greatness of this film is simply thinking about it, as it’s been presented to us,” said Gaston. Beginning with an opening scene in which Doss’s father frequents a cemetery filled with deceased wartime friends, concluding with the film’s closing battlefield scene, Gaston acknowledged the many instances in the film where Doss appeared to portray a Christ-like figure.
Lightly referencing his notes as he addressed the men gathered, Gaston noted the quiet authoritative manner by which Doss operates and drew comparisons between the military medic’s masculinity and those virtues which serve as the objective for all men on campus. “He’s tempted to go halfway, but he stays true to himself,” said Gaston, in reference to Doss’s beliefs.
Likening the ascension of Hacksaw Ridge to Christ’s carrying of the cross, Gaston concluded his analysis with the insistence that an authentic man will learn “how to love in particular instances,” just as Doss did. After well-deserved applause, the floor was opened to discussion and commentary, and eventually capped by a closing prayer and blessing delivered by the Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR.
Men’s Ministry will next host a men’s holy hour on Nov. 16; the 9 pm hour is open to all men on campus and will take place in Kolbe Clare Hall.