Posted by: Philip Rushton | July 14, 2011

“Of Gods and Men:” An important film in an age of religious misrepresentation.

This week I came across an excellent film titled “Of Gods and Men.” It won last years grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival and has was entered into the best foreign film category for the 2011 Academy awards.

It is based on a true story of a group of Cistercian monks who live in a terror stricken region of Algeria in the mid 90’s. The film captures a side to religion that we often do not see in mainstream film. The film makes an important distinction between religious extremism and religious faithfulness. Against the backdrop of religious violence, these monks demonstrate a commitment to peace and self-giving love towards those who depend on them. They are living in an Islamic country and yet are known for tolerance and love for those of different beliefs. They seek to build bridges rather then create barriers between those from different traditions. These monks demonstrate a beautiful balance of contemplation and action. Sustained by regular prayer and reflection on the incarnate love of Christ, these monks feel compelled to stay with this community despite the fact that their lives are at risk.

This is an important film in an age of religious misrepresentation. The neo-atheist movement has capitalized on religious extremism and painted a picture that equates religion with violence. To be sure, there are plenty of examples of religious violence that fuel the fire of those campaigning against religion. In fact, this film exposes this reality. At one point in the film, one of the monks quotes Pascal who famously said, “Men never do evil so cheerfully and so completely as when they do so from religious conviction.” However, this film reminds viewers that religious violence does not do justice to the truth of both Christian and Islamic faith. While there is an honesty about the reality of religious violence, there is also clarification that true Christianity is not like this. This film reminds us that true Christian discipleship offers hope for peace in a world torn apart by violence.

This film is definitely worth watching. I highly recommend it.


  1. Where I struggle with this type of faith is how many converts do they actually make? It’s cool that they’re “nice” and all that but if they aren’t convincing others to accept Christ is that really how Christians should act?

  2. Hey Bruce,

    You ask a good question. Where does proclamation of the gospel fit within outreach and mission?

    In the film the monks are very active in proclaiming Christ in the community, though it is more through actions then words. They earn a right to discuss there views and seek to learn what other people believe first.

    I guess I’d turn the question around and ask, “how should they ‘convince others to accept Christ?'” Should they get into heated debates, shut down conversation, and hand out tracks, or should they start with loving and caring for the community.

    When I look at how Jesus responds to outsiders he meets them where they are at before he proselytizes.

    The bigger question that this movie asks is whether the monks were right not to flee or seek military protection. There is a great letter that is read at the end of the movie that defends what seems like a naive lack of offense.

  3. I think you misunderstood my question. I wasn’t wondering whether they were proclaiming Christ or not but rather whether they were successful in leading people to Christ.

    • But if we ask that question about any church on any corner would that be a reason to say that church or any other should cease to minister?

      • Dallas Willard reminds us that our role is to be faithful to God’s call on our life. About results he says, “they are safely in the hands of God.” My experience is that when we get results focused we lead or minister out of anxiety, which is counter-productive and often causes us to act in contradictory ways. I.E. we want church attendance to grow so we become really aggressive in wanting people to join the church that we push them away.

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