Team Ould are back from holiday, raring to go. One of the joys of flying around the world visiting family is the chance to watch a number of movies…
— David Ould ن (@davidould) July 14, 2016
One of the films I got to see as I sipped my airline gin & tonic was the recently released “Eye in the Sky” [IMDB].
First, my basic review comments: I’m with Rotten Tomatoes who gave it a staggering 95%. It pulls you in cleverly and holds you to the end. The story [SPOILERS!] centres around a routine capture operation of terrorists in Kenya co-ordinated by British military intelligence and supported by an American drone. Very rapidly, as it becomes apparent that not only are a number 0f key targets all located in one spot but also a suicide bombing mission is about to be executed, the mission turns into a potential prosecution of a targeted execution.
But there’s a difficulty. Every potential strike requires a consideration of collateral damage; the innocent who will have to die along with the guilty. This is simply an accepted part of the equation – there is a price that must be paid, there are sacrifices that must be made. And so the numbers are crunched…
It’s chilling. But necessary. How else can this evil be dealt with? In what other way can the greater loss from a suicide bombing be prevented? In a world of utilitarian choices, the utility of human life is just another variable.
And then it gets complicated. A young girl walks into the kill zone to sell bread. The fragile equilibrium is disturbed and we witness a heated debate amongst all the players as to what is to be done. Can the calculations be changed? Is one entirely innocent life a price worth paying so that not only a group of terrorists is dispatched but also the impending murder of dozens of people can be prevented?
And nobody is willing to make the decision so it gets pushed up and up the chain until both the White House and 10 Downing Street are called to make the decision. Nobody wants to take responsibility for signing the potential death warrant a young girl who is oblivious to the evil she is surrounded by.
It’s not hard to begin to engage with the moral dilemmas here. Deane-Peter Baker makes some helpful comments over at the Conversation:
Hood forces us to give up our detached perspective – our moral eye in the sky, if you will – and confront the tragic reality that lies behind the computer-generated “collateral damage estimate”.
Going further, this is a test of our intuitions about the morality of war itself, for the fact is that collateral damage is an unavoidable reality of war and will remain so for the foreseeable future. That’s something neither we, nor our politicians, should ever forget.
What would you have decided to do? What cost is worth paying so that evil may be defeated? Is the life of one young girl worth paying so that many more may potentially be saved? I’d hate to be sat on that judgement throne having to make that decision. No wonder they’re all so keen to pass the buck up the chain.
As Christians we can’t help but think about the difference that the gospel makes to all this. There are similarities and contrasts that course through the whole narrative.
Yes, there is a God who sees all things, an omniscient “Eye in the Sky” who judges all things,
Heb. 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
But, of course, the wonder of God’s intervention is that He does not force upon the innocent that they must suffer so that evil is defeated. The astounding news of the gospel is that the Lord Jesus Christ chooses to enter into the mess and suffer in Himself the judgement that we deserve. When the hellfire missile (even the name causes us to think again) is launched it is launched by God at God. Jesus is innocent, but He is no third-party made to suffer terribly for something He is not involved in. No, the judge of all humanity chooses to also become the punished.
John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Perhaps even today our elected (and unelected) leaders will sit in briefing rooms watching satellite feeds of similar situations to that portrayed in Eye in the Sky and make incredibly difficult decisions. They will hold the life and death of others in their hands; the fate of the guilty and the innocent mixed together in a terrifying dilemma.
But only one ruler has done what Jesus did. He does not arbitrarily sacrifice the innocent in order to defeat evil. He steps down and takes the punishment Himself. The “Eye in the Sky”‘s collateral damage equation is ridiculously one-sided as he chooses to endure hellfire Himself. It is one thing to sit around the computer screens and question the value of a life, even when the greater good is clearly a noble and worthwhile aim. It is another to so fully enter into the question that you provide yourself as the answer.