Chariots of Fire (1981)
This movie was critically acclaimed, won best picture, did well at the box office.
It’s the true story of the British Olympic team and the first Olympic games after the end of World War I. It focuses on two runners, Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and future missionary to China, and Harold Abrahams, a Jewish student at Cambridge. Liddell runs for the glory of God. Abrahams runs for his own glory, to be accepted in spite of his race. Abrahams is determined to be more British than the most hide bound aristocratic Englishman at Cambridge. He is determined to find acceptance any way he can including athletics. He enlists the aid of a trainer. This was frowned upon in the Olympics of those days.
Liddell on the other hand does indeed run for the glory of God. He runs for the sheer joy of it. He views his ability as a gift from God. He struggles with the choice between running in the Olympics and joining his missionary family in China. But he believes God wants him to use his gift, to run in the Olympics. He says, “When I run I feel His pleasure.” (Gives me goose bumps.)
There more to it than these two. This is about how the world has changed. World War I was the war to end all wars. War was no longer about honor and courage. It was ugly. Killing from long distance. The world would no longer be ruled by a few royal families. Aristocracies had lost their ruling place although it would be a while before they realized it. Liddell finds that he is scheduled to run on Sunday and he refuses. He says, “I have to obey God rather than men.” A gruff old aristocratic member of the British contingent says, “In my day it was king and country first and God second.” The world had changed.
At the end when the Olympians return to England Liddell is carried triumphantly away by his friends. Abrahams is met quietly by his girlfriend and his trainer. What does that say?
My wife and I saw this with another couple. When we left the theater I was blown away that they had made a movie with such a clear Christian message. The rest of them said, “Boy I’m glad that’s over. We thought it would never end.” That’s the way it is. We go to Wal Mart, I wander off to tools or electronic, I come back and my wife is talking to a complete stranger like they’ve know each other for years. She gripes that she must have ‘I care’ stenciled on her forehead but I think she secretly loves it.
I on the other hand wander around in a daze thinking about the spiritual implications of something or other. It’s a wonder I don’t wind up head first in one of those freezers. I wish I was more like her.
So I could be making something more out of this movie than is there. But this is what I got out of it. Regardless, it’s a great moive.