Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!
If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.
In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”
Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.
Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.
Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.
These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.
In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.
I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!
Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.
What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).