There is more to come from Washington, DC. More Living History Days to ponder.
But first, "this important message from our sponsor", as they used to say on TV at the beginning of commercial breaks...
It's a great film. Romance. Tension. Intrigue. Dense population. Poverty. Suspicion. And the ever-challenging position of being a foreignor living and working in a land one does not understand.
Then an unexpected scene. Billy Kwan visits a hovel in one of the most densely packed slums and hands a single mother a roll of bills. The mother has a sick child who will die without meds. Billy has adopted this family. It's his way of adding a little bit of light.
Billy is a bit of a manipulator. He pulls strings to arrange a romance between Guy Hamilton and Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) who works at the British Embassy. Again, why?
Then, heartbreak. The poor woman whom Billy had given the money to has had to spend it on other things. Her sick little boy has died. Billy arrives for another visit just as the women are washing the still little body for burial. Heartbreak.
As the story unfolds, things begin to fall apart. Martial law tightens. A coup fails. Repression. Violence against foreignors like the ones Billy Kwan had hoped could help him answer his question from Luke 3...
Hamilton is shot and beaten, barely survives, discovers Kwan's files. The foreignors don't behave as Kwan had hoped. One night in his dark little house Billy types the account of how he believes he has failed to bring greater light to his world. Again and again he pounds the keyboard of his typewriter:
What then must we do?
What then must we do?
WHAT THEN MUST WE DO?
I won't reveal how Billy Kwan ultimately answers his question. It's a key to the meaning of the film. Remember, I said he was the Christ figure.
But I will say this. Thanks to this story, it's the first time in my life I have honestly "heard" the preaching of John the Baptist.
Ordinary people ask what they should do.
Tax collectors ask what they should do.
Even Roman soldiers.
It isn't just the self-righteous Pharisees. It's us. All of us...
What then should we do?
John's answers are stunning and sobering. They don't reflect a snotty, nit-picky God who is discontent with the architecture of churches, the length of services or the style of music and liturgy. They don't reveal a God who is constantly obsessed with the bottom line and declares that unless the current 2.5% "tithe" tops at least 5% in the next budget cycle the fire and brimstone are a-comin' before Christmas.
They don't show us a God bent on burning at the stake all who are not ideologically or doctrinally pure.
Instead, we get these three items on God's top ten list:
1. End poverty by taking personal responsibility for it. Neighbor to neighbor. Period.
2. End extortion and greed. Not a cent of overcharges. Period.
3. End corruption, injustice and the abuse of power. Period.
John concludes by pointing to the powerful work of the One to come who will accomplish God's work of winnowing. He will separate the "wheat" from the "chaff" which he will burn. Now, before we haul off and assume this winnowing is a separation of "good people" from the "bad people" so that the "bad people" can be eternally burned, consider this:
If God culled out all the bad people, there would be no one left standing. Heaven would be empty. Billy Graham would never get there. St. Stephen and Apostle Paul, damned. Mother Theresa? MIA. Likewise all prophets, popes, priests, preachers, presidents, politicians and pundits.
No murdered children either.