- Stephen D Blum Jr
WATCHING "UNFORGIVEN" . .
1888 Nebraska is a good place as any to spin a wild-west yarn, and Clint Eastwood's 1992 movie "Unforgiven" is a memorable take on America's favorite movie genre.
Westerns are full of the beautiful mountain scenery of the West and evoke simpler times far removed from the complexities and constrictions of modern life. Whatever they lack in complexity they compensate for in spades in painting a raw but accurate picture of our human nature and condition.
Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, an aging, cold-blooded and legendary bounty hunter who comes out of retirement to help an old friend, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) collect the bounty on a murderer, who is also wanted for cutting up a prostitute in a lawless town ruled by the arrogant sheriff Daggett (Gene Hackman). Early in their journey they pick up a young gun called the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) whom they quickly discover is woefully inexperienced.
They finally locate the fugitive and his outlaw friends at night holed up at an old ranch, where the Schofield Kid throws open the outhouse door and instantly dispatches the shocked cowboy. Later that evening the kid, half-drunk and torn with remorse, confesses to Munny that this was his first killing:
"It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger".
Munny replies: "It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have".
The Schofield Kid snaps back with youthful bravado, "Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming", to which Eastwood rejoins with his characteristic squinty-eyed understatement:
"We all got it coming, kid".
Outside of raw Scripture, this has to be the ultimate one-liner of all time.
The Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 14:3 in his letter to the Romans; “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." In other words, "We've all got it coming . ."
This is the foundational premise upon which scripture stands, that Man is helplessly wicked, so wicked that he cannot understand his own wickedness. “I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate.” Paul writes in Romans 7:15, and Jesus says to his own disciples, who had lived, slept and ate with him for three years, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” (Luke 9:55).
This is God's rebuttal to the flurry of self-help, self-affirming, be-your-best-self books that plague our day. There are few things more pitiful than watching someone desperately needing God's forgiveness continuously running to these lying authors to shore up their crumbling self image. When they are at their weakest, their lives disintegrating, and are finally coming face to face with their true, desperate condition, they find solace in those who tell them they're okay. This is about as loving as telling a stage-four cancer patient that nothing is wrong with them. We need to know our condition to find the way out.
Do you really want to escape your sinful life? Here's the naked truth:
"Jesus said to them, "I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free." (John 8:34-36 GNB)
No matter what the self-help books say, you cannot free yourself.
Are you feeling evil? Good. You are. It's not a good feeling is it? But it's a necessary feeling that points you to the doorway to freedom. You're not alone. We've all had to come this same blood-spattered way to the feet of Jesus the Waymaker, who “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Revelation 1:5).
To those who say "we're all basically good people", Clint Eastwood sides with scripture: "We all got it coming, kid".
And it is this fact that makes the Good News of Jesus good!