Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire came out 30 years ago, but remains every bit as powerful today.  You don't have to be a runner to be inspired by Eric Liddell, the "Flying Scotsman," who set the world record in the 400 at the 1924 Paris Olympics.  Besides his highly esteemed character, his missionary work, other running feats, and rugby exploits, Liddell famously chose to forgo a chance to run the 100 meters, his best event, at the Olympics.  The qualifying heats for the 100 were run on Sunday.  He refused to compete on the Lord's day, so ran the 400 instead. 
Liddell winning the 400 at the Paris Olympics.

It's a moving story of one man's conviction and shows the real heart of a champion.  Even though I'm a Christian, and most Sundays you'll find me at church, I never have shared Liddell's conviction about Sunday.  At one point, as he's leaving church, a boy's ball comes across his path.  He gently chides the boy for playing on Sunday.  What?  Most of us don't spend all day at church, so why not spend the rest of the day playing?  I could almost see correcting the boy if he were chopping wood or something, but a pick-up soccer game hardly seems offensive to God.  I certainly have run on Sundays, even a few races, and have missed church because of Saturday races.  I'm quite sure I don't measure up to Liddell spiritually, but his dogmatic conviction about Sunday seems a little misplaced.

Charleson pretending to win the 400 at the Paris Olympics.
The running in the movie is fun to watch.  I'm more into long distance running, but that would make for a boring movie.  Liddell's sprints make for more interesting viewing.  Ian Charleson's portrayal of Liddell's passionate, no-holds-barred running style makes me want to go out for some hard sprints.  However, I don't think I have it in me.  Liddell's famous line from the movie is, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."  My version is, "God made me slow.  When I try to run fast I feel his mockery."  Here's a video of Liddell's finish in Paris.


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