El Cid: A Timely Hollywood Message for This Day and Age – Part II

Yesterday I looked at how the movie El Cid speaks clearly into the political landscape of today. Today I want to look at another pertinent issue which the movie illustrates brilliantly: religious cooperation.

El Cid, the 11th century Spanish hero, successfully defended the Spanish homeland against the attack of the North African Muslim invaders.

How does he do it?

It all starts at the beginning of the movie when there are clashes between the Moors (Muslim) currently living in Spain and the Christians. Of course, there was a lot of religious conflict at the time.  El Cid captures two Moor kings, and since they are his prisoners, he gets to decide what happens to them. He gives them their freedom and they both pledge support and allegiance to El Cid and the Spanish king.  Many of the Spanish Christians are upset that he showed the Moors mercy.

His kindness is repaid when one of the Moor kings fends off an attack against El Cid by another Muslim army. This strengthens their friendship which eventually will pay great dividends for each other.

In the end, the Christians and Muslims of Spain unite together to fight off the attack of the ruthless Muslim invaders from North Africa who are determined to destroy Spain.

Now, of course, this is a Hollywood version and they play fast and loose with some history here. But the lesson remains, it is beneficial when different religions seek respect and mutual help and support.

El Cid was a devout Christian, but he treated his Muslim brothers with respect. He respected their food choices; he respected their traditions; he gave them a reason to trust him and respect him right back. And through his actions, a friendship and bond between complete strangers who are opposite in most every way was created. One of the films great scenes is when there is a tense moment when El Cid’s Christian army is on one side of the river and Moor King’s army is on the other side. Neither knows what is going to happen. Then out steps El Cid and the king into the middle of the stream and they hug each other. Both banks of the river elicit joyous sounds as the two sides come together and greet each other with peace and friendship.

Another great lesson for our day and age from El Cid. Please watch if you haven’t. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/

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El Cid: A Timely Hollywood Message for This Day and Age – Part I

Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren in a three-hour epic against the breathtaking backdrops of the Spanish countryside. El Cid (1961) is one of Hollywood’s great epics which I finally just watched.

(Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/)

It’s highly entertaining and intriguing. I highly recommend it. I’m not going to go into the detailed plot and pick it apart for its acting, but I do want to highlight two powerful messages that came out of the story which are extremely timely for this day and age.

First lesson: honor your leaders, but hold their feet to the fire. El Cid was the Spanish hero who single-handedly kept the Spanish city-states together during the 11th century A.D. When the Spanish king died, El Cid pledged his allegiance to the eldest son. But the youngest son and sister plotted against the eldest and had him killed. The youngest son then took the crown. El Cid suspected that the younger had something to do with the elder’s death. So before the powerful warrior would pledge his allegiance to the new king, he forced the younger to swear to God, calling down death and damnation upon himself if he was lying, that he had nothing to do with his brother’s death. He swore so, and then El Cid became completely loyal to the king – even when the jealous king banished El Cid into the desert – even when the king took El Cid’s wife and children and locked them in prison, he remained loyal to the king. After a siege on the coastal city of Valencia, the joyous crowd nearly forced El Cid to take up the crown, but he refused and says he only had one king. They captured the city in his name.  Finally, the honor, courage, and fortitude that El Cid displayed completely changes the king’s heart, and he even begged for El Cid’s forgiveness.

Takeaway 1: If more people acted with honor and civility toward their leaders, this world would be a better place. Look at the gridlock in Washington and you can easily see how partisan politics has soured the landscape. What would an ‘El Cid’ look like today, in our culture? He would honor the office of the presidency, even if he didn’t agree with the methods or politics of the president. He would show respect to others, and would not try to navigate the political waters to get ahead. His humility would be a lesson, a reflection for others to see their own faults. An El Cid of today wouldn’t have to bad-mouth every politician of the other party on the 24 hour news networks because they could expect cooperation and respect, even in disagreement. An El Cid of today would allow our leaders to see their faults, and ask for forgiveness and reconciliation when they messed up. And El Cid would forgive. Yes, if it seems like El Cid would be the perfect unrealistic person, perhaps so. But we all could use a little more honor, respect, and courage in our lives. It could only make the world a better place.

(Tomorrow, I’m going to look at what El Cid has to say about Christians and Muslims. If you haven’t watched it, please check it out!)