As Eli (Denzel Washington) listens to How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” by Al Green on his iPod-like relic in post-apocalyptic America, the real question is, how do you mend a broken world? This film captures tikkun olam on a major scale.
Picture this: Gangs roaming what’s left of the United States, looting and raping and searching out the rarest commodity—water. We get a glimpse of what life was like before from Eli: “People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious, what wasn’t. We threw away things we’d kill for now.”
But Eli believes he is carrying the most precious commodity, the answer to rebuilding the planet—the only remaining copy of the Bible. He says that God led him to find the Book and then told him to bring it out west to preserve it. He goes by foot and is known as The Walker.
It’s been a long journey—30 years—almost as long as Moses spent in the wilderness. As with Moses, God has promised to protect Eli on his mission. There are those out there who want what he has, especially Carnegie (Gary Oldman), and he will kill for it. He recognizes the power of the words in that Book, and since only the survivors of the nuclear war, like Eli and Carnegie, can read, he wants to be the dispenser of his own twisted version of its message.
It calls to mind the words of the prophet Amos in the Hebrew Scriptures:
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea, and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
When Carnegie tries to pressure Eli into giving him the Book, he thinks he has left Eli no choice but to comply. But Eli responds, “There’s always a choice.”
Yes, the Bible can be misused to promote evil, but it can also be used as God intended it, to mend a broken world, restore fractured relationships and even heal our individual souls. And, as long as we still have it around, there will always be a choice for us as well. We can choose to ignore it, twist if for our own purposes, or live by it.
Today’s choices shape our tomorrows. What will you choose?