Gran Torino & The Gospel

I just finished watching the movie Gran Torino in which one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood, both stars in and directs.  If you have not seen the movie then do not read on but instead go and watch the movie as soon as possible.  It is worth the dollar or two you will pay to rent the movie.   

In the movie, Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) befriends his hard-working Asian neighbors despite the major obstacle of his racism and ethnocentricism.  Walt, a decorated Korean War Veteran who is both retired and recently widowed and has tasted the blood and violence of killing during the war, is a take no prisoners kind of guy that is more than willing (and capable) of utilizing his semi-automatic pistol and assault rifle.  He steps in as a “savior” to protect the Asian family from a violent Asian street gang.  As the tension mounts and the street gang assaults the daughter of the Asian family, Walt Kowalski realizes that this family will never be at peace unless he takes matters into his own hand and so he does.   

Everyone, the characters in the movie as well as the audience watching, expects Walt Kowalski to fight fire with fire…to come with a gun and “finish things” as Walt puts it.  So does the Asian street gang when Walt shows up at their door.  In fact, as Walt appears to be reaching for his gun but is actually reaching for his cigarette lighter, they open fire and mortally wound what turns out to be an unarmed Walt Kowalski.  Because Walt is unarmed, it makes his assailants guilty of murder for which they will go away to prison for life.  And of course this frees the Asian neighbors to live at peace from the violence and oppression of the street gang.   

Do you see the parallel to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?   

We think fighting fire with fire…evil for evil…will free us from the principalities and powers that strive to oppress in various ways.[1]  Yet it never does…it only escalates the fire.  Yet Jesus knew better.  Rather than resorting to the violent ways of this age, Jesus triumphs…exposing and disarming the powers when he lovingly subjects himself to their evil through his crucifixion.  We see the powers for what they are…cowards dressed up as street thugs who can only thrive by keeping their feet stamped down on the throats of others.  Yet they are also rendered powerless.  Thinking they have won by murdering their opponent, they unknowingly set in effect their demise and the victory of those they sought to oppress.  What the powers believe to be one last act of victory and infinite dominance becomes the act that brings them under divine judgment and gives victory to Righteousness.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2.15, TNIV).


[1] For a brief introduction as to why the principalities and powers are cosmic powers manifesting in physical entities see Walter Wink, The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millenium (New York: Double Day, 1998).  In the case of this movie, the principalities and powers have manifested themselves in a street gang.

3 responses to “Gran Torino & The Gospel

  1. I really loved this story as well. Just watched the movie last Friday night.

  2. This was a great movie.

    I watched in in San Francisco in a packed theater. Every single race you can name was represented in that crowd, and every single person was laughing heartily enjoying the film immensely.

    There is a TON of bad language in this movie, so I don’t recommend it across the board, but for people who can handle that it’s a great flick.

  3. Yeah, the language – both vulgar and racial – was pretty intense, so it definitely is not for someone with sensitive ears.

    Grace and peace,


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