17 comments on “Moral Dilemma Dialogue: Gone Baby Gone

  1. Great post, guys. Lots to chew on here.

    This is difficult but, if I were Kenzie, I would have turned Doyle in. As much as Amanda was subjected to those atrocities and certainly seemed headed for a similar fate as her mother, Gene is correct in pointing out the avenues available to address her abuse. I certainly don’t dispute that those avenues are often laden with red tape and other bureaucratic complications that stall the process of bringing someone like Amanda out of an abusive home. Nevertheless they exist and, therefore, should be pursued. Just because justice doesn’t come immediately doesn’t mean it isn’t delayed. Perhaps it would have come when Amanda was 13 or 17 but, since Doyle didn’t actively pursue bringing Amanda out of her home in the way the law has set up for that, he is accountable for those men’s deaths. Derek brings up a lot of excellent points but, in my opinion, the Nazi Germany reference is too far off the reservation in comparison. Also, our founding fathers had no real, lawful recourse, unlike children in Amanda’s situation, to pursue removing themselves from the situation of taxation and tyranny. If there were no such thing as CPS, social work, or some of the other, albeit rare, avenues for a minor to remove herself from a home like Helene’s, then I would be singing a different tune.

    As a father, I don’t say any of this flippantly because situations like Amanda’s are a reality in America. But those are my thoughts.

    • Yeah, in my original essay (before having to cut out 800 words!) I mention that the Nazi comparison is only to see an extreme that illustrates the point that sometimes the government shouldn’t always be submitted to. This was an attempt at disequilibrium for those accustomed to Romans 13 rhetoric (I don’t use ‘rhetoric’ here in the negative sense of the term). And the lawful recourse, at least as it was portrayed in the movie, seems to have been “there are no more options”. In real life, of course, things may be different. So it was tough without knowing all of the details (i.e. were all of the proper authorities/avenues looked at?). And, of course, I had to argue this side lol. This truly was a tough one to write out, too. I don’t think I would have felt good about arguing either side really. Again: win-lose. I like win-win-win situations (thank you Michael Scott)

    • The closing scene is the one I remember most about this movie and it’s a tough one to stomach, especially if you think Kenzie did the right thing. I can’t say, if I were actually in his situation, I would adhere to all the points I made here after having some time to think it out. Emotionally charged issues, especially involving children, are very tough to reason through. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone as far as Lionel went in kidnapping his niece to pass her onto a better home. But, I honestly don’t know what I would do in Kenzie’s shoes and discovering it all after the fact. Thanks Nate! Love getting your insight on these moral dilemmas.

  2. Also, if it were the case that we could justifiably challenge any laws that we thought were unjust because they are either too laden with bureaucratic nonsense or purely ineffective on their face, then not only would there be more Doyle-style kidnappings but more open-faced challenges to lots of laws. Think about it: A lot of laws in the books are executed in a flawed manner and many are just flat-out unrighteous, unwise, and unjust. If Doyle’s reasoning to kidnap Amanda is justified, then the reasoning for flouting other laws is also justified.

    There’s another way of looking at this too: Based on Doyle’s reasoning, someone could ask why Christians don’t blow up more empty abortion clinics. Why are pro-lifers bothering to work within the system of laws to change abortion policy? While they pursue the lawful way of abolishing abortion, more children are dying every day. The answer is: Without structure there is chaos. And people who take the law in their own hands are not the objective arbiters of righteousness that they think they are. They are deeply cursed with sin just like the rest of us. This is why Derek’s biblical citations work for the Old Testament: Because God was the decision-maker in those instances. And no one is God but God alone.

    If everyone took the law in their own hands whenever they thought something was unjust, that would encourage a section of the population to challenge other laws willy-nilly. After all is said and done, there would no longer be a civil society structured under any law. I’m not suggesting that no law should be flouted. I’m just saying that, currently (believe it or not), there is no need to resist laws when the system allows for a redress of grievances and the ability to change them from within.

    As always, great conversation, gentlemen! Keep up the excellent work. 🙂

    • How would you address the issue of leading by the Holy Spirit? What if you felt strongly led by the Holy Spirit to kidnap the girl? Certainly this is not outside the realm of possibilities. One of the issues is that, while you are correct in noting that the OT citations show that God is the decision-maker, one could say that he is STILL the decision maker in that the Holy Spirit has led them to do one thing or another. I know discernment is an issue with this one. In Acts we see that sometimes two parties can believe the Holy Spirit is saying different things. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t lead someone, or that God wouldn’t want someone, to break the law?

      One issue I can already raise with my objection is that, of course, there would be no way of knowing. Perhaps it is leading from the Holy Spirit … perhaps it is some other unrighteous desire … or even a righteous desire. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit blamed for a whole host of disastrous activities.

      • Oh wow! What a question, Derek.
        Put it this way, if the Lord told me to kidnap someone, I would do it. Creation is His house and, therefore, subject to His rules. I must admit, I humbly take issue with the notion of being led by the Spirit. As you’ve acknowledged the Holy Spirit’s leading is blamed for lots of weird things. But I don’t think the Holy Spirit’s leading, in the way that contemporary Christians understand the phrase, is actually biblical. That is, I don’t find anywhere in Scripture where we are told or taught to search for impressions, nudgings, or urgings in order to make decisions. We do see the phrase “led by the Spirit” in places like Galatians 5:18 but they are always within the context of following God’s moral will for your life (like being patient, kind, good, etc.), not making decisions like what job to take or what state I should live in.
        I understand my views are not in keeping with current tradition and that you might disagree with my assessment about the Spirit’s leading. And I appreciate that. I certainly could be wrong in my conclusions. I’ve found J.I. Packer’s writings as well a book entitled “Decision-Making and the Will of God” by Garry Friesen (as well as much bible study and prayer) to be helpful on the subject.

        I bring all of this up simply to say that I think it extremely unlikely that the Holy Spirit would “lead” me to kidnap someone.

        • Yeah, it’s pretty much an unanswerable question in some respects 🙂

          In Acts, Paul is led by the Spirit to travel to different locations, for the sake of spreading the Gospel. What this “leading” was is hard to say. It may have been audible speech, inner prompting, and so on. We know that it’s not always in the same form (some, like Peter, were led by visions). And this also has something to do with calling, the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can lead us to understanding our calling in some way. This calling is also understood as some sort of inner prompting, but also external notice of suitable giftings. This prompting is also seen as the type of strong work the Holy Spirit did in inspiriting the authors of Scripture — but this is a hard rule to apply to other Christians for their writings lol

          That is where I would set precedent with understanding that God can lead us in different ways, but it is always for missional purposes, and also for following God’s moral will as you have stated. While I don’t think it is completely outside the realm of possibility that God might, for some unknown reason, actually ask someone to save a child through kidnapping, I also highly doubt that he would. I think he could probably foresee that setting a precedent for divinely-sanctioned kidnapping would lead to even more religious nuttery than we already have!

          We can probably continue this in private messages if you wish. Not sure this is going the route of a movie discussion, but rather a discussion on pneumatology! I can hear our readers snoring at the very mention of the -ology 🙂

  3. My wife and I were divided on this dilemma when we watched the movie. I tend to side more with Gene. Taking the law into your own hands, so to speak, chillingly reminds me of “when everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). What is most interesting to me, however, is that there is no thought or effort in trying to help the mother–she was a lost cause and there was nothing to be done. But are there people who are utterly lost causes with no hope of redemption at all? I know in times of discouragement it seems that way, but I refuse to believe it to be so. What if the cops found a legal way to pressure her into rehab? As Gene points out, what if other family members step up to the plate in a way that is more respectful of biological relationships and the wishes of others. The torture of not knowing what happened to your family member is often described as being worse than knowing they’re dead.

    The last scene was also striking to me. Patrick goes by and catches the mother before she heads out to party–nothing has changed. What’s interesting, and in my opinion, a very Christian response, is that he stays with the child. He shows he cares for her and that caring doesn’t have to be as drastic–and realistically, traumatizing–as kidnapping. I believe there is a great deal we can do in dire situations like the one depicted in this film simply by forming relationships with these disadvantaged children.

    The best thing about this movie and the approach Gene has laid out to deal with this dilemma is that it’s realistic. This little girl’s life is not only very believable, but is being played out in our communities (not just the inner city either) every day. The real question to put on the table is what are you and I doing about it?

    • Thanks for the comment Bartimeaus. I’m glad you mentioned that verse in Judges, I almost threw that in there as well. I can understand your sympathy for the mother too. It’s hard to think that anybody could be a lost cause. But, her defiance against her brother and sister-in-law, and her going back to her old ways at the end of the film, don’t give me much hope.

      Unfortunately, close family members and teachers are often the only ones in any position to know about any abuse, or be able to do anything about it. When they look at the other way there is almost nobody left to help.

    • Thanks for the comment! At the beginning of the movie, the main character (I believe) quotes the words of Jesus from Matthew 10:16, and that seems to be his “life verse” as far as his character is concerned. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Hearing that verse at the beginning (one of my favorites as well!) I knew, deep down, that he would call the police. He was trying to do the best he could, in the most peaceful and lawful way possible. Kudos to him for that.

  4. Pingback: Guest Writing for Let There Be Movies | A Clear Lens

  5. Firstly, thanks Gene for sending me the link. What a perfect film for the MDD series and lots of thought-provoking points here.

    It’s been a while since I saw this but upon recent project where I had to do a write-up on this, all the questions being brought up here all came back to me. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I were in Kenzie’s shoes. I mean, at first glance of course I have to rescue Amanda, that is the law after all, you don’t simply just kidnap someone’s kid, no matter what the reason. But the more I think about it, and that last scene kind of sums up my dread beautifully… is it REALLY the right thing? Is it REALLY wrong for Captain Jack Doyle to want to give a better life for Amanda? But who’s to judge what is a GOOD life for someone? Would Amanda be worse off living w/ her own mother even if she’s a drug addict?

    In the end I always think that God’s law is so different and far above our world’s… and the Holy Spirit at times ask us to do the opposite of what we mere mortals think is ‘the right thing to do.’ Now I’m not saying Mr. Doyle is led by the Spirit necessarily, but if’s certainly a possibility.

    In any case, yeah, you don’t call this a moral dilemma dialogue for nothin’. Great discussion, guys! Looking forward to which film you’d tackle next. If I may make a recommendation, the Danish film The Hunt might be a good candidate.

    • Hey Ruth! Glad you could stop by and weigh in 🙂

      That last scene is certainly tough to swallow. It’s the scene I remember most from the film and it really pulls at your heartstrings. There is definitely nothing wrong with Capt. Doyle wanting to give Amanda a better life, I think anyone would want that. And actually, what Kenzie did at the end and what Amanda’s uncle, Lionel, HAD been doing was exactly what should have been done. If the mother is a worthless druggie and neglecting her child, then the family or those close have a bit of an obligation to step up, in my opinion. I do think the line is drawn, morally speaking, at kidnapping.

      Is The Hunt a recent release? I think I remember trailers for something by that name. Thanks again for your input, it is ALWAYS welcome 🙂

  6. Pingback: Moral Dilemmas in the Movies | Let There Be Movies

  7. Im glad she left. Because if she didn’t I would have left her. I know it’s a movie but saying if you have her returned to her mother, I will hate you forever. I would have wondered who this women was. Who am I living with. What kind of crazy bitch are you. There were a lot of twists and turns in this movie, but her response is what I’ll remember most of all.

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