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7 Ways to Raise a Child with the Faith of Doss

What is it about Hacksaw Ridge’s Desmond Doss that inspired him to be faithful no matter what? How can we instill the same Christian values in our children?

By Darron Pratt.


Last week I had the privilege of watching Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s latest blockbuster production – the true story of Desmond Doss. To me, Doss was a modern day Daniel, Esther or Joseph. What impressed me most was the faith, bravery, character and values of Doss who refused to carry a weapon and kept the Sabbath at all costs (and a vegetarian too). Despite pressure from his training unit he insisted on these ideals and became a hero both on and off the battlefield. He single-handedly lowered 75 injured men off the ridge under heavy enemy fire.

From a family perspective how does one raise a child with the faith, character and values of Doss? Values like no compromise, standing up for and helping your mates, being a man of faith. A man who stands for the right and truth no matter what; a life of sacrifice and service; a man who never gives up in the face of the enemy; a man who provides relentless service to others no matter the cost.

In the home of the Doss family, seven things stood out to me.


1. Discipleship begins early and begins at home.

Desmond’s home is not perfect by any means, but his mother is faithful and intentional in shaping her son’s life. This shines through on and off the battlefield.


2. Rituals and traditions.

His mother took him to church and taught him the importance of the Sabbath. The faithfulness of his mother had a profound effect on Doss. Despite a father who fought his inner deamons (and what would now be described as post traumatic stress), his mother’s faithfulness and values set Doss on a unwavering path of faithfulness and heroic destiny.


3. Identifying the teachable God moments.

These happen daily and can be both good and bad. Seizing these moments and using them to teach values is key to shaping a faith that is unshakeable in our children.


4. The pictures on the wall.

There was a picture on the wall with graphics portraying the Ten Commandments and The Lord’s Prayer. This picture had a profound effect on Doss and etched the Ten Commandments on to his character – in particular the fourth and sixth commandments. What pictures are on your walls and what values are they teaching your children?


5. The power of memorable life-changing events.

Incidents both good and bad shape character. The fact that he almost killed his brother with a brick and then witnessing an incident with his father and a gun were two incidents that consolidated his resolve to never kill another person. It is important that we as parents talk with our children especially when such moments occur.


6. The power of God’s Word.

Desmond has a Bible that goes with him everywhere, even on to the battlefield. Desmond reads this regularly and hides the words in his heart. We as parents need to let the scriptures speak into the lives of our children through reading, repetition, memorisation and telling the stories that change lives and shape values.


7. Never give up.

Parenting is hard work when you raise a Doss. It is relentless, tiring and just plain hard work at times. Doss repeats the line, “just one more” as he goes out on to the battle field to save one more soldier again and again. We as parents need to have that same attitude as we seize the moments that occur daily to raise a child with the faith of Doss. Just one more moment, just one more prayer, just one more Bible text, just one more story, just one more teachable moment is what shapes a Desmond Doss.

Deuteronomy 6:4-12 sums up Doss and his early life and later depicts him as a man of amazing faith and conscience who stood for God – no matter the cost. One thing I know: the world needs more people like Doss.

Justin Lawman on Desmond Doss’ relationship with his Bible

“When he loses his Bible – it’s like the greatest tragedy there is.” Justin Lawman discusses why the Bible was so important to Desmond Doss, and how his commitment raises the bar for the rest of us.

Neil Thompson on the kindness shown by Desmond Doss

“Des was such a balanced person – considering how often he was in the firing line by those in his unit.” Neil Thompson explores what would drive Desmond Doss to show kindness and goodness to his fellow man, even in circumstances that were difficult and challenging.

Matt Parra on Desmond Doss and The Sabbath

“Desmond Doss doesn’t just keep a sabbath – he keeps The Sabbath.” Matt Parra outlines why this one day of the week was so important for Desmond, and the impact it can have in our own lives.

Matt Parra on Desmond Doss and The Bible

“He’s seen studying his bible for himself.” In this short video, Matt Para delivers a challenge to be more like Desmond – look into The Bible and use it to figure out where you stand.

Mel Gibson’s interview with Greg Laurie

In this interview with Greg Laurie at the SoCal Harvest Crusade in late August, Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson outlines why the story of Desmond Doss needs to be shared. Elsewhere, Gibson also talks about a potential follow up to another of his powerful films with religious influence – The Passion of the Christ.

Meet Desmond Doss: After the war

For his heroic actions on the battlefield, this conscientious objector received the US Army’s highest honour.

By Natalia Grobler.


Following the battle at Okinawa, Doss was promoted to Corporal. His commanding officer claimed that on 29 April, 1945, Doss had in fact saved 100 lives. But Doss, ever humble, clarified this estimating the number at 50.

On 12 October, 1945, President Harry Truman presented Corporal Desmond Doss with the nation’s highest award, a Congressional Medal of Honor. “I’m proud of you,” Truman said. “You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.”

Doss was the first conscientious objector to ever receive the medal.  It was issued in acknowledgement of his “outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions…” At the ceremony Doss publicly thanked God for giving him the opportunity to save the lives of the men he had served.

Doss was awarded many other medals, including two bronze stars for valor.  Parades were held in his honour, highways in the United States were named after him, a guesthouse at a Medical Centre in Washington D.C. bears his name, as does a Christian Academy in Virginia. A monument of him stands in the Tennessee Veterans Memorial Park. In 2004, a documentary was made about him entitled The Conscientious Objector. And, more recently, Mel Gibson, acclaimed film director, has produced the film Hacksaw Ridge based on his story.

Doss was a corporal who never killed another human being, whose only weapon was his Bible and his faith in God. He was a man whose courage saved many lives and whose contribution to the war was immeasurable. While he was the recipient of many accolades — the accolades themselves were never important. What was important was remaining true to his deep inner convictions — convictions God had placed on him as a young boy growing up.


Image courtesy of Desmond Doss Council.

Heroism or foolishness: What is selfless courage?

He never carried a weapon, but Desmond Doss didn’t enter the war unarmed.

By Linden Chuang.


Here’s something to consider: what if Desmond Doss had only rescued seven men instead of 75 on that night at Hacksaw Ridge? What if he had been killed on the first day of battle without a single saved soul to show for it? Would we have called him courageous or a fool?

We often associate courage with acts of heroism, but courage is really about the state of the heart.

Dr Brené Brown says, “courage is a heart word.” After all, the root word for “courage” is cor, the Latin word for heart. Doss’s bravery, then, is not so much about what he accomplished at Hacksaw Ridge, but his willingness to climb up there in the first place.

So why did he do it? Why did he run into the battlefield when everyone else was retreating?

Two reasons: faith and love.

Doss wasn’t ignorant. He was a medic, not a Marvel superhero, and he knew his limitations. But he also had faith in a very big God who promised to strengthen him, help him and never leave him (see Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9).

Paulo Coelho once wrote that “an act of courage is always an act of love.” The two are inseparable. The Bible, Doss’s self-described “source of strength,” builds on this idea, saying to “stand firm in the faith, be courageous” and “do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).

Faith, courage and love.


Doss was no fool. He never carried a weapon, but he didn’t enter the war unarmed.

“My strength has the strength of ten because my heart is pure.”—Alfred Lord Tennyson

The commandments that inspired a war hero

Why were the Ten Commandments so important to Desmond Doss – particularly during times of trouble on the battlefield at Okinawa?

By Jarrod Stackelroth.


An estimated 20 million troops were killed in World War II. It was a dangerous and deadly conflict, even for civilians. In fact, there are stories of soldiers being ordered to target medics, to dishearten and demoralise their enemies.

So you could forgive a non-combatant for carrying a weapon . . . just for self-defence, right? And yet Private Desmond Doss refused. He refused to even touch a gun. Why? What made his conviction so strong that he risked ridicule, rebuke and even discharge to keep it?

Desmond Doss was committed to keeping the Ten Commandments (found in the Old Testament in the Bible) — particularly the sixth one. As a boy, an artist’s impression of the Ten Commandments sat in the family’s living room and had a formative impact on Doss’ life — especially number six: you shall not kill.  In the documentary The Conscientious Objector, Doss’ sister, Audrey Miller spoke about how Doss focussed on “Thou shalt not kill,” which was illustrated with an image of Cain and Abel. “He always pointed to it,” she said. “He was just a clever boy.”

Doss reflected on the image and what it meant to him. “To me, it said, ‘Desmond, if you love me [God], you won’t kill.’ As a result, I didn’t want to ever take life.”

Knowing the human propensity for violence and the temptation of using a weapon if he had one in a sticky situation, Doss preferred to avoid any contact with guns.

This is the other Commandment Doss made a point of sticking to: “Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it holy” — hard to do in the army.

Doss fought for his right to keep Sabbath, even under threat of court martial. Eventually, on Saturdays he was allowed to practice his religion without duties, but this led others in his unit to think he was getting special privileges. He would get a pass for the Sabbath so he could go attend a local Seventh-day Adventist church. But he would get all the tough details on Sunday.

Yet Doss believed it so strongly, that he persevered through the war and neither threats nor pleadings could wear him down.

But why were the Ten Commandments so important to Doss? And what are they?

Unlike other laws and traditions that are recorded in the Bible, the author of Exodus records that God Himself wrote the Commandments on stone and gave them to Moses. Yet these laws were important even before Moses received them in the desert. The fourth Commandment mentions the Sabbath, a day of rest and remembrance and a time Seventh-day Adventists use to spend with family members and with God is mentioned in the fourth Commandment.

Do not kill we’ve mentioned already. Other Commandments include: do not steal, do not commit adultery, don’t worship idols, honour your parents. These are all good things; things that are still important today.

Some people argue that because Jesus came and died for us, we no longer need the Commandments. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also said, that he didn’t come to do away with the law but to fulfil it.

People often paint the Ten Commandments as a list of things that an angry God is telling you not to do. But if we follow the Commandments, like Doss did, we are honouring God and other people. They protect us from doing things that will hurt others or ourselves. If we decided to intentionally not follow the Ten Commandments, like choosing to do the opposite at traffic signals, disaster would ensue; we’d be lying, stealing, cheating, killing machines.

King Solomon said “Fear [honour, reverence, respect] God and keep his Commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

It is a duty that Doss understood. And a duty that he firmly stuck to.

What Hacksaw Ridge teaches us about doing good

Doss was an “even-better Samaritan” who intentionally placed himself in places of danger, discomfort and personal cost to serve others.

By Nathan Brown.


Desmond Doss wanted to serve. As he himself said, he was wrongly described as a conscientious objector; instead he was a conscientious co-operator, only labelled as a “conscientious objector” by a system that wasn’t sure what to do with him.

The rights and wrongs of such an attitude in the context of war and military service is a worthwhile debate, but not one that Doss gave much time to. Instead, he simply chose to serve — his God, his men and his country, in that order and in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

In following the teachings of Jesus as a guiding principle of his life and faith, Doss’s story of service demonstrates what it might look like to live in response to what Jesus described as the most important laws of life: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40, NLT).

In Luke’s telling of the story, discussion of these two great commandments led into the well-known story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–37). And, in a sense, Doss was a typical “good Samaritan,” an unlikely helper and hero who overcame prejudice and the temptations to not care, particularly about those who had mocked and bullied him.

But it can be argued that Doss was an “even-better Samaritan” who intentionally placed himself in places of danger, discomfort and personal cost to serve those who needed the care he could give.

Whatever our circumstances, the twin call to “love God” and “love our neighbour” is not about conjuring nice feelings, but serving, intentionally and practically, and doing good wherever and however we are able. It might not win us a Medal of Honor, but it is the faithful response to a much higher law.