APOLLO 13

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I rented Apollo 13 last night, purely for enjoyment and not thinking that I would find anything to relate to Scripture. I was right about the enjoyment--Apollo 13 is a great movie and worthy of its Academy Award nomination.

Apollo 13 stars Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, and Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly. And you probably already know that it is about a near-tragic outer-space mission. The mission ends well, but only after sacrificing a lunar landing to ensure the astronauts return to earth before running out of oxygen. Although it does not play big in the scheme of the movie, I found the illustration of principle of responsibility worth the rental.

Just three days before launch one of the backup crew comes down with measles. The three-man first crew has been exposed and Ken Mattingly, the crew member scheduled to pilot Apollo 13, has not had childhood measles. The decision is made to replace him with another pilot, Jack Swigert.

Commander Lovell opposes changing the team with only three days to go. He argues that his team has worked together for over six months and can predict one another's moves and read the tone in one another's voices. He never argues that Mattingly will not get sick during the flight, but he does not want him replaced. He is overridden and must either accept Mattingly's replacement or have his entire team scrubbed and replaced with a complete backup team. When he presents the news to his team, Mattingly insists he will not become sick and says he will go and "straighten it out with the brass." But Commander Lovell stops Mattingly, telling him that the decision to scrub him from the crew was made by him, not the brass. You can see the dejection overtake Mattingly.

Perhaps Lovell knew all the time that the brass were right in not risking the success of the mission and the lives of the crew on the possibility that Mattingly would not become sick. Perhaps he had only recently come to this realization. At any rate he took the heat for the decision and aborted any confrontation between a crew member for whom he was responsible and higher level management.

It made me wonder what would have happened if Adam had responded differently in the Garden of Eden. If he had refused to eat of the forbidden fruit Eve gave him? Or had not allowed Eve to eat of the fruit? Or taken responsibility before God for having eaten of the fruit? But instead he blamed "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me . . ."(Genesis 3:12), and set in motion a continuing pattern of blaming others for our misfortunes and mistakes. When those who should be leaders shift the blame for their actions to alcohol or drugs, poverty, or fatigue, the general population follows by blaming improper upbringing, childhood abuse, or the influence of others. The actual culprit is never to blame. And having no blame, there is no error or fault to correct. Those who should be leaders become subject to the circumstances. That is why I saw Commander Lovell's action of being responsible for the final call as very significant. He could have easily been seen as the good guy, loyal to his men. But from that point on, all tough decisions would have been over his head and he would have had to rely on circumstances. If others were able to prevail he would succeed; if not, he would accept failure rather than make the tough call. . .

It's a really great lesson on leadership and courage.   

/SS/QBstores