The most tragic - yet perhaps most relatable - aspect of the film is that every character is a Bible-believing Christian… and yet the community splits into two distinct factions that show less and less respect for each other as the story progresses. When Hagadorn sees that his daughter is falling for his rival's son, he plainly tells her, "If you marry him, you will kill me," thereby placing his personal political convictions above the happiness of his adult daughter. Likewise, when Beech's son enlists in the War in a last-ditch effort to impress Esther and her Republican father, Beech refuses to say goodbye to him or mention his existence in the ensuing months.

It's interesting to note that both sides are technically "right." The President's objective to preserve the Union was a noble one, and the gruesome institution of slavery sorely needed to end. On the other hand, opposing the War on constitutional grounds was also noble, and demonstrated great respect for the States' Rights that our founding fathers so greatly respected. The cause of peace is always a good one. Who could fault Abner for his admission: "I'm no party man. I don't want Cuba… I didn't even want Texas. But I don't want our boys dying." Abner then touches on a core element of Christ's ministry when, during a heated sermon where the local preacher likens anti-war figures to the seven-headed beast in Revelation, he stands and questions poignantly, "'Blessed are the peacemakers.' Is that still in the Bible?"

Still, both sides heartbreakingly continue to miss the point in so many ways. Because of their differing priorities and convictions, they are unable to see that they all desire the good of the country and the good of God's Kingdom. The majority of the community begins to distrust and ridicule the Beeches for their differing political slant. Suffering rudeness and distrust then breeds a bitterness and hate in Abner Beech that is every bit as reprehensible. The two sides of the community begin to look upon each other as the enemy in a chillingly relatable parallel to today’s political climate.

"Fight, fight, fight. That's their answer to everything," exclaims one frustrated and ridiculed Copperhead trying to explain the actions of an abolitionist.

Likewise, a judgmental abolitionist tells his son, "It shames me… to see you loafin' around… when others are doing the Lord's work." His son replies, "I didn’t know the Lord’s work was killin.'" "There’s a time for everything," his father insists. "Now's the time for carrying the sword." Thoughtfully, the boy muses, "There's too many folks carrying the sword. Not enough pulling ploughs."

The ideological disagreement could have ended there. But alas, the conversation continues when the father elevates his political ideals over his own son: "You’re a sore disappointment to me, boy. A sore disappointment."

This is the core of Copperhead. This is the conversation that still takes place in living rooms across the United States today. Though the terms "democrat" and "republican" are used in this movie, come to the film with an open mind; come to the film with the recognition that all parties involved are just trying their best to do the right thing. Unfortunately for all of us, it's terribly easy to turn "trying to do the right thing" into "ridiculing and demonizing everyone with whom I disagree." How very, very important it is to remember the simple, childlike phrase: love thy neighbor.

After all, even the passage detailing the warlike Armor of God tells us that,

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood."

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
  • Language/Profanity: mild, infrequent swearing
  • Sex/Nudity: Young couple shown kissing multiple times
  • Violence: much discussion of death, war, and mutilation, a group of men fist-fighting, a very destructive fire, suicide (implied, dead body briefly shown)

Debbie Holloway is Assistant Editor for Family Content at Crosswalk. Recently married, she lives in Henrico, Virginia and is an avid writer, reader, and participant in local community theatre.

Publication date: June 28, 2013