Carrying Burdens in STAND BY ME | FCC 52

On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we follow the train tracks to the woods in South Harlow as we look for Christian themes in the 1986 classic Stand By Me. Chris Chambers is a genuine peacemaker. Is this what helps Gordie LaChance become wise in the eyes of the Lord? All that and more in 3, 2, 1!

Episode Timestamps

0:00:00 – Introduction and updates
0:15:50 – Movie Discussion
1:15:00 – Listener Feedback
1:18:15 – Reel News
1:33:50 – Listener Participation/Coming Up 


The Foolish Boys of Castle Rock

Although the story proper of Stand By Me is that of the four boys searching for a dead body, it is encapsulated in one of those boys’ own personal experience with death and how he has matured over the years because of it. That boy – Gordie LaChance – had his first experience with death when his brother died in April of 1959; the only problem is that he never gained any peace from it (just like his parents, which we’ll address later). His closure came in the form of his best friend Chris four months later – when he, Chris, Teddy, and Vern embark on their journey to find the dead body of a boy their own age – and it is Chris’s death in the present time of the Writer’s life (1986) that compels the Writer to reminisce to us as the audience.


This is an image from the film STAND BY ME that features Wil Wheaton and John Cusack as Gordie and Dennis LaChance.


When Vern tells the boys about the dead body and its location, the group then believes they if they find the body, they will become famous. This scene shows how irreverently and immaturely the group feels about death. They want to use their finding of a dead body as a means to a self-glorifying end in which they become the decorated heroes of the small town of Castle Rock. They are rejoicing in death and are wanting to exalt themselves for it. They just want to have a good time, as is mentioned in Ecclesiastes:

A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

Gordie, however, is the exception in this group of fools; the diamond in the rough. He may have said that he wanted to revel in the finding of the body, but his real reason for going on this journey runs deeper than that. He wants closure for the death of his brother Dennis, and he isn’t getting it from his parents like he (and we as the audience) would expect. He therefore ventures out to become wiser and understand death as if he could do so objectively (in this example by looking at a dead body). He hopes that this experience will bring on the closure and the peace for which he has longed.


Chris Chambers the Peacemaker

God – or at least Stephen King – knew exactly how to help Gordie achieve that peace: by placing a genuine peacemaker like Chris Chambers in his life. The brotherly love between Gordie and Chris transcends the other friendships in the story; in fact, this bond can be understood as the model, textbook example of brotherly love. We as the audience all remember that one childhood friend with whom we were on top of the world, and even if we end up going our separate ways and don’t see each other for ten years, we remember that time of life liked it happened yesterday. Such is the bond between Gordie and Chris, and rightfully so; it is only by going on this journey with Chris that he is able to attain the peace he has been missing.


This is an image from the film STAND BY ME that features River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton as Chris and Gordie.


When the four boys have found the body (spoiler alert…sorry not sorry), the rest of the boys want to build a stretcher in order to carry the body to the proper authorities and claim their prize. But Gordie cannot move, as he is stricken with grief. We don’t know what exactly goes on in his head, but Gordie sits silently for a minute. He then reveals the fear he’s been struggling with since his brother died: the idea that his father hates him. Chris the peacemaker is there by his side to counter every phrase of hatred with love. Gordie is then able to cry the tears he was unable to cry at his brother’s funeral, and Chris is able to catch them on his shoulder. Literally, Chris is able to carry Gordie’s burdens just as Paul instructs the Christians in Galatia (although his words can just as easily apply to us):

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NLT)

Had not Chris been there to bring the peace Gordie needed, the story would not have resolved as beautifully as it did. Gordie got the closure he needed to move on, and the journey came to an end. Because they went on this journey, the boys have grown in such a way that they would not have grown otherwise. Of course, afterward, they go their separate ways. Vern and Teddy become “faces in the hallway” while Gordie and Chris maintain their bond. But after high school, they eventually go their separate ways, too. After ten years, though, Gordie still has a type of loving respect for Chris; we know this because this is what drives him as the Writer to tell the story in the first place.


Reel News

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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is a graduate student pursuing his Master in Theatre Arts degree with Regent University. He is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. You can find him live-tweeting his favorite movies on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever or posting poetry and unsolicited opinions at thebookofbrenden.com
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  • Philip Heard

    I haven’t seen Stand By Me in a long time, but like most Stephen King adaptations and works, there’s definitely lots to filter. The good thing is there is typically some good stuff on the other side of that filter to pick up on, like you guys did- good job! I’d recommend it to people so they can get an idea of what a bunch of salty kids are like in real life. When kids are unloved and left to themselves too much, things can get ugly and sad in a hurry. Stories like these motivate me to be a better parent. Short Term 12 is another film in this vein, on Netflix streaming.

    A biblical adaptation I’d like to see would be a character piece on John the Baptist, starring Michael Shannon. If you’ve seen him in Take Shelter, you’ll see where I get that idea from. It wouldn’t be a big budget, CGI-filled epic, but a small indie that explores John’s ministry, his disciples, how he related to Jesus, and closed at his execution in a Shakespearean tragedy sort of way. I’m fascinated by John’s question to Jesus from Herod’s prison, and his doubt as to whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah- even after his experience with him at Christ’s baptism. The passage in Matthew 11 recording this is one of the most moving moments in all of scripture to me. You can see how this would lack appeal to a wide audience, but done well it could make for some great art. #muhweeladgimli

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