Thursday, January 12, 2006

Is Batman Jesus?

I will be the first to admit that I am not particularly adept at seeing theological underpinnings in pop culture. Take the Matrix movies. After the first movie, everyone was talking about all the Christian imagery and how Keanu Reaves was Jesus but I just nodded politely, while thinking quietly to myself –“Huh??” I finally caught on by the third movie (the whole dying with arms outstretched while a deep voice intoned “It is finished” was hard to miss) but it has to be pretty blatant for me to catch on. And I never really understood all the pleasure people derive from discussing the theology of Star Wars. Good versus Evil. Got it. Need we say more?

And then I watched “Batman Begins” and I suddenly understood the obsession. I was totally captivated by Liam Neeson’s character and the theology of the entire League of Shadows. It’s so interesting because their approach to injustice is portrayed as the “wrong” way, the path that Batman must not be tempted to follow. And yet, anyone familiar with the Old Testament will recognize the smite-them-all mentality. The League of Shadows steps in and destroys a civilization when the corruption, greed, and injustice get out of hand. Anyone remember the story of Noah? Massive flooding to destroy a corrupt nation? Or how about the offer God makes to Moses in Exodus, suggesting that perhaps Moses would like to just leave the Israelites behind to face God's wrath and strike out on his own after their destruction? The League would be so proud.

I particularly liked the scene when Liam Neeson confronts Christian Bale in the Wayne Mansion, just before it burns to the ground. Neeson is making his case for the destruction of Gotham City due to its unending corruption and Bale is pleading for more time, because there are still “good people” in the city. Sound familiar? Check Genesis 18-19 for the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I have no idea if this imagery was intentional. Maybe not. But I have discovered how easy it is to let your mind run away with the possibilities. I found myself contemplating: If Leam Neeson and his group represent the Old Testament, then is Bruce Wayne the New Testament? Is Batman Jesus? Good Heavens. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.


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