Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When Dark Knights Finally Rise

I watched two movies this past weekend that showed a sharp worldview contrast:
  • In  The Dark Knight Rises, Batman returns to a captive Gotham City to save the people from Bane's annihilation.  He didn't have to risk so much; he had already dedicated much of his life to helping Gotham. Catwoman wants him to escape with her. "Save yourself," she advises. "You've given these people everything." Batman refuses. "Not everything," he says."Not yet." In the end, Batman is prepared to give everything as he offers his life to protect those for whom he cares - not because they are innocent or because he is obligated, but because he can not ignore his responsibility to those who need him.
  • In Cabin in the Woods, one man ends up holding the fate of the entire human race in his hand. If he gives his life, everyone lives. If not, everyone dies horribly. He is given a stark contrast: "You can die with them, or you can die for them." He's not about to give his life for them, and so the apocalypse begins. "I'm sorry I ended the world," he apologizes to a friend as they get high and wait for the world to die with them. He's not about to give anything so that others can escape their fate. 
When brought to account for the life of his brother, Cain asked the classic question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Well, yes, to some degree. It's why we have Good Samaritan laws. As the story of the Good Samaritan points out, we have neighbors both near and far, people whose lives are intertwined with ours by geography, vocation, family ties, or simple human dignity.  In every case, something is required of us that transcends our individual preferences and proclivities.  The fate of the entire world will never rest on our shoulders, but things much smaller than a world also require courage and self-sacrifice on our behalf.

I remember a radio ad  that featured the voice of a young girl commenting on an abrupt change in her life: “When my brother committed a gun crime, he sentenced me to 5 years of walking home from school alone.” Some people complained this was just another anti-gun ad, but I think they missed the broader point. We forget how our lives intertwine with the lives of others; when we choose selfishly, someone must manage the fallout. It's not enough to shrug and say, "I'm sorry I ruined your life."

Ted Haggard was a very prominent minister in a huge church in Colorado Springs until it became known that he had been living a secret life of drug use and sexual sin. At one point during an interview the following exchange took place:
"And I call it my sin," he says. ‘That's my sin… it was a sin against me and God..." Gayle (his wife) gives it a moment, then shoots him a look and points to herself. "And me," she says. "And me.”
At the time of this interview, Mr. Haggard was so busy grappling with his life on a purely personal level that he forgot his decisions effected his wife, his kids, his church, the reputation of God's people - and by implication the reputation of God. When he told a reporter that his life was returning to normal,  his teenaged son said, "I don't think our family has a normal anymore."

We are image-bearers of God, and who we are individually matters. What we do has signfincance.  But if we only think of ourselves, we miss the broader context of life. "And me," said Mrs. Haggard, poignantly. She understood what her husband did not. For every personal success or personal failure, there are others standing next to us saying, “And me. Your life is intertwined with my life. Don’t forget me.”

The Dark Knight is a flawed superhero; he stays in the shadows for more reasons than stealth.  But in this case he refuses to shrug away the world, choosing instead to offer everything for the sake of others. That's one way to rise above the darkness of the world. 

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