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Monday, May 20, 2024

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I Love Batman

By Rick Racela

 
 I love Batman. 
   I don’t mean the campy 60’s Batman with the Pows and Umphs.  I mean The Dark Knight, the Gotham crusader, the Frank Miller creation who came on the scene with the “Year One” story line some years ago (has it been that long?). 
   Which is why it so amazing that when I went to go see Batman with my wife and some friends last year, there, smack dab in the middle of the latest spin on the Caped Crusader, I should come upon some of the deepest theology and philosophy that can be found on planet earth.  This is what my dad says is wrong with me, that I find theology in movies about people wearing tights and utility belts, with additions to their names like “bat,” and “super.”  Actually, it’s really just that I still watch movies about superheroes.
   So it comes in this scene between the love interest, played by Katie Holmes, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), when she says, “It’s not who you are underneath: it’s what you do that defines you.”  Which makes for great superhero fodder (remember the Spiderman line, “With great power comes great responsibility”?); only problem is, it isn’t true.  Nope, not even remotely.  But there, before you know it, a message has been dropped subtly in your brain to tell you this: you are what you do.
   I don’t mean to come down hard on Batman.  This thought has been around since, I don’t know, Cain?  For those who are fuzzy on the story, we get the saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” from Cain, who killed his brother because God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, but not his own.  Instead of go to the Source and find out why it was not pleasing (which should tip us off to the fact that he wasn’t really concerned about pleasing God anyway), Cain went to the one who did well, the innocent one, and killed him, which is where we get the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” 
   Leading up to this first murder on planet earth, God warns Cain, “Why this tantrum?  Why this sulking?  If you do well, won’t you be accepted?  And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it,” (Gen 3:6-7).  God knew that what was most important was what was on the inside, what comes from within a person’s heart.  Our actions are one thing, but God looks straight into our heart.  Mastering sin, that comes from the inside.  Which is why an offering from somebody whose heart was harboring murder wasn’t so cool with God, no matter what Cain might do.
   In fact, the great lie of the ages is that your worth comes from your accomplishments: the more money, more successful, more tools, toys, and tots you have, the more your value.  It’s not who you are underneath: it’s what you do that defines you. 
   No, I would have to say that in the Christian worldview, it’s not what you do that defines you; it’s who you are that defines you.  The world’s message: you are what you do.  Christ’s message: You are whose you are.  Paul tells us in Ephesians, “It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. [2] You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.” Ephes. 2:1-2 (Msg).  But then things change: “Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, [5] he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!” Ephes. 2:4-5 (Msg).  Take that, Katie!
   If Christians could ever really wrap their heads and hearts around this one, what a day of rejoicing that will be!  God made us alive in Christ, and now who we are on the inside supersedes anything we might do on the outside.  It’s a scary doctrine, this grace.  It makes us “super,” not by what we do, but by whose we are, the living vessels of Christ’s glory.
   I don’t even need tights for that. 
   Well… I don’t need them.

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