The Joker, War Games, and the Culture War


heath-ledger-the-joker-in-the-dark-knight5Just re-watched The Dark Knight tonight. Such a great flick with some much good stuff. Tonight I was amazed by the Ferry scene (SPOILER ALERT– come on it was 2008, see it already).

When faced with the Sophie’s Choice of pushing  a trigger to kill others or sit back and die yourself, one of the convicts grabs the detonator saying “I’m gonna do what you should have done 10 minutes ago.”  He promptly throws the remote out the window. Sometimes the only way to deal with the temptation to do evil is to get away from it.

The scene reminded me of the end of another great movie, WarGames. You know, the early 80s Matthew Broderick – Ally Sheedy masterpiece, you know, about nuclear war. There at the end (SPOILER AGAIN – but come on this year is the 30 year anniversary) Matthew’s hacker hero teaches NORAD’s computer that in some games: “the only way to win is not to play.” Makes you wonder that if Matthew had been in the DK would it have lasted almost 3 hours?

But seriously, both films in their own ways sought to make points about the on-going battles of each era (Reagan et al’s everlasting Cold War and Bush’s never-ending War on Terror). The problem with these open-ended conflicts is the self-replicating roll-out of horrors  that only gain steam as they continue onward. Hurt. Shame. Guilt. Anger. More Hurt. More Shame. More Guilt. More Anger. Wash. Repeat. Truly Matthew, the only way to win is not to play. Or as the tattooed black guy does, throw the remote out the window.

This is what is truly mind-numbing and frustrating about the roll-out of wars in Modern America. War on Christmas. War on Women. War on People who are Sick of War. War. War. War. This group is hurt so it takes out its anger, and hurts this other group; which then takes out its anger on this other group; which then… You get my point, maybe.

But if you don’t allow me a seemingly unrelated paraphrase (sorry I’ve misplaced the book- bad form on my part I know) from N.T. Wright‘s Simply Jesus:

We all know about those nations (or Empires) who promise to provide peace, love, and justice to the world; and then go on to kill thousands (if not millions) to prove their point and establish their peace in the world. But the peace, justice, and love of the Kingdom of God is of an entirely different order and kind. The Kingdom of God brings its peace not by killing others, but by the death and suffering of its King, and its people. By the death of Christ and the suffering of His Church, God’s Kingdom is bringing its peace.

In ancient days, there was the scapegoat. From time to time a village would load a goat up with all sorts of baggage, and sent it out from the village to be sacrificed. In this way the goat symbolically (and literally) represented all of the sins of the people. It is the action of Batman at the end of TDK he takes on the sins of the Joker and Harvey Dent and carries them away from the people of Gotham. This ending speech always tears me up; because this is also the true work of the Kingdom. Christ, himself, is the one who has taken all the shame of the world, and carried it away from the village. And to we who are called to emulate Him, it becomes our duty as well. We are to take on the hate, violence, and injustice of this world, and by our suffering bring the redemption of the Kingdom.

Yet with this high call, some many of us in the Church would rather out like the Kingdoms of this World. We would take up the sword and attempt to bring the Peace of God through war (not just literally but metaphorically as well). We would use the weapons of shame, guilt, manipulation, power-plays, legislation, and hate-mongering. We would take out plough-shares and turn them into hammers and swords. We would take up the detonator. We would meet the Joker at his game.

To that nonsense I say. The only way to win the war on Christmas is not to play. The only way to win the culture war is not to play. The only way to beat our true adversary is to not play his game. Let’s throw the remotes out the window. Someone has to do it. It should have been done 10 minutes ago.

Hear me all with ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to fill with love: put down your dets, and pick up your crosses. It’s not too late. We are you willing to die for, today?

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