Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Superheroes and Morality

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

A few days ago I read a Polygon article about why superheroes don't kill their enemies. This was well written and I think the author, Susana Polo, did a good job expressing her concern about the articulation writers use in saying why superheroes don't kill. You can read it here. Her main point was that superheroes, on some level, believe the system can still work. That the justice system can still solve crimes and protect the innocent.

I would say it goes far deeper than that, though. God has given us many pictures of Himself throughout creation and even life itself. Marriage is meant to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Nature shows us different aspects of who God is. Romans 1 speaks of God's wrath and His speaking of truth to humanity.

"...since what may be known, about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20

We all know that it is not our job to decide who lives and who dies. God placed this moral code in us. Unfortunately we also have a different moral code working in us. This is called sin and it is a code of selfishness that pushes all limits when we allow it to do so. Sin says "do what you want, consequences are irrelevant." Or, it says "you know what you are doing so why bother with listening to that other message?" This is why we have so many villains in life. Why some think it is ok to treat others with disrespect. To control everything. As you read further in Romans you will find Paul discussing the war of these two differing motivations.

I say that we don't allow killing because we know that God has a better punishment for them. Even if we claim not to believe in God, we know that He will hold each person responsible for their actions, including our own. Why doesn't Daredevil kill? Because he knows he's accountable to God for his actions. Daredevil is a catholic. He has gone to confession. Heck, the first person in the MCU to really know what Matt was doing at night was his priest.

Agents of SHIELD got into a similar argument last night. Daisy and Mac were discussing how to find out where the watchdogs were and she suggested "shaking someone down". Now, this is a strategy that Batman and Daredevil have used. Beating info out of someone who knows something. It works. We, as humans, will crack under those kinds of pressure. But Mac said something about it. "This is not about them, it is about us. We are supposed to be different." This is where things sometimes break down with superheroes. They take certain liberties the authorities can not take and it is not always a good thing. This is why The Flash sometimes gets on edge with The Green Arrow in the Arrowverse. The Flash does not accept fear tactics as legitimate or trustworthy. Instead, he goes to science for his info and he inspires people to get info from them.

The possibility of being able to win without changing gets argued often. When Elektra and Matt have this discussion about killing, he says this: "It's not hard. It's impossible. But it's a choice. I make it every day, sometimes every second. And you can to." When we are not capable of dealing with something without sin, we turn to Christ. He strengthens us and motivates us for righteousness. 

Do we as humans believe in a justice system? Yes, but not because of a societal system. We believe in a justice system because God has endowed it with rights. God has given us a deep seeded notion of justice but it isn't just about the system. It is about who we are both within and without that system. Not killing is a choice. Rather than an inaction it is an action of recognition; that God will decide the fate of this person, not you.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week or Nerd Week?

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

This is quite a week, isn't it? There is a lot going on in both the faith community and the nerd community. A busy, crazy week for sure.

I have just finished the second season of Daredevil on Netflix. I have something in mind I'm saving for later inspired by this, but my first impressions are pretty positive. I think they furthered the MCU along pretty well. I am excited for "Dawn of Justice" to come out this week. Can you believe they are putting that out on Easter weekend? That is wild. I also have multiple things going on Saturday. Nerd Chapel is going to be at the Grand Rapids Toys and Collectibles Expo and then I'm going to a game day at a friends house.

It could be really easy for all of us to get off track this week. I think I already have been in some ways. I probably will go to the movies this weekend, if I can figure out the time and find someone else to go with me. Yet I do feel like it is easy for me to focus so much on all our enjoyable media that I lose sight, even if temporarily, on what this week really is about. Let me remind us.

Jesus didn't just come to teach. He didn't just come to heal. He came to bring a whole new reality to the universe. He came to die and be a sacrifice that would change everything. All those times we get excited because heroes are changing things in our stories? That is just fiction. This is real. This is what changed the world and is continuing to change it.

Admittedly, I don't have any personal traditions for this week. I have collective traditions such as helping with tech on Easter morning at my church. I often will read parts of the Holy Week story through the week or just sit down alone at some point in the week to read it straight through. Sometimes traditions help honor what we need to remember and sometimes we get caught up in doing traditions just so they are done. It is different for each person and I don't know what works best for you. Although I will say this: do not miss Easter morning. If you can, attend a Good Friday service as well.

This week, as we remember the sacrifice and victory of Christ, let that be forefront in our minds. Even while we watch Batman and Superman fight on screen and while we get excited for the Flash to come meet Supergirl next week or watch Daredevil. Keep Christ in mind. Remember He has set quite an example for the heroes in your mind. He has won not by beating up others, but by healing and taking the big blow himself.

The King is Risen. He is risen indeed.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lion and the Lamb

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Found on the Sentinels Wiki.

I hope your March is coming in more like a lion than a lamb for you, unless you are like me and enjoy thunderstorms. A few weeks ago I got to play as "The Naturalist" in Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you haven't played it, Sentinels is a card game that is cooperative. You all play as heroes fighting a villain in a chosen environment. It is a great game. The Naturalist could have been inspired by any of several DC comics characters (Beast Boy seems to me to be the most likely, but you also have Vixen and Animal Man). He morphs into different animals to use their abilities and he has 3 specific animals for you to choose from (Crocodile, Rhinoceros, and Gazelle). Our villain literally kept putting me in a cage again and again...but finally my guy broke out of it as a crocodile and finished him off. Don't worry, my comrades did a lot to bring him down and help me out.

This last Sunday at church we sang "Lion and the Lamb". It was rather fortunate timing since we were about to coming into the month that is said to come in like a lion or a lamb, but it made me think about some things.

These two ideas are rather polarized from each other. A lamb is very calm and gentle; but sheep are also easy to control. You send a dog out and they'll have them all corralled for you. Lions are wild. They are called the king of the jungle because they don't listen to anyone (remind you of owning a cat?). They control their territory and man has no influence on their decisions (although they do tend to stay away from cities, I think). Send a dog our to tame a lion and you won't get your dog back. You have an animal who is all power and an animal who is all about gentleness.

Beastboy is known to change into many animals. I don't think I've heard of him changing into a lamb before. Even the Naturalist from Sentinels of the Multiverse doesn't use lambs, and this is a guy who turns into gazelles (albeit for their speed). But scripture uses this as a significant symbol. In fact, lambs were very important for the sacrificial system in Jewish Temple life. In John 1:29, John the Baptist called Jesus the "Lamb of God" one time when he saw him approaching. Side note, I can't imagine growing up knowing your slightly younger cousin was the savior of the world. That must have been crazy! Revelation 5 refers to Jesus as both a lion and a lamb. John is weeping and an angel says "stop weeping, the Lion of Judah will do it." When John looks, he sees a 'lamb that was slain" standing in the spot of the Lion.

Jesus is powerful. The gospels record dozens of miracles of power that he performed including raising the dead and healing people of many ailments. Yet, when Jesus was arrested, he did nothing. He didn't call down angels to defend him. He actually stopped Peter from physically defending him and then healed one of the men sent to arrest him. With all the power of the Lion, Jesus didn't use the Lion card. He chose the Lamb card for that moment. He chose to accept the cross, a very painful form of death, knowing it would be torturous.

He did this for you and me and even that neighbor you don't like who is really annoying. Jesus accepted a painful death, one of the most painful in history, because he cares about us all. He chose to be the sin offering for us, just like the lambs were in the temple. He did this so you can draw close to God and experience Him in your life. Does a ticket to Heaven come with it? Sure, but not in the sense of just sitting all comfy on a cloud. Read Hebrews 9:11-15 and/or Romans 3:21-26. Freedom from sin and new life of righteousness in God are the goals.

Jesus didn't break out of his cage. He chose to stay so His death would pave way for us to live in righteousness. I think that beats Animal Man and Beast Boy and The Naturalist any day of the week.