the gospel according to batman

June 27, 2005

Batman BeginsWarning: This post is heavy with spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t yet seen the movie and still intend to.

My wife and I took advantage of the built-in babysitting that comes with having the in-laws in town for a visit this weekend. We stole away for a few hours to see Batman Begins. I’d heard many good things, and I was not disappointed. This was my favorite of all the Batman films. It has a little more of a serious tone to it than the others, which is evident even by the lack of a marquee pop artist with a featured song on the soundtrack.

Early in the film, we see Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) coming of age with the help of his new mentor Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). As the final test to prove his maturity, Bruce is told he must kill a man who is a local thief. Henri believes that the only way to do away with evil is to show zero tolerance. So, in order to fight evil, Bruce must show no mercy.

Everything within me wanted him to not kill that man. Something deep inside told me that was not the right course of action for him to take. Of course, he didn’t. He chose to go the route of compassion, even though Ducard told him that would be his weakness. Ultimately, a grand fight ensues, and Bruce chooses to save Ducard’s life, leaving him unconscious with a local villager. Even as that happens, you know this will not be the end of Ducard…

Later in the movie, Bruce is fighting the evil of Gotham as Batman. He still senses that their is good in the city, and hopes that his example can rally the good people to rise to action. Ducard reappears with a sinister plan to destory the whole city. He believes it is lost, and there is no hope. The intriguing thing about all this is that there are two ‘good’ guys fighting against evil. It just seems that the way of our hero seems more correct and moral than the way of Ducard. It made for an interesting plot development.

I was reflecting on this after the movie while waiting for my very pregnant wife outside the ladies’ room. I was trying to figure out why the concept of two goods, but one seeming to be so much better, was so appealing. Finally it struck me — Law and Grace. Ducard was the Law of the Old Testament, and Batman and his compassion represented the Grace of the New Testament.

The work of those who follow Jesus is to bring the Shalom/Kingdom of God to this earth. That can never be done by simply destroying evil through restrictive legalism, or even by brushing evil under the proverbial rug to pretend it’s not there. It is a work of seeing the good that still exists in this world — seeing the imprint of God’s image in every human, and pointing to the way of Christ to rally people to be who God truly created them to be and to settle for nothing less.

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