Batman is the greatest man who wasn’t God, ever (actually second behind John the Baptist technically speaking for all you bible geeks out there). I know, I know – I hear your protests (and possibly your concern). ‘Batman is a fictional character James. He’s not real James.’ But my question to you is why should I let that stand in the way of a perfectly good blog post?
Batman is awesome. It’s indisputable. He is the ultimate dark mysterious hero (leaving aside the campy Adam West version and the weird sci-fi adventures of the late 1950’s and the 1960’s comics). He is the greatest detective on the entire planet, one of the smartest men and one of Earth’s greatest warriors. His alter ego is good looking, wealthy, famous and the ‘Prince of Gotham’. He is only a man and yet he took down Superman. Twice. For real.
But here’s the kicker. He still needs Jesus.
For those of you who have been living underground, when he was just eight years old, Batman’s parents were brutally murdered in front of him by a mugger. He swore on that day to fight the injustice that took his parents and commits to becoming a brilliant scientist, inventor, and detective, training his body to physical perfection. For all that though the two traits that most clearly define Batman are guilt and obsession.
He relentlessly battles to end crime in Gotham City but for all his amazing talents and incredible feats, he fails. Just as the guilt he felt at not being able to stop his parent’s murder drove him to wear the cape and cowl to begin with, so too his failure to stop crime spurs him on more and more. He pushes away those closest to him and often mistrusts those who are his allies.
His obsession leads him down many dark paths and his guilt increases over the years as his mistakes indirectly lead to the death of the second Robin, the madness of Harvey Dent and the death of the Blue Beetle (sorry, getting a little fan boy here). For all his greatness he cannot erase the crimes of others or his own.
But Batman will not allow himself to be forgiven. H. Michael Brewer (the inspiration behind this post) in his fantastic book Who Needs a Superhero, points to a panel in Frank Miller’s iconic The Dark Knight Returns where Batman looks out through a framed window, which from the readers point of view looks like a cross. Batman cannot accept the cross and the forgiveness it symbolises and instead embraces the symbol for his own search for justice and redemption; the bat.
Many of us carry the same burden. We think that if we can just do enough good deeds then we can undo or at least redeem ourselves for the mistakes we have made. But we never can.
The bible teaches us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that our iniquities (sins) have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned, Batman has sinned (again, I know he is a fictional character) and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23).
But here’s the good news. There is a greater hero than Batman.
‘For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:7-8)
Jesus Christ is the ultimate hero because he didn’t just save the innocent, or the deserving. He died to save all of us when we have all rejected him; all denied him, and all mocked him. Not just those of us who we normally recognise as sinners; murderers, adulterers, fornicators and thieves, but also those of us who are judgemental, arrogant and self righteous enough to believe that our own good works can save us.
People like Batman. And me.
As much as I love the caped crusader I have to recognise that his brilliance is nothing compared to the Son of God, the one I seek to serve and the one who has rescued me from something far worse than fiction can imagine. He is the only one who could because of his sinless life. I never want to fall into the trap of believing that my own good works are enough to reconcile me to a Holy God.
I know I need a saviour. But it’s not Batman.