Christ, the Dark Knight?
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Making the Christian faith relevant in the 21st century
What if Christopher Nolan made a biblical spin-off to his 2008 box-office sensation, “The Dark Knight,” and based it in the year 33 A.D.?
Sound outrageous? Allow me to explain.
Lately, I have struggled with the tangibility of my own Christian faith. How can I relate to recounted events that took place nearly 2,000 years ago?
Is it still relevant in a Blackberry-dominated, celebrity-obsessed, corporately-corrupted and obscenely-sexualized millennium?
Granted, I don’t want to sound like a crooning crow who annoyingly laments that the world worsens with each passing year.
Nor am I one to push my beliefs on others (far the contrary). But for those who are in a similar spiritual place as I — frustrated, confused and uncertain – the aforementioned Nolan modification might prove helpful.
Still with me? Begin by erasing your CGI-enhanced, predisposed image of Gotham City and replace it with the dusty sands of Jerusalem. Enter an oft-discussed, undoubtedly controversial figure who has boldly eradicated money-grubbing scoundrels from the city hall quarters.
Despite heavy public support for the new protagonist, authorities are highly skeptical of this robed, sandaled superhero.
Everyone, that is, except one intermediary: Judas Iscariot (Harvey Dent). Iscariot is a well-respected figure in the community.
He serves as an intermediary between the apostles and their suspicious enemies, the chief priests. Having contributed to Jerusalem’s efforts at becoming a bountiful municipality, Iscariot is viewed with the highest regard.
After forming an assumption that his mentor and friend, Jesus Christ (Batman), will mightily rid the city from its evildoers through force, Iscariot falls victim to overconfidence and self-assurance.
The once chosen disciple overreaches, stumbles and loses sight of the values he has held dear.
In this opportune moment, a villain arises. The demented criminal mastermind, Lucifer (the Joker), plays on Iscariot’s insecurities by challenging his world view. Instead of simply killing him, Lucifer attempts to instead plant a small seed inside Iscariot’s head: the notion that the world is chaotic and that nothing more than chance exists.
Highly frightened by his newly formed revelations, Iscariot unwittingly devises a plan to accomplish what he believes will be his apostolic friends’ vindication — securing Christ’s arrest and pushing the hero into action.
But the plan goes terribly wrong.
Instead of fighting back and demonstrating his armed prowess, Christ welcomes the brutal punishment doled out by the city authorities. Christ’s honor and commitment to non-violence reign over any anger stemming from Iscariot’s betrayal.
Meanwhile, Lucifer is elated. His seed has grown into full bloom, and his chief goal is being realized — the humiliation of his eternal enemy, Jesus. Beside himself with disgust over the imprudent, irreversible actions he has committed, Iscariot commits suicide.
Concurrently, a mob of angry citizens hunts Christ and demands execution after allowing themselves to be convinced that he, and not the city’s prior criminals, are the cause of their suffering.
In “The Dark Knight,” Batman allows his name to be tarnished, his symbol to be crushed and his goodness to be forgotten in order to give the people what they desire — healing for their fallen son, Harvey Dent. In our version, Christ lets the same occur.
Knowing that he is called to set an ultimate example, he becomes an entity who stands up for justice, rightness and unwavering defense of good. Christ may be punished (and even killed), but the wishy-washy citizenry will soon forget their hatred and long for the righteousness that Christ brought to a glum, broken metropolis.
Perhaps more parallels may be drawn from the next Nolan classic. To finish our own story, though, Christ rises above the people’s vindictiveness.
He soars above Jerusalem’s hypocritical temple elite. He brandishes his followers with a spirit of hope that will eventually spread beyond the city’s walls.
In sacrificing self, he becomes eternal. In being the hero that Jerusalem deserves, Christ becomes the silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.