Monday, July 23, 2012

What Nolan's Batman Movies and Jesus Have Taught Me About How to Respond to the Shooting in Aurora

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Steven Lefebvre

First let me apologize if you find this opportunistic or inappropriate and forgive me for adding to the noise…

Friday morning I took a dozen of my youth to see the The Dark Knight Rises, but not before I was awoken by a phone call from a concerned parent. She asked if I was still planning on taking the youth to see the film in light of the attack that morning in Aurora. I think she ultimately called me to think out loud, so I quietly ‘uh-hu-ed’ along as she pontificated that it’s probably safe because we were going to a morning viewing. Safe.

I was thoroughly entertained and satisfied by the film except for the scene where the antagonist, Bane, holds up the Gotham Stock Exchange Hostage. In this scene, he and his henchmen murder about a thirty people in cold blood. With the events of last night swirling around in my brain, I found it disturbing and terrifying. I caught myself looking around the theater a few times both imagining what it must have been like for those souls in Colorado and feeling afraid and unsafe myself. Safe.

Who promised us this safety that, every time a tragedy shatters our feelings of security, prompts us to demand answers? Why do we think that watching 24-hour news cycles and finding out what kind of parents the killer had will put the pieces back together? Why is it so important that things go back to normal?

Wake up my friends.

Evil exists in this world. If we learned anything from Nolan’s last Batman movie it’s that some people “just like to watch the world burn.” Sometimes bad things happen and there is no rhyme or reason, no plot or motive, no way to prevent it from happening, no way to promise it won’t happen again. It just simply exists.

This is the way it is for most people in this world. Whether its people dying and being mutilated by war lords and militias or epidemic diseases without cures or hurricanes or tornadoes or psychopaths or alcoholism or pedophilia or drought or starvation. Evil exists in this world. As long as there are varying levels of hate, greed, jealousy, inequality, prejudice, pollution, exploitation, bitterness, lust, disease, and sloth, it is here to stay.

Some people get the benefit of going longer periods of time being ignorant to evil’s presence, but sooner or later a tragedy will strike and it will find you. But the damned thing is, somebody in this modern world promised us safety. They told us suffering is bad and the quicker we can alleviate the discomfort the better. So when tragedy strikes we look at the talking heads like they're the crew on a sinking ship directing us to the lifeboats. Perhaps we tweet about demanding better gun laws, or we tell everyone to carry their own guns so that when it comes we can be ready.

But deep down we all know what the truth is: no amount of government, wealth or artillery will protect us from tragedy, suffering, and our inevitable deaths. The one thing that we all have in common is our suffering and its aim is to teach us compassion and tolerance. You cannot fix suffering, you can only run from it or turn and face it, embrace it and begin the process of grieving, which is the way we heal.

Please stop watching television. Please stop demanding answers. Please stop trying to go back to the way things were.

We have become a society of numb and lonely people. We complain about being enslaved by Facebook, our smart phones, and our individualized busyness. We complain that our kids are too addicted to video games and have become increasingly desensitized to violence. So why do we want things to go back to “normal?” Why is this uneasiness we feel so bad and our feeling of apathetic numbness so good (or maybe it’s the blinding stress and busyness)?

Sure, to be aware of the world’s suffering is to be full of tension and it causes us to reevaluate our values and our priorities. But I believe, as I watched people be murdered on screen today, Friday’s events put me back in touch with reality: Violence is evil. I should be uncomfortable with it. This doesn’t mean that there is some silver lining to the attack, that it was good that it happened because now we can all appreciate what we have, blah blah blah, etc etc etc. No, that morning’s event was senseless and unexplainable.

However, what we are today is conscious. So the question I wish to pose is: How are you going to respond? Are you hoping that something else will come along and trick you into believing you are safe again? Are you going to choose despair or apathy and hopefully time will lull you back into your ignorant and idle bliss?

Or are you going to use this as a time to be present to the suffering in this world? Will you choose to suffer with everyone you know and those you can imagine, learn more deeply the story of the human condition, discover the ways you are perpetuating the cycles of evil in this world, repent, forgive, forgive everyone because they are just like you and be more charitable to your fellow human?

WE CANNOT CONTROL EVIL. The only thing we CAN control is whether or not we choose to participate in perpetuating it.

Grieve well my friends.

Pray. God is near.


Steven is the Director of Youth and Young Adults at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.  He writes/posts about his music at

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