I Am Not the Batman

For a very long time, Batman was my favorite superhero. As a kid, I idolized the Michael Keaton era Batman for all of his power, gadgets, and abilities. What six-year-old kid didn’t! However, as I grew older and continued my admiration for the Caped Crusader, I found a special affinity for the Batman of Christopher Nolan’s universe. I relished in those soundtracks orchestrated by Hans Zimmer for the Dark Knight trilogy. In fact, much of my own survival throughout the many late nights of grad school, I believe were directly linked to my long-standing affair with caffeine, and regular interactions with Zimmer’s soundtracks.

Why did I do that? In the midst of the chaotic moments in our lives, we are all too often concerned with surviving them, far more than considering them. It is only after the fact, as we have time to contemplate what happened that we are able to process our own motivations and actions. So why Batman? Batman is for all intents and purposes the chief paragon of the Will. His indominable spirit, and relentless adherence to his mission regardless of the obstacles renders him nigh immortal. The underlying philosophy guiding the mythos of the Dark Knight is perfectly expressed by the film’s antagonist Ra’s Al Ghul, “Training is nothing. Will is everything. The Will to act.” Is this compatible with a Christian worldview?

Most pastors that I know don’t self-consciously hold to such a bold declaration of voluntarism. Instead, they speak of the necessity of dependence upon Christ and His Spirit. They may speak of the need for community and accountability and the like. But do minister’s lives actually reflect this need for one another?

As it seems to be typical of this time of year, I was rather ill. I was unable to do much and found it quite difficult. Though I am able to intellectually recognize the absurdity of the voluntarism of Ra’s Al Ghul, I imagine most of us truly struggle with that ideal. I should simply be able to will whatever I need to accomplish. However, there is nothing quite like the ebb and flow of reality to demolish the platitudes of intellectuals and remind them of their limits.

Why is that a good thing? My inability to care for the church as I ordinarily did mobilized the people of the church to come together towards one glorious end. My inability to work, further revealed the many gifts Christ Himself has bestowed upon our particular congregation. My dear friends were able to prepare the physical space, to prep bulletins, to open and shut the church. Another pastor friend of mine was able to step into the pulpit and feed Christ’s sheep with the pure Word of God. All of these various ministries were able to flourish and come to light because I was sick, and I could do nothing.

I have learned to celebrate my weaknesses for they are a constant stage for Christ to display His strength. Our weakness does not hinder Christ. He did all sorts of things for us while we were weak: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6 ESV); “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26 ESV); “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 ESV)

I don’t listen to the Batman soundtracks as much these days. I have nothing against the Dark Knight, though I’ve presently placed my lot with a certain Kryptonian from Smallville. But I’m growing more comfortable with the idea of living in a place of dependence. As we learn to not only name our weaknesses and shortcomings, but also grow comfortable in them, we are able to make room for others to shine. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom. 12:4-5 ESV) This is why church-less Christians are a functional contradiction. They are limbs without bodies, or even helicopters without blades. We need each other. We need our strengths to empower and aid the weak among us. Equally so, we need our weakness to be covered by the strength and abilities of others. I pray that you may never find yourself without a congregation of Christ, for you are far needier know, and far more needed than you could ever assume.

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