Finding God…

You can find theology in many surprising and unexpected places. My son asked me to watch a YouTube video of a comedian he enjoyed and lo and behold I actually was caught off guard by the depth of it (hidden in plain site).

Ironically I found some good theology in the lyrics of a foul-mouthed, hilarious comedian by the name of Bo Burnam in a song he wrote called From God’s Perspective (found at 37:10 into his video).

The lyrics are toward the end of the song in that place that is saved for what the writer wants the listener to really take away from the whole experience.

You pray so badly for heaven
Knowing any day might be the day that you die
But maybe life on earth could be heaven
Doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth the try?

My love’s the type of thing that you have to earn
And when you earn it you won’t need it (2x)

I’m not going to give you love just cause I know that you want me to
If you want love then the love is gonna come from you

What I read in these lyrics fits very nicely into the kingdom theology that N.T. Wright has been developing throughout his career.

“Maybe life on earth could be heaven, doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth the try?”

This lyric is filled with the New Testament idea that the kingdom was ushered in with Christ and that we are, in essence, empowered at its vanguard to reveal and establish it. We are, in essence, trusted with the task…a task we have so eminently failed at we need to hear about our failure from comedians like Burnham.

Neither shall they say, ‘Lo, it is here!’ or ‘Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” – The New Testament Gospel of Luke, chapter 17, verse 21.

Some translations say “amongst you” but based on the context of the surrounding verses I believe within is the best translation here.

They lyrics being embedded in a bawdy (very funny) song betrays the depth of what Burnham is trying to say and it might be easy to miss the message in the humour.

“My love’s the type of thing that you have to earn
And when you earn it you won’t need it

The absolute brilliance of this statement is difficult to overstate. From a theological perspective it hits at the heart of the Ephesians 2:8 which states “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”.

It is the exercise of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit) that one comes to receive these same gifts. Love to be loved, so to speak and when you do this you will not need to ask for God’s love; or to use Burnham’s words:

“I’m not going to give you love just cause I know that you want me to
If you want love then the love is gonna come from you”

This circle’s back to the theological truth that God has empowered us to enact God’s kingdom instead of sitting back and waiting on God or simply checking out and assuming we will be whisked to paradise so why worry about this particular world and the suffering in it.

 

Daredevil as Christ

I am now three episodes into Daredevil season 2 on Netflix and while I do not think there will be any spoilers ahead just in case I will say now –

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

“he descended into hell…” – The Apostle’s Creed

There is an obvious irony in developing a character named Daredevil as a sort of Christ for Hell’s Kitchen but in some ways this helps us see the overlap with greater clarity in that we expect there to be none so when they show up they do so glaringly.

Backstory – as a child Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) is involved in an accident that leaves him blind with his other senses heightened to superhuman levels. In many ways he sees far more now than before (or at least after training and honing).

Murdoch’s mother is long gone, his father dies not long after the accident leaving him detached from traditional parents.

Raised Catholic his religion, its various themes and iconography have significant shaping effects on Matt as he evolves into Daredevil. One could argue that Daredevil evolved long before Matt ever put on the uniform in the sense that it is his persona and not some separate alter-ego that comes to life when he suits up, like so many other superheroes. Matt Murdoch is Daredevil and Daredevil is Matt Murdoch.

Daredevil most definitely has a Messiah complex. He very strongly feels that only he can save the people of Hell’s Kitchen. He recognizes that others help in their way but only he, is uniquely fashioned to ultimately do the job.

If Murdoch is Christ than his priest acts as the voice of God for him as he regularly seeks out his advice.

There is a very strong resemblance between Christ and Daredevil in what must ultimately be done for salvation to fully occur – that is that their body must be broken and their blood must be spilled.

There are times when one can almost hear the words of the sacrament if communion from 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 as we watch Daredevil fighting with the forces of evil…

He broke it and said “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Each time Daredevil enters the fray it is as if he is performing some form of penance on behalf of the ones he is saving and even for those he is fighting, who he believes can be redeemed; Each time it is as if he is partaking in communion.

While there does not need to be a perfect overlap if we were to extend the analogy further we could suggest that Murdoch’s partner Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page fill that role.

The Spirit of God is not so evident or direct as either God or Christ but no less powerful a motivator. Both act in a way that offers constraint and reminds Daredevil that, unlike God, he is constrained and has limits.

If Daredevil is Christ than in season 2 The Punisher, Frank Castle, is fallen Adam…the corrupted image of God/Christ who personifies perfectly Daredevil’s mission. He is both the broken that needs redemption and the evil that needs cleansing.

It is apt that Castle is also Catholic as in some ways he is a dark reflection of Daredevil. He is temptation in the sense that he offers to Daredevil a way to deal with the problem of evil by eradicating not only the source but all who is infected by it.

Daredevil recognizes that evil can only be dealt with at the source if it is to be defeated. To walk the path of eradicating those who are also infected by evil is to walk a path that would ultimately lead to the realization that all of humanity must be eradicated…that none deserve life and all deserve death. This is the path that Daredevil sees and resists at all costs…Castle cannot see this and walks the path willingly.

Daredevil does not send the evil to Hell but rather to Purgatory. Part of Catholic theology Purgatory is that place where the redeemable go to be purified to a point where they can one day enter Paradise. Prison is Purgatory and Daredevil believes that through the criminal justice system people can find redemption.

It is appropriate that Murdoch became a defense lawyer because in his role as Daredevil he continues his advocacy. Christ being the ultimate advocate for humanity the comparison is more than appropriate.

Ultimately Catholicism is the strongest influence on Murdoch who is shaped into not the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen as he is know so much as the Christ of Hell’s Kitchen, offering his body and blood as sacrament for the dispossessed, the evil and the broken that through it, they might be saved. He does this in the same way as the Priest does within the church only in this instance the church is the streets and rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen.

Why the devil suit? Ultimately, while we may conjecture about the similarities between Daredevil and Christ Matt Murdoch would certainly have none of it. The choice of the Devil as his personal imagery has less to do with frightening criminals (as he himself might suggest) and more to do with his own sense of unworthiness and sin.

Ultimately this aspect of Daredevil is what keeps him grounded. It is his humanity and it is the humanity of those he confronts as they are faced with an image of who they really are inside. It is also representative of the ongoing battle Murdoch, and the rest of us, have with ourselves.

Daredevil is the Christ of The Apostle’s Creed, descended into Hell, seeking to save those already there.

Negro

I am currently listening to a couple of older women sitting here in the café behind me speaking half in English and half in low-German about the evils of young women “falling into the arms of dark men” with the odd “Negro” thrown around for good measure.

It is awkward for me.

It is ridiculously racist and blended with bad theology.

I can’t decide if this is a chicken or egg issue…which came first the racism or the bad theology? Does it matter?

Part of me wants to turn around and tell them they are being racist and they should consider the good equality of all people and the image of God embedded within each one of us. Another part of me (a louder part) simply says “why bother…they will not change…they will simply be offended and get up and leave or tell me to mind my own business.”

The louder voice has won. They are well past racist themes and have moved on to other topics. There is no thread or direction to their conversation, merely random cluckings heading to no particular place. At this point they have probably even forgotten that part of the conversation.

Now I am wondering if I am a coward. Should I have more courage, after all its 2013, shouldn’t I turn around and challenge two old women on their racist attitudes?

It seems so strange and foreign to me that there are such broken assumptions and attitudes in this world. No matter how long I live I hope these casual conversations on why others are inferior to us white folk never fail to shock me.

Can I use that as an excuse? Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I was incapable of standing up and defending my brothers and sisters who happen to have a different skin colour because I was in shock. A poor excuse in the end.

I am saddened by the many costumes that hate wears. I want hate to be obvious. I want it to be the ugly, scarred obviously evil and angry man who is clearly an ignorant beast. I don’t want hate to be dressed up as a soft, prayerful, plump and pleasant grandmother with a gentle smile and comfortable shoes.

They’re still talking.

They have no idea I am sitting here writing about them in the next booth.

Now I feel guilty.

Maybe I am just as bad. Here I am writing to you about these people and their horrible nasty ideas like some shameless gossip – literally behind their backs. To them I am simply the back of some guy’s head…not an enemy…not a spy.

They have moved on to baptism now and the importance of their faith…my faith. How can we be so different if we share the same faith? Are we…am I so different? I caught them unawares. They felt safe to reveal a little of who they really are with one-another and I caught them like some shameless voyeur. What if that happened to me? What secret blackness would leak out of me in an unsuspecting moment into the ears or eyes of another that would shock them as much as these ladies have me?

I should pray for them…but now all of this introspection has me feeling like I need to pray for me just as much. That could be the point of this random encounter. There may be no point and I may be manufacturing reason where only day-to-day madness exists.

At this point their conversation has taken a wonderfully ironic turn. They are talking about how wasteful people are to go out for coffee instead of saving their money to stay home. Seriously this is quite wonderful. Since I have been here they have gotten up twice to re-purchase coffee and extra muffins. To be so oblivious to one’s own self.

Of course this just bounces back at me. When encountered by these things you just cannot help but wonder about your own blindness. Where am I laughably unaware of my own flawed self? That’s the problem with a lack of awareness – you need other’s to point it out…which brings us to the value of community and maybe back to why I couldn’t stand up and challenge their earlier racism.

I know that I would only take criticism seriously from people in deep and intentional loving relationship with me. Not some shmoe in another booth at the coffee shop…a mother or father; a brother or sister; a lover or a friend speaking purely out of concern and genuine compassion…not anger or judgement.

Evil can be most effectively challenged in the context of community; in the context of ekklesia. This requires relationship. This requires love.

I have to stop eavesdropping now…it is too hard. It keeps bouncing back at me.