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.

The Faithless Church (A Call to Remember Easter)

When I write about the church I do so as both part of the church and apart from the church.

The church is a living organism and as such it is a complex thing, difficult to generalize because it is made up of almost 2 billion individuals representing various and myriad facets and attributes.

It doesn’t help that these differing aspects of the church often doubt that their brothers and sisters are even part of the same body and often publicly call one another out.

That being said there is a place for introspection and criticism because the church is an important part of the world.

When I write about the church I am writing about the western church as I see it and have been a part of it. I am not writing about the South American church, the African or Asian church…these are not part of my experience.

I do think that writing about the western church can affect the other parts of the global organization – if only to act as a warning to avoid some of our pitfalls.

Even then as I may write critically I cannot hope to capture the intricacies. There are individuals who in no way reflect the church that I see – whole congregations and communities likely. Still the church that the world sees is that Christ that the world sees and so the visible and loud parts of the church need critiquing.

Unsurprisingly the church, being made up of people, often acts like people in various circumstances. The church can be defensive and immature, the church can be violent, the church can advocate for evil…because its members do…regardless of its headship.

In the face of persecution, in the face of irrelevance, in the face death – the church is afraid and has turned to fight. The very Christ of the world, as it is being led to the cross, would rather turn and kill its enemies than trust in the resurrection – this is the church today.

I wrote the above paragraph as a Facebook post the other day mostly to remind myself to write about this subject.

The church is constantly walking a tightrope between the character of the ones who make it up and the character of the one whom the church is supposed to reflect, that one being Christ.

On the one hand you have the church that is confronted by hostility from all sides – humanism, secularism, other faiths, atheism and from within. In response to this threat the church has many possible responses that fall into one of two camps – either the human response, which is to defend and attack back in order to assure survival, or the response of Christ.

There are churches in the United States that advocate for arming pastors in the face of violence. There are churches today that advocate to keep the stranger out of our land. There are churches today that struggle to give sacrificially.

When confronted by the poor the church as an institution and its leaders will conveniently remind the congregation’s individuals that “you are the church and you must give sacrificially” all the while bringing in enormous sums of tithes to shore up salaries, benefits, buildings, furniture, technology, musical instruments and programs. I have been party to this. I have seen this. I have done this.

Take a look at your church’s budget – I would shocked if more than 10 percent of its funds have been dedicated purely to the poor.

Our churches are institutions accumulating wealth out of a belief that the institution can do more in the world as a result of infrastructure and investment – and this feels right. Always remember our churches are reflections of us…they are supposed to be reflections of Christ but they will be only inasmuch as we are.

There is a temptation at this point to blame pastors for the state of things but the reality is your pastors are merely members of the church, the same as you.

When we look to Christ we encounter the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head and we wonder why God’s style of ministry was so different from our own? Is it a cultural difference? Maybe – although even today no modern organization can match the structure and organization of Rome and the Roman Empire. Christ had examples of structured and well-funded evangelism but still he chose the path of a homeless, poor, beggar. It makes us wonder perhaps about our own strategies.

Then there is the enemy.

There are some who clearly feel the church should pick up the crusader sword against the “infidel” at our doors; that we need to act with God-ordained violence and make war upon our enemies – be they individuals, groups or whole cultures.

If we believe that Christ is the ultimate expression of God on Earth than there is no use appealing to Old Testament texts that might make us feel better about advocating violence against our enemies etc.

We look only to his example as expressed in the New Testament and we see the response to the perceived or real enemy in his parables and in his own responses. We look to the parable of the Good Samaritan and we cannot misunderstand what our response is supposed to be. We look to Christ’s own responses and ultimately to the cross and we cannot mistake what our own should be no matter how hard we try.

There is Christ in the Garden at Gethsemene praying and agonizing over his upcoming arrest and execution. There is Christ very aware of the enemy at the door…begging for God to let it pass. There is Christ, whom we believe to be the embodiment of God, resisting the urge to remove the threat.

Christ who is arrested. Christ who stays his follower’s own urge to violent defense. Christ who is whipped, beaten and ultimately nailed to a cross. This Christ who could, at any moment, step off the cross and respond in kind. Instead this Christ stays put to the point where he lifts up his voice in agonizing wails screaming his own doubts that are like our own – “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?

Where are you? Are you even there?

Christ, our self-same God, doubting even his own existence in a case of modern existential angst that we can all identify with still resists the temptation to reach for the power he has, by faith that even at the most darkest of hours, a darkness unto even death – somehow God knows what is best and will work toward this – against every fiber of human instinct.

Why? There is resurrection.

The church has forgotten about the resurrection and what it means. We have forgotten about this most important aspect of our faith which the apostle Paul spoke so clearly of in 1 Corinthians 15:14 when he said “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

This is where we find ourselves. We find ourselves at a place where our preaching is useless and so is our faith because, by our thoughts, our words and our actions it is clear that we believe Christ has not been raised. Even if we act this way we make it so and the power of the resurrection vanishes.

Our actions and words betray our deepest innermost insecurity – that Christ was never raised and that God is not really there. As long as we live in this place we will be the violent, selfish, faithless and fearful beings that we are…because the resurrection is lost to us.

The resurrection is still and always there at the centre of our history to be recaptured should we only have faith. But we must stay on the cross in the face of any perceived enemy. We must be willing to let our church die even, if we are to confess and witness a faith that believes in the promise of resurrection – it is the only way; it is the hardest of possible ways because we must go willingly to the cross – whoever leads us there.

Gender Identity & the Trinity

I find it interesting that many people have gone through great and torturous grammatical and theological gymnastics and contortions to attempt to convince other people of a Christian trinitarian view of God (to which I subscribe) but these same people cannot for the life of them comprehend the emerging nuance and complexity of gender identity among their peers.

I have used all sorts interesting examples to attempt to explain the Trinity (God as three distinct personas sharing one essence (this is where the 3 in 1 phrase comes form).

I have read even more odd examples that do the Trinity a disservice: God is like three-in-one shampoo; God is like an egg (shell, white and yolk); God is like Aquafresh toothpaste etc. They are all cringe-worthy.

There is no good demonstration of this in reality because it is a paradox.

PARADOX: “A seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true” – Oxford English Dictionary

paradox

I remember once taking three separate glasses of water and pouring them into a single glass as a demonstration of three in one…glazed looks met me.

I remember trying to use Saint Patrick’s legendary shamrock demonstration of three leaves in one…still confusion.

God is. God is Creator. God is Christ. God is Holy Spirit. God is one. Christ is not Creator. Creator is not Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is not Christ. All are one God sharing the same essence. Not three Gods. God is.

This is Orthodox Christianity.

This is very confusing.

The Creator has historically been referenced as Father. Christ as Son…both therefore as masculine. Although it is more appropriate the call the Creator Father/Mother given that the creation narrative speaks of people being created in God’s image of Male and Female. Biblically the Spirit is often feminine and referred to variously as Sophia (Wisdom/Feminine) etc.

So while we continue to allow the paradox of the Trinity to exist within our faith frameworks clearly demonstrating unique gender identities within the Godhead… we cannot seem to grasp a non-binary way of dealing with human gender identity.

Why do we struggle with this?

Likely because difficult ideas that do not meet our experience hurt our heads. We like simple answers and things we can understand. We are not fond of paradox.

Well some people resolve the paradox by simply affirming that God is He. HeHeHeHeHeHe…there is no identity confusion or blending…God is He and that is final.

Of course to do this is to be dishonest with scripture and the cultural, time and language-bound context within which it was recorded. It denies very clear references to God as female, and God as female and male, and God as something other than these two.

But He is what we know and love because He is historically strong in a patriarchal society and He is the word most commonly translated from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into our languages. We grasp onto He as though it were the last log of a rapidly unwinding raft in what we perceive as the raging and frighteningly chaotic tsunami of gender identity conversation that is flooding unwanted into our world.

A clue to the way through might exist in the fact that regardless of perspectives on God all views can be boiled down to one primary, foundational point – we call and identify God as (BLANK) because we believe this is how God views God’s Self.

Therefore perhaps we might bow to what others are choosing to call themselves as well – be it He or She or Ze or They or something else. We might not understand it. We might feel it is some form of paradox. We might not like to have more than two categories…but as with, God perhaps the other knows best and we should learn to respect this.