Batman tale, Aurora shooting reflect deeper morality tale

It reads like the scene from a Christopher Nolan Batman movie.  A man, heavily armed and wearing a bulletproof vest, … Continued

It reads like the scene from a Christopher Nolan Batman movie.

 A man, heavily armed and wearing a bulletproof vest, opens fire on a theater full of innocents, killing 12 people and wounding scores of others. Officials find signs his apartment may be booby trapped — trip wires tied to what appear to be homemade bombs. When police remove the killer’s gas mask, they discover the suspect — 24-year-old James Holmes — has dyed his hair red.

 The Joker, he calls himself.

 If only it had been a scene. If only the people in that Aurora, Colo., theater could’ve watched the horror unfold on screen, it would’ve made some sort of sense. It would’ve driven the plot forward, pushed Nolan’s brooding Dark Knight into action. And after Nolan called “cut,” actors and extras would’ve gotten up, brushed themselves off and walked away.

 But there in Aurora, there was no Batman to stop the killer, no director to cut the scene. There was no plan to it, no plot — at least not that we can see. It’s just a tragedy — another senseless horror in a world that’s known far too many.

 Of all the words that can be used to describe the Aurora shooting, “senseless” may be the worst word of all — particularly for those of us who call ourselves Christian. We claim to worship a good, just and all-powerful God — a God who loves us with a passion as broad as the universe itself. We are His children, we say. And God wouldn’t let any harm come to His children … would He?

 And the question hangs in the air, waiting, pleading for an answer.

 It’s sadly appropriate Holmes took on The Joker’s persona. He, among all of Batman’s archvillains, offers the worst possible answer to that hanging question: God? he chirps, brushing a hand through his caterpillar-green hair. How quaint. How precious. There is no God. There is no meaning. There is no reason in this cold, dark place. The only truth is that there is no truth.

 “I’m not a monster,” he tells Batman in The Dark Knight. “I’m just ahead of the curve.”

 The clash between Batman and the Joker is a struggle between meaning and meaninglessness. And that struggle goes to the core of our being.

 We don’t know what sort of faith Batman has — what he believes in, if anything. But it’s obvious he believes in meaning — an overarching sense of purpose that transcends our biology and upbringing. For Batman, right and wrong aren’t just man-made constructs, but eternal ideals. He believes our lives have purpose: I believe that’s why he protects the people of Gotham with such verve and holds himself to such strict standards.

 But the Joker, he doesn’t believe in any of that stuff. Right and wrong, life and death, it’s all part of the same cosmic joke. Meaning? Pish.


View Photo Gallery: The nation mourns in the aftermath of the Friday shooting that left 12 dead and dozens more injured. Meanwhile, police in Colorado continue to investigate the case and try to disarm booby traps in the apartment of the shooting suspect.

That’s why The Joker never goes away, I think — not for long, at any rate. His philosophy is too frightening to vanish completely. In his grinning visage, Batman faces his own secret doubt — doubt that many Christians like me sometimes face during the darkest moments of our lives. We wonder, in the wake of our Auroras, whether we’re behind the curve. Senseless tragedy hits us in the gut. Any explanation we might give, any words of hope we might try to offer, seem so inadequate: A joke that only the Joker could laugh at.

 And yet there is hope. And we see a shadow of it in Batman.

 The superhero’s fictional Gotham is a dark, brutal and often senseless place — a comic-book mirror of our own flawed and failing world. Batman knows it well. When he was just a boy, his parents were murdered in front of him.

 I doubt Batman believes God was there in that alley that night when his parents were killed. And yet, a seed of a future hero was sewn in that awful moment. God didn’t pull the trigger. He didn’t “cause” that tragedy. But I believe God could’ve, in this fictional universe, worked through it. In the midst of Bruce Wayne’s darkest night, a Dark Knight was born.

 I can’t say where God was yesterday in that Aurora theater. I’m no theologian, but personally, I doubt whether such evil could be part of God’s original, ideal blueprint. But I do believe this: That in the midst of such senseless tragedy, God is with us and, if we let Him, He can work through us. In the crux of our pain and confusion, He’s there—infusing this meaningless tragedy with meaning, offering hope in the midst of this helplessness.


 Paul Asay is the author of
God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach us About God and Ourselves.
He works as a movie reviewer with the Christian outlet

View Photo Gallery: A look at some of the deadliest mass shootings throughout history.

Paul Asay
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  • Islandoll

    We know how this goes – prayers, lowered flags, teddybears, reflection. They did it before. What they need is GUN CONTROL – not this useless crap.

  • MyHouston

    During the many months of his treatments and then immediately after my middle-aged father passed away, I sat in the chapel of the hospital and read, over and over again — as I had done before — the words engraved on the wall: “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

    I read those words 34 years ago and don’t know why they comfort me still.

    This world is broken due to sin and error, but Our Lord is here, as well, and somehow we are led to find a path to hope and faith.

  • alltheroadrunnin

    The writer of the article is not a good proponent of religion. He does not understand free will, and consequences. Nature is as blameless as any god, but in nature, and in some religions, one will find reason. However, in the case, we find a deranged mind, — possible, we already know. One can go back to the writings of the 18th century Voltaire, in particular, and learn all about it, if one didn’t get it from his religious, or reason, education. Religionists, atheists and agnostics, continually baffle me. Well, I ring that up to human nature, and ego. There is already enough reasonable evidence that no religion or reason had a thing to do with this particular shooter. Religion, nor reason, need find any explanation — it is part of the human condition. Sorry, God, or no god, humans are not perfect, by our own set standards. Sometimes, it’s merely a flaw in the design — nature’s, or God’s.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘People say we need more religion when what they really mean is we need more police.’

    HL Mencken

    No need to keep waiting for the angel of the lord to come down. Take some comfort and humility in knowing that we’re on our own. There is no greater exercise in futility than throwing your hands up and attributing good things to god’s goodness and evil things to his mysteriousness.

  • Mrs-Weasley

    Why bring God into this at all? A young man, obviously, deranged enough to buy guns and insane amounts of ammunition, explosives and gear went to a movie theatre, shot at innocent people out for an evening of entertainment, killing many, wounding many more.

    This is the story – one man, guns and ammunition ready – there it is – simple, straight forward and to the point.

    If there is a God s/he is either not omniscient (in which case is s/he really a god) or s/he does not have the power to intervene in human affairs. Either way this god comes across as fairly useless.

    People died, people who were out living their lives – and one young man decided to kill them – why we may never know.

    The guns vs no guns debate will rage on and nothing will change, the debate about mental health care availability will rage on but nothing will change.

    Tragedies like this one will continue to occur whether they be caused by anger, mental illness, frustration or hate – and unless we address societal ills – lack of mental health care, divisiveness, the outlook that it is every man for himself – these are ills that can and should be addressed – but won’t be in our present day mentality and that is the saddest thing of all.


    This is a pretty pathetic opinion piece. You obviously do not know what you presume to write about.

    In “The Killing Joke”, the Joker says to Batman:

    “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy… Just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat?”

    Holmes may have called himself the Joker, but I have no doubt that in his own head he thought he was Batman. Why else would he have loaded up, strapped down and gone out hunting humans? He had a bad day.

    Kesey said that everyone was a hero in their own movie. Breivik was Batman. So were Kliebold and Harris. James Oliver Huberty is their progenitor. In their own heads, people are not the villains of the movies, they are its heroes.

  • Matthew

    Article is good textual criticism, and an honest argument for “faith,” but tidelander’s textual rebuttal in “comments” is equally persuasive textual argument from the faithless.

    Patriot’s rebuttal for tidelander is logically impeccable and scientifically fastidious, but Patriot17’s appeal to faith is just the testimony of a bright and fortunate person to the effect that rituals of searching for G-d, goodness, and mercy are a good luck charm for living the good life.

    I am surprised that no-one has introduced discussion of Enid Welsford’s “The Fool,” and discussions of the literary archetype of the joker.

  • chrisbrown12

    This is a rather strange sermon based on the book of Batman. If there was any logic at all in the shooter’s head, it seemed to be a warped reaction to authority. It’s interesting that both Breivik and Holmes dressed as quasi-military security figures and were both quick to surrender to the police.

  • Taqiyya Mockingbird

    How trite and predictable that a religious revisionist would hijack and exploit this tragedy and use it to swipe at atheism by blasting away at the strawman of supposed atheist “immorality”. While we find the idea disturbing that xtians who employ that fallacy cannot envision themselves as living a moral, ethical life without their precious superstitions. What sort of sociopath is it, who is so ethically weak that the only thing holding him back from raping, pillaging, and mass murder is a tenuous superstition, belief in a dubious fairy tale?

    Protip for the logically challenged: Not believing in fairy tales does not does not make one immoral. Nor does believing in same fairy tales make one moral.

  • Vivienne

    Out of all the victims, how many do you think were Christians? I’d put the percentage pretty high, probably around 80%, maybe more. Can’t know for sure, of course, but it’s a fair bet that at least some of them were God-fearing, Jesus-believing, church-going True Christians. Why did God let them die in such a horrific manner? Why did he let them go about their business that day as if nothing bad were going to happen? Why would he sit by on his big, white throne, and watch as children were killed and injured?

    Such questions NEVER are answered with anything other than a mumbled, “Well, God works in mysterious ways, ” or “God is with us no matter what.” These are not answers, they are merely the parroted responses of people who can’t think for themselves and simply believe any old thing they are told. Where was God when the madman struck that theater? Poor, pathetic Mr. Asay doesn’t know the answer, but I do: Nowhere, because there is no God.

    Or perhaps there is a God, but he doesn’t care about the suffering of anyone, not even those who worship him, so he lets them die at the hands of insane men who make the Joker look pretty tame. What is the sense of worshiping a God like that? How could you love someone who has the ability to stop crime, but never even tries? Hell, at least Batman tries to stop the bad guys. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit combined do less good than a cop walking his beat in Gotham City. Out of all the victims, how many do you think were Christians? I’d put the percentage pretty high, probably around 80%, maybe more. Can’t know for sure, of course, but it’s a fair bet that at least some of them were God-fearing, Jesus-believing, church-going True Christians. Why did God let them die in such a horrific manner? Why did he let them go about their business that day as if nothing bad were going to happen? Why would he sit by on his big, white throne, and watch as children were killed, like an aloof king surveying the brutal deaths of his hapless serfs?

  • Taqiyya Mockingbird

    Sooooooooooooooooooo……Holmes was a church-goin’ boy, seen in a service the week before he went on his little killing spree.

    So much for hanging this on atheists and fligging the straw man of the supposed “immorality of atheism”.

    Paul Asay, if you had any sense you would hang your head in shame and apologize for greedily hijacking this tragedy in your haste and fervor to pursue your pathetic crusade to slander atheists’ good name.

    Not gonna hold my breath, though…

  • Colanth

    Why i? it that a Christian (at least we can assume that the author of this blog is one) uses a tragedy to further his blog – and gets his facts wrong? (I don’t know what he knows and doesn’t know, so I can’t, in good atheistic conscience, call him a liar.)

    I guess Paul’s Christian upbringing didn’t do much good. Maybe if he didn’t believe in a god, just in facts, he would have checked them first.

  • Colanth

    You left out one possibility – that the Christian god does exist, and that this was part of his plan. Doesn’t the Bible say that ALL things are his will?

    That doesn’t say much for his morals, but it’s logically consistent with both Christianity and the Bible (which don’t always agree with each other).

  • Taqiyya Mockingbird

    That should be “flogging”, btw (typo)…

  • H-Bomb

    I find it highly amusing that the Post’s graphic for this “On Faith” section is an image of the sun obscured by clouds. As if anyone on this earth with any basic level of understanding of what weather is, how clouds form from water vapor, how the sun works by fuscion reaction, could still think, “Oh wow, just look at god up there, being all magical and awesome! Look at his glory! It’s so cool that god made all this cool stuff and he hangs up there in the clouds.” It’s really pathetic.

  • H-Bomb

    Where was god during this tragedy? NO WHERE TO BE FOUND, just like always. The logical leaps that people make after these tragedies are impressive. So often you hear people say “God was really watching out for me, since I was able to escape alive.” Yeah…and I guess God really hated all of those people that were killed, right? He must have really hated those children.

  • H-Bomb

    Well said.

  • H-Bomb

    “God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit combined do less good than a cop walking his beat in Gotham City.” I love this line. Great comment!

  • alance

    For God’s sake, it’s a freakin’ comic book, not an existential morality play or novel.
    Originally made for children, Batman has been turned into a story of depravity and violence by Hollywood. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.