|The Dark Knight Rises, Part 1|
This has been a difficult week as we remember the tragic shooting that took place at the Aurora, Colorado midnight showing of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.
I invited Pastor Seth Pierce, author of many books including What We Believe for Teens and Daniel for Teens, to share his perspective on how to process the sad situation as well as how to take a look at the content of the movie itself. He was at a different midnight showing the night of the tragedy, and he will share his perspective with us about the tragedy and the movie in a two-part blog. Here is what Pastor Seth has to say:
The Dark Knight Rises Review, Part 1
For four years, rabid fans have been anticipating the final installment of Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. For months now people have purchased 30 million dollars' worth of advanced screening/Thursday night IMAX tickets in the hopes of being the first to see how Nolan would end his comic book masterpiece.
I bought my midnight showing IMAX ticket over a month ago and as I sat in the theater Thursday night, July 19, I marveled at the energy in the room. I counted three individuals dressed as Batman and one Poison Ivy. By 11:00pm, an hour before show time, the theater was ¾ packed. Finally the movie began and thunderous applause erupted during the opening credits. Little did we realize that a time zone away a villain, as vile as any found in Batman’s Rogues Gallery, had broken into a theater full of men, women, and children, and was gunning them down even as the forces of good and evil battled on the screen.
No review of this film can proceed without acknowledging the worst shooting in United States history. While the previous film, The Dark Knight, was tainted by Heath Ledger’s death (the actor who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker after he died), the new one will be shadowed by the actions of James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado: 12 shot dead and 50+ injured.
The reactions I awoke to the next morning from Christians in the Adventist community were very strong and included:
See? This is why movies are evil and shouldn’t be seen.
Batman is trash and inspires people to horrendous acts of violence because the movie contains so much violence.
Why are we even discussing this as Christians? Jesus is coming soon!
All of these are understandable and we must discuss what happened before discussing the actual content of The Dark Knight Rises. We live in the last days of earth’s history it is important to keep our wits about us and work through issues calmly.
Using Good Judgment
First, understand that just because we discuss something in pop culture does not mean we are endorsing it. The Bible speaks of witchcraft, murder, hypocrisy, and drunkenness—it’s not telling you to go practice them.
Second, “pop culture” is a worthy discussion item since it reflects what the masses of society are connecting with. Jesus prays for us to be IN the world just not OF it:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world... As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (John 17:15-18, ESV).
This means that while we do not accept all the ideas presented in movies, music, or books—or even see, listen, or read them all—we should have a working knowledge of what is happening around us. Ignoring what the masses around us believe, invest in, and spend their time does not reflect the life Jesus lived. Adventist Frontier Missionaries spend the first TWO YEARS of their experience in places with no Christians simply learning language and culture. We would be wise to do the same.
Do Movies Make People Violent?
Yes and no.
While media has influence it cannot make someone do something—God doesn’t even make people do anything. We all have a choice to make how we will respond to our experiences. But media can provide temptations and ideas for people to act on.
However, if we refuse to see movies because they have negative elements—like violence—in them then we have to stop reading the Bible. The Bible is full of graphic violence:
• Cain kills Abel (they didn’t even have movies or books back then in Genesis 4).
• Moses kills an Egyptian barehanded (Exodus 2:12).
• A Levite allows a woman to be raped and killed—then cuts her up into little pieces and mails her (Judges 19-20).
These violent acts, and others, are every bit—if not more—disturbing than anything in the new Batman film. So do we throw it out? No, we understand that the Bible never glorifies evil—even though it talks about it. The question we should ask is: How does Batman portray good and evil in the film?
Rising in the Midst of Tragedy
We should respond by offering prayers, encouraging words, and financial aid (website coming soon) for all the medical costs accrued in caring for the victims. Already artwork created in honor of the victims is floating around online waiting for you to post on Facebook. If you can attend, go on out to the candle light prayer vigils in Aurora or in your community. In the meantime here is the response from Director Chris Nolan:
"Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me." - Chris Nolan, Director
Next time: The Dark Knight Rises, Part 2.
Pastor Seth Pierce