Traditions fascinate me.
For many of us, we do things without really thinking why. It’s just the way we’ve always done it.
In church, traditions are even more apparent.
But I want to know why. Why is it that we do things a certain way?
Take prayer for example. As a teenage I was encouraged to pray out loud. That this was some kind of ‘badge of honour’ that showed you were a real christian.
In my current place of work, I also try to encourage young people to pray out loud.
It seems to me that asking young people to pray out loud really has nothing to do with prayer at all. If it really was to do with prayer then we wouldn’t ask our young people to pray out loud. Why should we pray out loud? Does it make a difference? Doesn’t God hear it anyway?
Praying out loud is more about affirmation. Affirmation for the prayer(er) and affirmation for the hearer.
We affirm the one praying is doing a good job and we affirm the listener because more than likely they have asked for a prayer request.
Corpororate ‘out loud’ prayer then is more about us than God.
Would you agree? And is that necessarily a bad thing?
For those who know my views on film and theology, this is not something that I normally do.
I’m not against selecting a clip from a film that helps to illustrate the point I want to make. It’s just when most youth workers (in my experience) do this, they don’t hold the rest of the film up. It becomes an act of cherry picking wherein you pick the parts of the film that match your beliefs and reject those bits that don’t. This is not good practice and if we try not to do this with the Bible, then we also should not do it with film.
An example of this was the surge in talks using clips from the matrix many years ago. Now, there are good scenes in the matrix but what of the rest of the film? What of the meta-narrative of bondage and S&M? Those parts must also be allowed to speak.
Films must be held up in their entirety.
So, with that out of the way, let’s delve in.
Batman Begins (2005)
I’m aware that this film came out six years ago but it was only after watching it again a couple of nights ago that, the above scene struck me.
Batman chooses to stand up for Gotham. He stands inbetween Gotham and the League of Shadows. In some way, he intercedes for them. He fights for those people. Now, we have to be aware what kind of man Batman is. He is a psychologically disturbed vigilante and at no point are we condoning the actions that he takes (although we probably secretly cheer him).
20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.[a] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[b] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
Earlier on in Genesis 11, we find the myth of God destroying the Tower of Babel because of the arrogance and slavery that he sees. The League of Shadows are doing the same thing. When the people of a city have gotten too proud, too arrogant, when they have lost what it means to be just, they come and raise the city to the ground in order that it may be rebuilt.
Where Abraham succeeds, is to convince God to hold of its destruction if he finds a number of righteous people.
For our young people, are they willing to stand up for their community, their town? Are they willing to intercede on its behalf?
Batman risks his life to save ‘his’ people. Would our young people do the same?
What would it mean for them to stand up for their community? What would that look like?
Let’s have that discussion with our young people.