I remember watching the first Batman movie. No, not Batman Begins. I’m talking about 1989. Michael Keaton. Jack Nicholson. Keaton plays the wealthy, yet tormented Bruce Wayne who comes out of his cave at night with a cape, a mask, a fearless disposition and lots of crime-fighting gizmos. Nicholson plays Batman’s volatile, gimmicky foe, the Joker. Nicholson’s Joker is right off the comic book page: maniacal and evil, yet playful, in a way that makes him sort of likeable. His diabolical scheme, aimed at overrunning Gotham and annoying Batman, involves poisoning the masses with a chemical that makes them laugh to death. Perfect.
But, in a purely sinister moment, a moment that ignites Bruce Wayne’s resolution to fight crime forever, the Joker, then Jack Napier, shoots young Bruce’s parents on a deserted Gotham street at night. He then turns the gun on Bruce and asks, “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” In a panic, Napier flees and Batman is born.
As yet another inexplicable act of public violence has happened in our country, leaving 12 dead and dozens more wounded, I’m wondering about our relationship with violence. I’m wonder if we actually hate it. If we affirm that it’s unfit and unwelcome in God’s community. Maybe we do. But then I wonder if we also dance with violence when nobody’s watching.
When a travesty such as this happens, we stand up in solidarity against evil. We ask tough questions. We write blogs. We pray. And for awhile, we may turn a critical eye towards ourselves, and we’re tempted to redefine violence.
But eventually we stop. We look past a murder we hear about on the news because it’s taken place in a bad part of town. We shrug our shoulders at a report of domestic abuse, because we expect that to happen in an impoverished area. Or, we neglect subtle, yet powerful and pervasive agents of violence: consumption, pollution, and greed, for instance. Especially when the violence doesn’t seem to impact us directly, we disengage and don’t ask what steps, no matter how small, we can take personally and communally to become increasingly aware.
In John 11, Jesus’ disciples caution him against going back to Judea because certain Jews had tried to stone him there. Jesus responds, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by the day will not stumble, for he sees by the world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” My hope for our community is that we’ll spend more and more of our time traveling in the light of Jesus’ vision.
The reality is that we face particular issues in our community, and in the coming days, I hope we’ll take a more comprehensive stand against overt and latent forms of violence. This is a forum to help us do that. Please post information, articles, links, and feedback that will help us to become better believers, neighbors, parents, kids, spouses, friends, teachers, students, co-workers, and citizens who stand against violence.