I know we talk about being like Jesus, and I am trying my best, but I think I’m more like Batman. Batman struggles with dark days and goes off of the wrong motive sometimes, and makes mistakes and lets his friends down. He’s a man with a mask, trying to do good and become an idea that is bigger than himself.
I think I really connect with his concept of social justice and active belief. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go look for criminals and thugs and fight them, but for a while there, I dawned the vigilante mask against religion, in all of its manifestations.
I saw it as the enemy and tried to be the champion of the people, working to rid the streets of a villainous fiend. Yes, I am being somewhat dramatic, but we are using a man in bullet proof spandex as a metaphor.
Anyway, I think I had one of those moments of realization, you know, where Batman realizes the Joker is on the loose, and its mostly his fault?
After several years of so many of us battering the foundations, the walls came down. Congregations cut ties, preachers tossed anchors overboard, people let go of anything that looked like a rule in favor of emotion, hype, and “relationships”.
Is religion really the enemy, is it even an enemy?
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
I really don’t like that scripture. It doesn’t set me free to just do what feels right, it sets a boundary, calls for a specific action, and that’s supposed to be wrong, right? I have heard and said, so many times, no rules, just relationship. You know what? That’s stupid.
It also doesn’t allow me to set my sights on religion as my enemy. Basically, it comes down to this: Religion isn’t bad, bad religion is bad.
I guess I don’t mind the second part of the verse, it helps me to justify myself. I have works-based self righteousness issues, but I’m working on it, maybe you do, too. Enough about me, though, let’s talk about Batman.
Batman as a concept is so appealing to me because of his overcoming great trauma as a child, his parents were murdered during a back-alley mugging after leaving an opera performance. He spent many long years trying to understand the criminal mind and came to a place where he realized he was not to condemn the criminal but to defend the victim, to save his city and to be available at all cost to personal comfort or safety.
I like Batman because he’s not Superman. He’s not an alien that came to earth to save us and has super human powers and can live above the laws of nature and consequence. Jesus isn’t like Superman, either, because He wasn’t an alien. He was born of a woman, under the law and He operated within the confines of humanity with brief, mysterious, dazzling glimpses of who He really was. He was the essence of God displayed in the mask of humanity.
What about this pure and undefiled religion that James penetrated my Kevlar suit with? Why did he have to say that? Everything was fine until that joker let God use him to write down those awful words, and I stumbled on them, like a trap.
I don’t like him; he questions my motives and makes me pull off my fancy gloves to see if my hands are pure or dirty. I can’t sing those cool lyrics, “give us clean hands, give us pure hearts, let us not lift our soul to another,” in an abstract theory way anymore.
You see, James is pointing to the fact that our relationship with God should show itself in how we treat others, and in this specific verse, the marginalized, those without someone to provide protection and sustenance. This is pure and undefiled religion.
Now I have to examine whether or not I really have what the symbol on my chest says I have, or maybe I’ll just go hide in my cave with the rest of the bats and Alfred, and come out at night and beat up people because I’m mad at the devil. At least I’ll have a cool car.
We have said over and over, man’s religion is what killed Jesus. Ridiculous. Yes, I used that one word as an entire sentence. If it’s true that religion killed Jesus, I can assure you, it was not man’s religion that did it, it was God’s.
You see, religion, really, is a premeditated code that you live by. Batman has a code, the Joker, by not having a code, has a code. You and I have a code, or we should, some form of conduct that we have laid out in our mind, to dictate how we will act and react. I promise you, if you don’t know how you are going to stand against temptation in advance, you won’t stand when you’re in the middle of it.
God’s premeditated plan was that the lamb would be slain for the sins of the world, He planned it from the foundation of the earth.
Let’s not be so arrogant, or so lazy. Arrogant, to think that we can govern ourselves on the fly, by the seat of our pants, in the heat of the moment, by our wit, I could go on.
Let’s not be so lazy, that we don’t look into the Scripture to see what God’s word says about religion, true religion, and stop jumping on bandwagons that are trendy and cool, because they are so easy. We can claim its all about our hearts, He sees our hearts, right?
Batman summarizes it all with this statement, “It’s not what I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
Ouch, maybe I don’t like Batman after all, oh well, there’s always Spiderman.