I don’t think many of us growing up in the 1960s or 70s would have dreamed the influence comics would have on our future. Growing up, it seemed almost a quaint echo of our past rather than something of the future. Nevertheless, comic book themed movies and television shows are now some of the highest grossing entertainment vehicles on the planet and certain cartoons are inspiring people to kill one another in the 21st century too.
The Avengers – the Age of Ultron is the latest comic book movie. I went to go see it this weekend while on the road. The latest villain for the set of good guys (and gals) to vanquish is a malevolent artificial intelligence. And robots, or whatever the technologically correct term to use for them, are “turned off” by the score. I have not seen such “robot carnage” since Will Smith’s ” Robot”(which I thought was better). But I still think it focuses on the good people (and robots) having to roll up their sleeves sometimes, set aside the rules, and be as ruthless, or maybe more ruthless, than the bad guys, gals, and robots in order to bring peace and stability.
In the past couple of days ISIS, or at least ISIS wannabees, attacked an exhibit in Texas of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. One of the attackers tweeted that he hoped Allah would accept them as part of the Mujaheddin after they gave their lives in the attack. Both attackers, along with a security guard, lost their lives in the attack. I’m sure it will help the sales of arms and ammunition in our nation – the most heavily personally armed nation of citizens on the planet. Our take away will likely largely be that just like the Avengers, we all need to be ready to roll up our sleeves and be as ruthless, or maybe more ruthless, than the people we see as the agents of chaos and destruction in our world.
For those of us who are Christians though, is that the answer? Is that what we really need to do? One of the most famous scenes in the Gospels is Jesus confronting a group of men about to stone an adulterous woman. Jesus counsel is equal – “let you without sin throw the first stone” and, to the woman, “go and sin no more.” It certainly was not to get his disciples to attack the stone throwers. And neither was it to look the other way about the woman’s behavior. But, I think that is our 21st century answer – particularly in America. The attackers both in Texas, and not too long ago in France, were upset because of a person’s unrighteousness in their eyes. In their minds, their intended (and sometimes actual) victims are people who deserve death because of what they have done. Our answer today isn’t to confront such thinking (as Jesus did) as much as it is to try to eliminate it. And, under the guise of “freedom of expression” we want to look the other way to the fact that these cartoonists are drawing things that are highly offensive to part of the world’s population. I am not for censorship. But I very much am for shaming people for being provocative just for its own sake or for thinking that freedom of expression’s purpose is to see how far you can go in offending other people. That maybe of value to civil libertarians but that is not a Christian virtue (and it shouldn’t be an American one either). We live in a nation that, by its nature and history, is a convergence of cultures and beliefs. Working on ways to bring people together, rather than drive them apart, is in all our best interests.
Obviously we need our police and our armed services to try to hold the line between the law and lawlessness. We do not live in a perfect world and sometimes we need heroes and heroines to hold the order. But the ultimate answer is not going to come to us through our strength or our firepower but through what is best in us. Tolerance, grace, and humility might be a hard sell for a Hollywood blockbuster, or even a display of comic book type art, but it is vital for our future as our world become increasingly populated and cultures and beliefs continue to converge.
Let us be a people, both as Christians and as members of this society, be the ones who bring people together rather than ones who drive people apart or, worse, try to avenge the wrongs we see committed against us.
What do you think?
Until next time,