Wednesday, July 18, 2012
God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay
What do God and the Caped Crusader have in common? While Batman is a secular superhero patrolling the fictional streets of Gotham City, the Caped Crusader is one whose story creates multiple opportunities for believers to talk about the redemptive spiritual truths of Christianity. While the book touches on Batman’s many incarnations over the last 70 years in print, on television, and at the local Cineplex for the enjoyment of Batman fans everywhere, it primarily focuses on Christopher Nolan’s two wildly popular and critically acclaimed movies—movies that not only introduced a new generation to a darker Batman, but are also loaded with spiritual meaning and redemptive metaphors.
As many Americans wait eagerly for the third Christopher Nolan Batman film to premiere tomorrow at midnight, Paul Asay digs deeper into the story of Batman to find hidden truths that show, whether through Batman's dissimilarities or similarities, some of the characteristics of Jesus, God, and the Gospel. In an intriguing twist to many theological books, Asay digs into Batman: Past, Present, Future through ten unique chapters. The first chapter, Masked, reveals Batman's two sided nature and how it came about through his unfortunate circumstances as a child. The second, Marked, shows how Batman and his city of Gotham are marked by suffering and sin just as we are before we are redeemed by God. The third chapter, Nemesis, looks at the enemies of Batman and how there is evil lurking in everyone of us. Paul Asay continues to pull from the story of Batman for the following seven chapters.
I thought that God on the Streets of Gotham was an interesting idea. However, I was not excited by the implementation throughout the book. Asay is a person who seems to value Batman too much and often tries to string together comparisons between Biblical truth and Batman where none exist. I often struggled to understand the author's logic, and many times his theology seemed lacking. In Chapter 3, for example, at one point the author says, "We know there are two sides to the coin: one scarred and burned, the other reflecting God's perfect light. We know that each of us holds the coin in our souls. ...It's not chance that determines which side we show;...we choose what we'll show the world: our own sinful natures, or a perfect, pure light, not of ourselves, but reflected in ourselves, a light we can't take credit for but can embrace all the same. ...to reflect the light we must first find it." Even here, some of this is true...we are sinners, we have some choice to live in sin or live for God. However, the way author says we ALL have light in us and to have the light you just just have to find it seems to parallel a more eastern ideal than christian ideal.
Overall, I thought the idea of comparing Batman to biblical ideas was clever and potentially very interesting, but I found that I struggled to connect with the book and see the same truths that author did. I was also uncomfortable with many of the author's assertions about God and truth as they did not always seem to have a clear foundation in the Bible. However, I will admit that Batman and Gotham do clearly show the sinful and fallen nature of man, and Paul Asay clearly demonstrates this in his book which I was glad to see. I believe that this book could certainly lead to some interesting discussions, I would just recommend reading it slowly and taking time to analyze the points being made.
I received this book for free from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.