Thursday, 24 March 2016

Tell Me... Do You Bleed?

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Can it really be that one who is all powerful could also be all benevolent?

Today sees the cinema release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Echoing the concerns of some fans at the end of the previous installment, Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne is fearful about Superman’s destructive abilities, and feels compelled to re-don his Batman suit to make sure such power is put down. It is, as one character puts it, ‘the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world – god versus man’. ‘Tell me’, says Batman in one of their confrontations – more as a threat than a question – ‘do you bleed?’ A god bleed? Surely not.

Like all such movies that could so easily be dismissed as a special effects extravaganza or for its clunky dialogue, it still sheds light on contemporary fears and aspirations. Even watching the official trailers, one is struck by the repeated use of the word ‘power’ on the lips of various characters. ‘That kind of power is very dangerous.’ ‘Human beings have a horrible record of following people with great power.’ ‘He has the power to wipe out the entire human race.’ ‘The oldest lie... that power can be innocent.’

It may be that Superman represents one sort of power and Batman another, but the trailers hint that they come together with common allies against common enemies, who are even darker, more ferocious, more destructive – the power of sheer ferocity, the power of egotistical manipulation.

We have seen evidence of a certain kind of power at work even this week in Brussels...

But this Friday, around the world, Christians will tell again the story of a different sort of power, seen in the death of Jesus. The cross subverts human expectations about the way power operates, about the way things get done. As the apostle Paul wrote, ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). Yet the cross also brings what we long for. According to Paul, that which is most desired by Greeks and Jews – wisdom and power – is delivered in that which is most despised, in ‘Christ crucified... the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

All power and all benevolence in shed blood.

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