God on the Streets of Gotham, addendum 1: The Messiah Metaphor Rises

It feels as though the movie industry—and perhaps America as a whole—is still reeling from the massacre that took place in Aurora, Colo., during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises July 20. And some wonder whether the movie itself might’ve been partly to blame.

The alleged killer—24-year-old James Holmes—called himself “the Joker” shortly after he was apprehended, according to police. His apartment, which had been booby trapped, had a few telltale bits of Batman paraphernalia. Police say they don’t have a motive yet. But if you would allow me a moment of unbridled, unfounded speculation, it sure feels like this guy somehow thought he was, or wanted to be, the Joker. He wanted, much like the Joker we saw in The Dark Knight, to foster panic—to bring chaos and disaster on a city’s innocent population.
Over the next several days, we’ll hear a lot about how very dark Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies are. Many pundits will wonder whether the films might’ve been a catalyst for the disaster—not the whole cause, but a factor, giving Holmes that “little push,” as the Joker himself might say.
And these critics may have a point. Nolan’s films are dark and gloomy and gritty. An unsettled mind can latch onto any number of things, and I can see how bad elements in these movies—particularly Heath Ledger’s charismatic portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime—might be attractive and even aspirational to an unhinged few.
But we can’t ignore the fact that Nolan, at the end of the day, made movies about a superhero, not his adversaries. At the core of each one is a story of hope, heroism and redemption.
The Dark Knight Risesis perhaps the most troubling movie yet. But it’s also, I think, the most sincere manifestation of that core—using perhaps the most redemptive story in history.
But be warned: We’re going to go into a few spoilers here … so if you haven’t seen the latest movie, I’d kindly ask you to (ahem) leave until you do. Really. Some of what I’m gonna get into here touch on plot-points you’d rather learn on your own.
Before we get into The Dark Knight Rises in detail, let’s revisit something most of us have said in church at one time or another: The Apostle’s Creed. The Creed is really a brief catalog of basic Christian tenants—cornerstones of the faith. And part of it reads:
“(Jesus) Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven …”
Now, let’s look at Bruce Wayne as The Dark Knight Rises begins. There’s no question the guy has suffered: Batman’s legacy has been beaten and spit upon for the last eight years—not by rogue ruffians, but by Gotham’s power structure. Commissioner Jim Gordon began the persecution himself—at Batman’s instigation—even though he could, as it were, find no fault with him. And in the opening scenes of The Dark Knight Rises, we see Gordon as if he were a more sympathetic shadow of Pontius Pilate, his hands stained with past misdeeds and feeling ever so guilty about it. (Later in the film, idealistic John Blake even chastises Gordon for his filthy hands, largely because he let Batman hang out to dry.)
When Bane trundles into town, Bruce Wayne elects to put on his cape and cowl and become Batman again, even though he’s eight years out of practice. But Alfred senses a bit of fatalism in our favorite superhero. “You’re afraid I’ll fail,” Wayne chastises Alfred. “I’m afraid you want to,” Alfred tells him. And shortly thereafter, Wayne’s loyal butler—Batman’s right hand, his “rock,” if you will—deserts him. The parallel isn’t perfect, but for me Alfred’s departure—so uncharacteristic—feels akin to Peter leaving Jesus’ side. Remember when Alfred told Bruce that he’d “never” give up on him in Batman Begins? Doesn’t that sound reminiscent of Peter telling Jesus that he’d “never” deny him?
But despite Alfred’s desertion, Bruce/Batman plows forward to meet whatever destiny awaits him. He temporarily teams up with Catwoman, and together the two fight their way into the lair of Gotham’s evildoer of the moment, Bane. Everything’s going quite smoothly, until Catwoman springs the trap—leaving Batman to face Bane alone. She betrayed him—not exactly with a kiss, but the betrayal still feels quite Judas-like.
(We’ll not deal with the other person who betrays Batman in an even more Judas-like fashion here; that’ll have to wait for another post.)
And so Batman faces Bane and loses—his back literally broken by the monster. But while Batman didn’t literally die in that moment, he might as well have. He was gone. Beaten. Destroyed. Crucified.
And so he’s buried—not in a tomb, but a literal pit of a prison referred to as “hell.” He lingers in that pit not for three days, but three months. And, as he climbs out of “hell,” the people still trapped below chant, “rise, rise, rise, rise.” It’s so interesting that Nolan uses the word “rise” here, so loaded as it is with spiritual meaning.
Meanwhile, things in Gotham were getting worse and worse. People wondered whether Batman might ever come back, almost as if he was some sort of Messiah—a savior who might rescue them from their persecution and, frankly, even save them from their own awful sins (remember, Bane had turned the city into a lawless free-for-all of a place).
And just when things are looking their bleakest, Batman does come back: He reveals himself to a handful of friends, announces his return with a flaming bat on the side of a building. He’s not in Gotham very long—just long enough to save the city. He hitches an about-to-blow nuclear bomb to his uber-nifty “Bat” plane and flies away, into the heavens beyond, vanishing in a flash of light.
And yet, he doesn’t die. He lives on. Just not in Gotham. Not physically, anyway.
For most of my book God on the Streets of Gotham, I argued that Batman wasn’t as much a Messiah figure as he was one of us. But here, in The Dark Knight Rises, he turns the tables and becomes, in his own bleak, opaque way, a misty reflection of history’s greatest hero. He becomes, indeed, a Christ-like figure, who lived and died and lived again, and in so doing, saved his precious people.
I’ve also said that that Batman’s creators or caretakers probably didn’t envision Batman as a Christian hero. But in The Dark Knight Rises, the parallels are so explicit and so neat that I can’t help but believe that Nolan and his crew put them there for a reason.
But The Dark Knight Rises Christian parallels don’t end here. There’s more to talk about and, if you’re anything like me, it might give you chills. But I’ve gone on long enough for now. It’ll have to wait for the next post. 

Tragedy in Aurora

It’s been a strange, hard day here. For so long, it seems, much of my writing life has been built to this day—the day The Dark Knight Rises was finally released. And then, on a day when we were all supposed to be talking about Catwoman’s ears and Bane’s funny mask and whether Batman lived or died, we find ourselves engulfed in a real life-and-death story … the terrible tragedy that took place in Aurora.
It’s hard to know what to say … though I’ve spent a lot of time saying it, whatever “it” happens to be. The Washington Post asked me to write a short column for them—one that should be live early tomorrow. In the meantime, I wanted to offer this link to what I wrote for Plugged In about the shootings—even though no words seem very adequate.  

The Passion of the Batman

The Dark Knight Risesofficially premieres in a couple of hours here in Colorado—a late-night/early morning screening that’ll be seen by, oh, about three gazillion Batfans. My kids’ll be among them. My daughter’s even wearing a shirt complete with bat insignia and utility belt to commemorate the night. I’m so proud of her.
No midnight screening for me, though. I actually saw the movie Tuesday morning at The Mayan, a small, old-school theater in downtown Denver—a nifty place with a velvet curtain and kitschy 1930s décor and a curtain subbing for a bathroom stall. The place didn’t have an IMAX screen, naturally, and the sound system was a little outdated. When Bane tried to communicate through that weird, dead-spider-looking mask of his, he sounded as if he was threatening Batman through a mound of flannel blankets. “Mfffrgughh ruughhriighthuh!” he’d bellow. It was a little like hearing one of the Idea Men from the The Tick (greatest cartoon ever, BTW).
But despite this small drawback, I think I got the gist of The Dark Knight Rises—enough to appreciate director Christopher Nolan’s skill behind the camera and the storytelling ability of his team. I walked out of the theater appreciating the film more than loving it … but Nolan’s work has a way of getting under your skin. You think about it for hours, sometimes days afterwards, turning the themes over and over in your mind. It took a couple of hours for me to really appreciate the story’s multi-layered depth: The superhero story overlaid on the crime thriller shellacked over some socio-economic themes which rested on … well, you get the idea. In God on the Streets of Gotham, I spent quite a bit of time talking about the masks we see in Nolan’s movies. But this movie has its own set of masks—each showing a valid and true take of the film, but one that hides another underneath.
And in peeling off these masks, I came across something that kinda surprised me: A hidden, but fairly explicit, rumination on faith.
Weird. See, as much as I’ve written and thought about the spirituality of Batman, I’ve never thought that Nolan … or really, anyone involved with Batman’s most recent incarnations … was all that interested in telling a spiritual story: Nolan’s previous Batman movies weren’t akin to The Chronicles of Narnia. They were purely secular stories that still—almost in spite of themselves—reflected some spiritual truths that we could learn something from.
And then lo and behold in the final film, we find what appears to be an explicit Christ metaphor woven into the mix: The Dark Knight Rises was, in some ways, The Passion of the Batman.
I’d encourage you to check out my review at Plugged In for a taste of what’s there, but there’s a lot more to talk about. The catch: In order to really flesh the spirituality of Nolan’s climactic Batman movie, we might skate fairly close to a spoiler or two.
So with that in mind, I’m gonna postpone a heavy-duty discussion of The Dark Knight Risesfor a few days, and slowly unfurl what I think is a powerful rumination of faith over three or four posts—to hopefully give folks a little more time to see the film before I talk about it in a little more detail.
I hope you check back in, though. It’s powerful stuff, and I think right on the money. Look for the first installment early next week, when we’ll talk a little bit about the film’s pretty old-fashioned (and not-too-spoiler-sensitive) sense of morality. 

The Countdown Begins (in Earnest) …

OK, so I\’ve been waiting for Christopher Nolan\’s third Batman movie since, oh, August 2008. But this week it finally comes to the big screen, and we can all see just how The Dark Knight Rises will polish off this powerful, resonant and geekishly hip trilogy.

The big question folks are asking is whether Batman will even survive to the credits. We\’ve seen plenty of hints suggesting he might not, and this 13-minute behind-the-scenes short doesn\’t give me a lot of peace of mind on the matter.

I hope Batman doesn\’t die. But if, heaven forbid, he does, there\’s a certain spiritual poignance to the movie\’s title. A hero falling, yet rising. For Christians, that has a familiar ring to it.

\”Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,\” we read in the book of John, and even if Batman doesn\’t wind up sacrificing everything for the people of Gotham City, we see in the film above he\’s more than willing to do so. And we see, held out to Batman, the possibility of redemption: \”Sometimes, a man rises from the darkness,\” we hear Alfred tell Bruce Wayne. To me, there\’s a lot of hope in that sentence. If Batman is, as I suggest in God on the Streets of Gotham, really a flawed hero–not as much a Messiah figure as he is more like one of us, but nevertheless called by God for His purposes–there\’s a suggestion that there\’s a light in the darkness, hope when all hope seems gone. That\’s a powerful message.

\”What we’re constructing here is a very elemental conflict between good and evil,\” Nolan tells us. We\’ll find out soon just what this conflict looks like, and whether I should start penciling out notes for a little God on the Street of Gotham addendum.

Can Anything Be ‘Super’ Anymore?

Joal Ryan, a writer for eonline.com, doesn’t have high hopes for Man of Steel, the new Superman movie scheduled to trundle out next year. Sure, Ryan believes the movie might be a good movie, maybe even great. But it won’t be a great Superman movie—not like the 1978 Christopher Reeve blockbuster. Why? He suggests that we just don’t make heroes like Superman anymore. Sure, we can re-imagine Superman—reboot the guy for our more cynical 21st century tastes … but that wouldn’t really be Superman, would it? Writes Ryan:

Today, the modern movie superhero is a wreck. He (and it\’s still almost always a he) must be touched by a form of madness in order to get to the point where he dons a suit. The Superman in Superman: The Movie, by comparison, just does it. One scene, a teenager is sifting through his late Kryptonian father\’s archives. The next, a fully-grown man is decked out in a cape, uniform and trunks, as ready as he\’ll ever be to fight for truth, justice and the American way. … He\’s a hero, plain and simple. Let the battle with the bad guy begin.

I’ve said before in my book and other forums that Superman isn’t my favorite superhero, and (despite all those childhood pictures of me in a red cape) I don’t think he ever was. He was too strong, too powerful. I think many others feel the same these days, which is (I’ve always thought) a big reason why Batman has eclipsed our man in blue.
But Ryan’s piece made me wonder … is Superman really too strong for us? Or is he too good?
“Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person,” Batman says of Superman in DC’s Hush. “And deep down, I’m not.”
That’s one of the things that always attracted me to Batman. Because deep down, I know I’m not, either. None of us are, if it comes right down to it. We all know, at 3 a.m. we’re staring at the ceiling, we’re not as good as we pretend to be or even think we are most of the time. We’re selfish, sinful people. Batman’s not “super.” He’s flawed. In a way he is, in Ryan’s words, a wreck. But he does what he can with the tools he’s been given and becomes a hero through force of will—giving all of us a little hope that we can be a hero, too.
Superman’s not like that. He’s better than us—better, perhaps, than we could even aspire to be. If Batman appeals to jaded adults like me, Superman is a hero for the 7-year-old set—strong and brave and incorruptible and good. He’s a John Wayne relic that you never worry about falling or failing or disappointing you. He’s a hero for people who did, or do, believe in such things.
Hey, I’m a Batman guy. That’s not gonna change. I like complexity in my superheroes. Maybe even a little bit of turmoil.
But it makes me a little sad to think that Superman—the Superman we grew up with, anyway—doesn’t fit comfortably in this world. That says a lot more about us than about Superman, I think. The Man of Steel seems too good to be true. And so we turn away from him without even giving him a chance to prove us wrong.
Man of Steel will be directed by Zack Snyder (he of 300fame) and produced by Christopher Nolan—a guy who worked such dark wonders with our modern Dark Knight. I wonder whether a similar remake may be on the docket for Superman—an angsty, dark, traumatized hero. He’d become Batman, only with X-ray vision and without the cool car.
I hope not. As much as I like Batman, I think we need heroes like Superman, too—heroes we can embrace without reservation. Sometimes, we need heroes that are too good for us, too good for our age. We need heroes that don’t reflect ourselves, but represent something better, something purer.
And for Christians, I believe the example of Superman is even more important for us. Because while Batman may speak into our faith, it’s Superman that better embodies it.
Sometimes what seems to good to be true is true after all.

Dependence Day

The Waldo Canyon Fire is nearly contained now, and Colorado Springs is focused now on recovery. Personally, we’re returning to some semblance of normalcy around our place, too. We’re back in our home, re-hanging pictures and washing clothes and vacuuming stray bits of ash that snuck through the windows. We even had a nice Fourth of July holiday this Wednesday.
‘Course, it was a little different than the typical Fourth of July. There were no fireworks, for one thing: The state of Colorado banned them this year—even the big municipal displays. Any soul who might’ve bought a handful of illicit firecrackers or sparklers wisely decided to keep them in storage. If they hadn’t, I’m pretty sure they’d find angry neighbors at their door with pitchforks before first sparkler even stopped sparkling.
So instead of saying “oooh” and “ahhh” in Memorial Park like we typically do, We spent the day with some of my favorite people in the world: A walk in Garden of the Gods with an old high school pal and his family. Dinner with very good friends. It was awesome.
It was more than awesome. 
Just a week earlier, these folks were calling me to see if I needed a place to stay or an ear to bend. They were offering to feed us or drive us somewhere. When me and my family were preoccupied with ashes and evacuations, they—and many, many others—were there, walking through the fire with us. Pretty humbling.
I like to think of myself as a pretty independent guy. I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t like to think I need help, frankly. A few years ago, I was in need of a 15-foot ladder to clean out our gutters. My wife suggested I ask our next-door neighbor if we could borrow his, but I couldn’t do it. Don’t want to bother him, I told Wendy. We wound up buying a massive new ladder from the local home improvement place—one we haven’t used since—because I didn’t want to ask for help.
Weird, isn’t it? I used to think that I just didn’t want to put other folks out. They have more important things to think about than our petty little needs, I told myself. But I wonder now whether it had more to do with just plain ol’ pride.
But hey, pride is almost a national birthright for us here in America—both the good sort of pride and, maybe, the bad. After all, we Americans like to think of ourselves as self-reliant: It’s our lingering frontier spirit, perhaps, or our desire to set ourselves apart, and sometimes above, the rest of the world. I mean, that’s part of what Independence Day is all about, isn’t it? The idea that, more than 200 years ago, we pushed away from England and the rest of Europe so we could call our own shots. We’re proud of our independence. And we should be.
But there’s a certain beauty in dependence, too.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” Proverbs 17:17 says. When you read the Bible, the New Testament particularly, you read so much about how important it was for believers to be in community—to share their joys and trials and pain with other folks. All of Paul’s letters were written to his friends and communities of friends—folks feeling the stresses and terrors of living out a new, weird faith, but walking through it all together. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed,” he writes to the Corinthians (2 Cor 4:8-9) “perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
The most important word in that whole passage, I think, is “we.” It is the “we” that helps us survive our toughest times. It’s the “we” that gets us through the fire. And that dependence on others—that “we”—includes being dependent on God, too.
Last night at church, we heard from some of the folks in our congregation who had lost their homes in the fire. Their faith and optimism was, naturally, inspiring. The theme of the evening was that whatever we deal with, whatever we face, God is still with us. And He is enough for us.
In my book, I talk a little bit about Batman’s independent streak. He’s the ultimate loner, really: If he needed to sweep some cobwebs from the Batcave, I can’t imagine him asking his neighbor for a ladder, either. But when you study the guy, you find he has tons of friends and partners to help him, to walk through the fire with him. “You know, for a loner, you certainly have yourself a lot of strings,” Catwoman says in Hush. And he needs them all.
I love freedom. I love independence. I love the ability that we have in this country to make our own way, to decide our own leaders, to create our own destiny.
But part of me thinks it’d be great to set aside another holiday, too: Dependence Day. It’d be a day to celebrate the folks in our lives who we know would go through the fire with us. To honor those who, when we stumble, come alongside to and walk with us—whether we think we need their help or not. 

Waldo Canyon: Survivor’s Guilt

Smoke is still curling from the mountains near the north of Colorado Springs. More than 1,200 firefighters are still cutting fire lines and stamping out hot spots. President Barack Obama has come and gone. The Waldo Canyon Fire isn’t going out anytime soon, but it feels as though the worst—at least down here—is over.
Some evacuated residents started returning home yesterday. We weren’t among them: Our neighborhood was close to the hottest action, so I have a feeling we’ll be waiting a bit longer. But at least we know that we have a home to come back to.
So many people don’t.
Nearly 350 homes were destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire, and once residents get into their houses and inspect the damage from smoke and water and who-knows-what, that tally’s bound to go up. We know some families that lost their homes and so much more. These places aren’t just wood and stone and cement: They’re built with memories year by year. Lines on the kitchen wall, tracing childrens’ growth. Paint colors painstakingly picked over months, then lovingly slathered on in an afternoon. An heirloom table. A kitschy souvenir from Florida.
Gone.
I understand the fear that comes with disaster sweeping through your neighborhood, the stress and angst of just not knowing. But to know, and to know the worst … that’s something I can’t comprehend. In the end, I’ve been inconvenienced by the Waldo Canyon Fire, but nothing more. My 36 hours of terror has turned into something more akin to a really bad vacation.
So what can I say to those who lost their homes? What is there to say? How can you make sense of one house being untouched, while one the next street over might be burned to the ground? It seems so unfair.
I expect in the days and weeks to come, we’ll hear some of the fortunate evacuees talk about how God spared their home; how He “heard our prayers” and answered them. And perhaps that’s true. I know lots of folks were praying for my family and our house, and I thank them from the bottom of my soul. I want to believe they helped.
But what about those who prayed just as hard and their houses are gone? Better people than I lost everything in this fire—people just as “deserving” of God’s mercy.
In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent’s driven insane by circumstance. Fire didn’t take his home, but his fiancée and half his face. He was a good man—Gotham City’s White Knight. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. Didn’t deserve it at all. He wonders aloud why he—among all Gotham’s crusaders—was the only one who lost everything.
Some surveying the damage here over the next few days will wonder the same thing.
“The world is cruel,” he tells Batman. “And the only morality in a cruel world is chance.”
But he’s only half right.
The world is cruel: We can’t deny it. The proof isn’t just found in Gotham or in the neighborhoods gutted by fire, but everywhere we look.
But as Batman tells us, morality isn’t found in chance but the choices we make—and we see some wonderful choices being made here. Much of Colorado Springs is rallying around those who have lost everything—offering their homes and help. Affected residents themselves are trying to shake off the sadness and move on. Some even found a silver lining in the ash.
“My house is vaporized,” CJ Moore told The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “I have my dog. I have me and my late husband’s ashes and those are the most important things. I love my neighborhood and I will re-build and so will many of my neighbors. This may be the economic boom the city has been looking for.”
It’ll take others more time to look so boldly ahead, I’m sure. Or, at least, it’d would’ve taken me time to work through the grief.
But I, apparently, don’t have to. Now I have to figure out how I can help those who do.

The Morning After

It’s a beautiful morning here, green and alive. Finches are playing around our bird feeder, the sun painting their backs with a line of bright yellow. Only the smoky tang in the air—a smell that bites the very back of your nose and throat—would betray that something’s amiss in Colorado Springs.
That same bite was in the air yesterday when I went to work—before Colorado Springs was torn through by flames from the Waldo Canyon Fire. A hundred or more homes have been destroyed, I hear. The Flying W Ranch, a local landmark, is no more. I think that, for now, my house is relatively safe—but there\’s no way to know for sure and the fire\’s still threatening. And today promises to be another hard, hard day.
We\’re told sometimes, particularly in Christian circles, that it\’s good to hold our things lightly: They could be snatched away at any time.
Easier said than done.
I was in Denver when the fire blew up, checking out an advance screening of The Amazing Spider-Man. I heard about the new evacuations on my way home, fighting the beginnings of rush-hour traffic. I called my wife, Wendy, to see what was going on.
“We’re leaving,” she said before I could ask. “We can see the flames. We’re throwing stuff in the back of the truck. Can’t talk—bye.”
Click.
This is what they saw coming over the hill behind our house (my daughter-in-law took the photo). I can see why they might\’ve wanted to hurry.
The news just kept getting worse the closer I got to the Springs. A massive, gray-brown cloud spread over the city like a Roland Emmerich special effect. As I drove into the smoke, the landscape took on a surreal, orangish hue, as if I was driving on the surface of Mars. Radio reporters talked about how the rock quarry—where my house sits right in front of—wasn’t even visible anymore because of the smoke. Ash was falling like snow, they said. Houses were burning, they said. They were leaving the site for their own safety.
It felt like it took weeks to reach my parents\’ house. My family—my wife, my son and his wife and my 18-year-old daughter—were safe and in pretty good spirits, considering. My daughter said she saved the fake mustaches she bought me for Father\’s Day. My son, who works at Wal-Mart, never imagined he\’d need to push the \”natural disaster\” button as to why he wouldn\’t be coming into work. (Number 6, in case you\’re curious.) For an hour or so, we turned off the news and flipped on a bad B-horror movie (Snowbeast), ate pot pies and enjoyed each other\’s company. It was great in a way. It felt normal. Comfortable.
But even though things felt OK for a bit, they weren\’t. Not really. At about midnight, most of the family rousted themselves out of bed to gather our possessions again and put them in our cars—worried we might lose this temporary sanctuary to mandatory evacuation, too. My daughter slept with the lights on all night.
New perspective comes with morning, though, and more importantly, more information. It looks like, for now, our home is OK—though flanked by burn on three sides. Fire conditions will be brutal again today, filled with unpredictable winds and temperatures close to triple digits. Tonight, we may be joining the many, many families in our neighborhood who have lost their homes.
In the spate of publicity I\’ve been doing for God on the Streets of Gotham, I\’ve been asked a time or two whether I believe God can work through anything. It\’s always been a hard question for me to answer, because I know there are times when God seems distant or impotent or, depending on our outlook, even vindictive. But using Batman as an example—the loss of his parents at such a young age—my standard answer has been a wary \”yes.\” God doesn\’t necessarily create your hardships or tragedies, but he can work through them.
The Waldo Canyon Fire pulled a Joker on me: \”Really?\” it seemed to say. \”Do you mean that?\”
In the midst of my uncertainty and worry and heartache for neighbors and friends who have indeed lost everything, I feel that I can still say yes. I don\’t know where God was when the fire started. I have no clue why His help feels so far away now, as wind and sun collude with the fire. I\’m sick with anxiety. Truth be told, I feel a little angry—like a petulant toddler who just wants the hurt to stop.
But in the midst of it all, I can feel God with me, in a way. I can see His fingerprints around the edges. I\’m so touched by the friends who\’ve called or e-mailed or Facebooked me, offering us their homes or help or their prayers. I feel, more powerfully, all that God has given me—the people I love and treasure most of all. It reminds me that, even in disaster, life goes on. All of us live on the edge of a razor, and maybe some of us—folks like me who can grow a little too comfortable—needed to be reminded of that now and then.
I\’m anxious. I\’m hurt. The losses this city\’s experienced—houses and history, trees and trails—are staggering, and I feel them quite personally. I know the losses will continue to mount and may grow more personal yet. But more than all the heartache and worry, I feel another thing most of all.
Blessed.

Watching the World Burn

\”Some men just want to watch the world burn.\”
So Alfred told Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight—a phrase that came to mind a time or two this weekend as I watched smoke billow from the foothills behind my house.
I live in Colorado Springs and, this weekend, a fire broke out a few miles west of town. It started in Waldo Canyon, a nearby trail that I\’ve hiked probably a dozen times. It has torched somewhere near 4,000 acres now, forcing the evacuation of several small towns and neighborhoods around here—including, for a short while, mine.
Most everyone around here is warily watching the smoke and the flames, checking wind patterns and fretting about the desert-dry conditions. But now and then—on the news or on Facebook or in just quiet conversations with each other—you hear people begin to wonder what might\’ve started the blaze. Thunderstorms have been pretty sparse here as of late. Waldo\’s more of a day-hike trail, so not a lot of people would probably start a campfire. Could someone have set it on purpose?
Just a couple of weeks ago, an arsonist, or arsonists, tried to start 20 fires in nearby Teller County (all of which were extinguished before too much harm was done). The day after the Waldo Canyon Fire began west of Colorado Springs, another small fire started out east of town. It\’s now about 80 percent contained, I gather, while the bigger fire rages on.
I doubt we\’ll know for a while how the Waldo Canyon Fire started. But I think most of us affected suspect it could be arson—one of the most senseless acts of destruction I can imagine. Even the most heinous crimes we can think of have some sort of motive: Passion or rage or revenge. But arson, most often, seems to have one: Some people just want to watch the world burn.
People, when they watch The Dark Knight, might wonder whether anyone could be as truly evil and awful as the Joker seems to be—a guy who kills and destroys and obliterates just for the fun of it. Frankly, even I have a time wrapping my head around the concept: In my book, God on the Streets of Gotham, I dedicate a chapter to Batman\’s bad guys, and I could see a bit of myself—a bit of humanity twisted and twined out of position—in almost every one of them: Catwoman\’s pragmatic amorality, R\’as al Ghul\’s misguided zealotry, Two-Face\’s despair. But the Joker … he\’s a tough guy for me to understand, just as he was for Batman.
“ I like dynamite and gunpowder and gasoline,” Joker says in The Dark Knight. “Do you know what all these things have in common? They\’re cheap.” Fire is cheap. Destruction is cheap. It’s piecing things back together that’s expensive.
But that’s what heroes do. Batman does it, and it’s what loads of people are doing around here, too. I’m hearing how charity organizations have been overwhelmed with food and donations. Complete strangers offer to house the displaced for a night or two. Firefighters work hours upon hours in horrific conditions, to beat back the flames—sometimes risking their lives.
In The Dark Knight, Batman tells Joker that people are better than he imagines. And while that’s not a purely biblical take—Christians believe that folks are prone to fail more often than not—sometimes we can prove folks like Batman right. We can be better than the world around us. We can mirror the grace of Jesus.
It’s true, unfortunately, that some people do want to watch the world burn. But that’s not the whole story. It never is. There are people out there whose job it is to put out the flames—and people who rebuild once the damage is done. Those folks are true heroes, no matter what Joker might say.

Big Interview With Big Hollywood

I\’ve been doing some radio interviews to promote my book, and I\’m pretty astounded with how weird those interviews can be. It has nothing to do with the folks interviewing me, and everything to do with me–particularly when I\’m speaking for radio or television. I\’m concentrating so much on speaking for a certain length of time (not too short, not too long) that I sometimes forget halfway through my answer what I\’m actually saying. And then, when I finally stop speaking, I think to myself, \”so, what did I just say? Did I actually string together any coherent sentences together at all? Did I even use any nouns?\”

So it\’s nice when I read back and interview and I discover that, yes, I am able to piece together a reasonable sentence under circumstances. Such was the case with my interview with Christian Toto, movie guru for Big Hollywood and a good friend. I thought I\’d link to it here, just in case you\’re interested. Hope you enjoy.