Saturday, July 21, 2012

Role Playing: Good Versus Evil

Fr. Dale Matson

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14, ESV)
Heroes have been our role models and as Christians our ultimate role model is Christ. He is all that is good, virtuous, loving and transcendent. He is Who we are baptized into and becoming through the process of sanctification.

The Actor William Boyd was a ne’er–do-well and loser in life. After taking the role of the heroic Hopalong Cassidy, he decided to take on the character of the person he portrayed. William Boyd was  changed and became a virtuous man. What was uncharacteristic for the time was that “Hoppy” dressed in black including a black hat. Traditionally, that was the clothing color of the villain. However, it was obvious through his interactions with others that he was the hero and even though the Lone Ranger wore a mask, he too was one of our heroes. There was never confusion about which side they were on. They were good.

As time went on and Hollywood became more “sophisticated”, the lines between the protagonist hero and the antagonist villain became increasingly blurred. With Hoppy and the Lone Ranger, the force they used to apprehend and subdue evil was commensurate and adequate, not overwhelming. Later the age old morality play of good versus evil would have the protagonist unfairly victimized and wrongly persecuted. The protagonist would then respond not with commensurate but overwhelming force. The “Commando” and “Snatched” are examples of unleashed carnage following the kidnapping of a daughter. In the film “Tell Them Valdez Is Coming” Burt Lancaster as sheriff, is tortured and affixed to a cross, unlike Christ however he spends the remainder of film killing off the bad guys.  Other films that come to mind are “Payback” with Mel Gibson and “Lethal Weapon” where Gibson, the protagonist is as much a sociopath as the bad guys. There is also a problem with the disturbing film “Tightrope” where the lives of the serial killer and the detective played by Clint Eastwood are so similar and intertwined; you suspect that Eastwood is chasing himself.

In the film “Taxi Driver” Robert DeNiro is an unlikely protagonist as described in the advertisement for the film. “A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to violently lash out, attempting to save a teenage prostitute in the process.” Is this a protagonist with which we would want to identify? Is this the hero we would want to become? These are only a few examples of media madness.

And now we have the latest rendition of Batman. He is not just a hero; he is a superhero with superpowers. Unfortunately he is also a mentally unstable and traumatized protagonist with a dual personality, who has made crime fighting a personal crusade. His adversaries are a sordid collection of cartoonish boogey men hardly worth imitating dangerous even to portray.*
What has been lost in this morality play of good and evil is the heroic qualities of the protagonist. The hero has become the villain and the villain has become the hero.

I believe the hero is first of all a reluctant warrior. Sergeant York was one of the most decorated soldiers in World War I and was also a pacifist. I admire the Amish sisters Marian and Barbie Fisher requesting that they be shot first by their captor, hoping the other girls would be spared. This was a selfless and sacrificial act. They are my heroes also. There is a quality in a hero that is often misunderstood. Christ said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5). Meekness is not weakness. Meekness means restrained power. Evil is the abuse of power. Heroes balance power with compassion and mercy. This is expressed well in in the Nat. Geo. Afghan war documentary “Restrepo”.  We must never let the lines between evil and good become blurred. There is no DSM category for evil because it is a spiritual pathology that takes thoughts captive. It is the taking on of a new evil identity. Evil is cruel, sadistic, perverse and irrational. It is inhuman and views it’s victims as less than human. Good is life giving and evil is life destroying.   
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, ESV)

*May God comfort the injured, the traumatized and those who mourn in Aurora CO. May those who perished, not perish in vain and may they rest in peace. May justice be served. Amen


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