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From Hell’s Kitchen, Thoughts on Overcoming Evil

By August 14, 2016 Comics, Jesus, Jonathan, Marvel

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Sometimes superhero stories blend into our reality as we step out onto pavements speckled with broken glass and enter the neighbourhoods we call home. Daredevil (Season 1) dragged my thoughts along the cold streets of Hell’s Kitchen into alleys where themes of justice, good and evil arise from the steel grates with the underground steam, wafting poignant questions about how to make things right.

Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) sees the evil behind the nice-guy-façade of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), and he wrestles with how to bring justice without committing wicked acts himself. It’s not as straightforward as good overcoming evil; it’s also about how good overcomes evil. Ben Urich (played by Vondie Curtis-Hall) along with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) uncovered vital details in the series and were confronted with death doing what they believed was the only thing they could do to combat evil—bring it into the light.

So is it possible to win against the bad by being good?

Jesus says it is. He started a new way, stepping into reality with a superhero story, forgiving and embracing all people, while challenging the religious status quo. I follow this superhero, Jesus, and though some would debate whether he belongs to the fiction or non-fiction genre, his narratives hold characteristics of an epic battle between good and evil.

There’s the hero type. Like Murdock in Daredevil, the authentic hero dwells in the story, lingering, waiting for the right moment, even when it seems to never come and we nearly explode with all the injustice. Then the hero acts. First is the act of feeling, listening and coming to terms with reality. Then the actions preach a gospel of here and now, the future hope reflected in the present message of goodness and love. And those people, those heroes can be trusted. Their fruit is on display and what they’re pointing toward can only be equally or surpassingly good.

Jesus, too, dwelt with the people, offering his time, his miracles, and his life well-lived. And his death. A too-little-too-late solution in the eyes of many. And then, as some superheroes do, he resurrected, kicked his enemy death-&-evil in the guts, and promised an unending sequel where all things will be made new and injustice, though not forgotten, will be dealt with in surprising ways.

The strategies he uses to deal with evil deviate from the typical superhero’s or other leader’s strategies. They are humble means to a (nearly) impossible end, a desire to dwell within every human soul, to live love. This meek, super-national approach confronts (then and now) those wielding power or claiming religion is on their side.

Jesus spoke of a kingdom that would last beyond any other and that his followers would not fight for. But there Christendom got it wrong, seeing Jesus as a shield to win battles, a prayer to pray to overcome an enemy without or an uncertainty of eternity within. Christianity today often still misses the point, and instead of admitting it, people explain it, defend it. But a superhero doesn’t need to defend oneself; he or she does not need us. A superhero can take care of oneself or die saving the world.

I wonder how many people have switched off the religious speaker, detecting the prosperity lie, the suit-&-tie, the wealth that seems to claim it & fame it, and will eventually be dethroned. They hear the same message the bad guys in hiding proclaim as they deal out fear: if you oblige you’ll miss out on all that hell. 

But Jesus said that love drives out fear, and the only ones who should be frightened of him are those using power, religion, wealth or anything to control others, rejecting love. He will stop it as part of his sin-defeating superhero deal. Jesus isn’t inviting people into a religion or a building. And for those of us who speak about Jesus in superhero, messianic, king-like terms, sometimes we miss that, seeing Jesus for who we have made him to be instead of who he is.

Jesus never asked his followers to be like him in his all-knowing divinity, passing indisputable judgement. He asked us to love one another. If you speak about Jesus as your superhero, it may be helpful to raise the question of how he restores good and defeats evil. We pore over books and debates trying to explain the existence of evil or why injustice hasn’t been crushed, often with confusing answers, especially when they are given without any sense of dwelling in this land tinged daily with icy shadows. Jesus’ life and narrative answer questions more directly and leave people wondering, pondering.

If we had the receptive ears of Matt Murdock perhaps we would hear more snippets of stories rising from our streets. We would be attuned to the shouts of pain, hurt, and harshness around us. And amid the sharp edges of life, there would glisten a mother’s tender words, a sibling shouting protecting a bullied younger brother, a partner reaffirming beauty with soft whispers. And though the shadow-dweller continues in the opposite path, confused, once hurt and now hurting, we, dwelling in this place, following the Superhero, can see and elicit the supernatural power in rooms of everyday rundown apartments, as people hold together and love blooms.

-Jonathan McCallum

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