Movies about superheroes are popular again. Spider-man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and Catwoman all used special powers in their fight against bad guys, while at the same time attracting millions of ticket buyers, more or less, to the theaters.
But with the summer blockbuster Batman Begins, we get a hero with no super powers or mutations who must rely on his own courage and well developed skills to rid his city of the evil and corrupt.
This is a hero we can relate to, more or less.
Granted, Bruce Wayne had billions of dollars and a multi-national corporation’s research and development department at his disposal. Yet with all his gizmos, gadgets and a gargantuan batmobile, underneath his black mask he is the most human of all superheroes.
At an early age, Bruce’s parents instilled in him the values that would form the foundation of justice and fairness in his crime fighting days. His parents loved Gotham City and worked hard to provide for its citizens, whether sponsoring a fundraiser for the poor or funding a new water system to improve everyone’s quality of life.
Tragically, Bruce’s life comes crashing down when his parents are gunned down in a dark alley holdup. Shaken and riddled with the guilt of causing the killings, Bruce drifts through school into adulthood and comes close to ruining his life at the trial of his parents’ murderer.
There he meets up again with Rachel Dawes, his childhood friend, now an assistant district attorney who has done something with her life.
“Bruce,” she says to her listless friend, “you are a great guy. But it’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”
This becomes the pivotal moment in his life as he chooses to fight instead of sitting comfortably at home. He leaves Gotham City and devotes his life to understanding the criminal element of the world. Living in poverty among hardened criminals, he learns their ways and later fights for his life in a Far East prison. He learns about the desperate, the deranged and the corrupt, and vows to develop the skills and weapons to defeat all of them.
But the journey is a difficult one, physically and mentally. Christian Bale, the actor who plays Bruce Wayne / Batman, says the man behind the mask faces daily contradictions. “He is in a constant battle with himself internally,” writes Bale in the film’s production notes. “He must continually assess his actions and control his demons, overcoming the pull toward self-destruction and the negative emotions that will destroy his life if he allows them to.”
This is the same struggle, to a lesser degree, that we Christians face in this world. Do we stay within our own comfort zone, never looking at the needy except through a television screen? Are we truly compassionate to others, or do we say “I’m so glad my life is not as bad as hers,” like just another reality TV show?
Unlike the fictional Bruce Wayne’s life, our lives almost never mean a battle between good and evil in a life or death situation. It’s usually about deciding whether to do what’s right or do nothing at all.
Despite his sorrow and guilt, Bruce Wayne used his mind, his body and all he had to help make his city a better place in which to live. It was his wholehearted response to a bad situation that made him a superhero. Can we make the same response?
In Nashville, there are dozens of charitable organizations that need our time, talent and treasure in order to provide needed services to those less fortunate.
The Assumption / St. Vincent Outreach program needs helping hands to sort donated clothing, oversee its distribution, stock the food pantry and more. Contact DeeDee Searcy at (615) 242-1554 to volunteer.
The Nutrition Program for Metro Nashville Social Services needs volunteers to deliver meals to the hungry. A route usually has eight stops within Davidson County and takes no more than one and one-half hours to complete. If you are interested, call Darla Bennings at (615) 880-2292.
More than 150 Nashville churches produce the Room at the Inn program between November and March. The program provides transportation to the church, a hot meal, fellowship and a warm bed to sleep. In the morning, breakfast, a sack lunch and transportation back to the downtown campus are provided. Contact your church office to help or find a program near you.
There are many other volunteer opportunities in our community, so look for the one that needs you the most and be a superhero today.
First published in the August 12, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.