Today I’m taking part in Blogging Against Disabalism Day (BADD). Why? Well five years ago I met Jemma Brown. Her super lovely guide dog Guss she was hard to miss at university. The three of us became friends. My view of disabled people had never been negative, but I had been ignorant of many of the specific challenges they face, and more importantly – what I could do to help and what I was doing that wasn’t helpful!
Able-bodied people won’t have a clue what discrimination disabled people are subjected to unless they take the time to make disabled friends. This may be stating the obvious, but it’s important to note right from the outset that the reason some readers of this blog haven’t heard of disabilism is not because it isn’t a problem. As you’re about to see, it is…
Thanks to Jemma I’m no longer ignorant of disabilism. I went from not giving a second thought to how to help disabled people to developing a more inclusive attitude – especially as I helped lead the university’s Christian Union society. This was a process. It took some time, and we didn’t get everything right. But I’m grateful that Jemma bothered to raise the issue again and again with me – both when I got it right and when I got it wrong. I’m still learning, and thanks to Jemma being so open and honest in the words below, you can join my on this journey right now…
So, without further ado, here’s the interview…
Can you set the scene on why a day like today (Blogging Against Disabalism Day) is so necessary?
BADD is now in its eighth year it’s important as it shares the every day life experiences of disabled people (both positive and negative) and encourages positivity towards disability.
Its also important for disability culture – I don’t think people without disability realise that as disabled people we have our own heritage, history and culture so its important for highlighting that too.
Able bodied people are often ignorant of the pressures and discrimination disabled people have to endure. How have you been affected by Disabalism?
Sadly it’s a whole life thing. Even at school when doing GCSE’s I had some teachers that although given the training, information, support and resources never made their teaching inclusive to me.
The story was the same at college and later at university, I eventually left my university due to extreme discrimination without finishing my degree which to this day saddens me as I grew up wanting to get a degree.
There can be days where it really piles up, today for example I stood at a bus stop waiting for my bus. I’m registered blind but have some vision. I normally use a Guide Dog as a mobility aid but 4 weeks ago my fantastic Guide Dog Gus had to retire suddenly so at the moment I’m using a long cane to get around.
So back to the bus stop today I’m stood there and I’m aware that there is a bus coming I turn around to ask the guy next to me what number it is and he simply tells me to “f*** Off”. On previous occasions strangers have told me its my bus when it isn’t I think I prefer being told to ‘f off’ than getting on the wrong bus and ending up in the middle of nowhere!
I’m told affectionately that I’m blinder than I look – I take that as a compliment (I think). But there have been times when I’m out and someone takes it upon themselves to start shouting abuse at me along the lines of ‘she aint blind she’s faking it…’ Once I was physically assaulted pushed up against a wall and told by my attacker that I was about to be stabbed because I was ‘faking scum’ and ‘People Like you make me sick”.
I cannot praise the police of Southampton enough for how seriously they take this. On the occasion when I was pushed up against a wall and threatened it was dark (I’m totally night blind meaning at night all I can see is lights like car headlights or streetlights I can’t get any information about my environment from this).
When taking my statement the police where incredible! I explained I was pretty sure it was a woman but I couldn’t see her at all so they asked me questions like ‘did the person have an accent?’ If I could hear other people around me and generally questions focused on my other senses not my vision. They then went into all the local businesses and asked them to look out for me.
Did the Paralympic Games change people’s attitudes towards Disabalism?
I personally don’t think there has been a change as a result of the Paralympics – I am however very pleased that Channel 4 made such an effort to cover the games and promote shows like ‘the last leg’ I think its great that disabled sport got a chance to be in the spotlight but there was very little about the day to day lives of athletes.
Is it fair to call government cuts to disability benefits Disabalism in action?
I think it is. My mum is totally blind she gets around with her guide dog Tara but her mobility is seriously limited. She can’t even send a text message yet alone use a computer (she attended lessons but struggled and eventually her class was axed by the government) yesterday she was told after an assessment by ATOS that she is expected to find work…The idea of my mum finding a job is ridiculous.
The UK’s benefit system is desperate for reform most disabled people agree that assessments for DLA are out of date but many are concerned about its replacement PIP (Personal Independence Payments) due to start being used this year.
Due to cuts in legal aid disabled people will no longer be able to challenge wrong decisions about there benefits in court because they will not get legal aid in the courts add this to the bedroom tax and the increased cost of living if you are disabled and we are getting a raw deal.
I do very much feel that as an unemployed disabled person people see me as a drain on resources. For the record I’ve been job searching for two years I was on BBC panorama highlighting how the government’s work program is failing disabled people.
So far every job I have applied for has turned me down due to lack of experience in some cases not even taking my voluntary work into account.
We have all seen stories in the papers about ‘benefits cheats’ and its led people to believe that disabled people are out to cheat the benefit system with their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but the governments own cross party study found that less than 4% of DLA claimants were fraudulent.
Guide Dogs is a charity close to your heart. Tell me how they have helped you
I have a retired guide dog called Gus. Gus retired recently due to the psychological effects of dog attacks. Gus changed my life for the better. He gave me the confidence when I was a student to do all the things a regular student does. He enabled me to do everything from the local pub quiz to attending lectures.
My mum has been a guide dog owner for over 30 years – she is now on guide dog number six. Her guide dogs enabled her to be a normal mum doing normal things with her child. There are no words to describe the amazing work guide dogs do.
Its always been my dream to work for Guide Dogs but for now I give something back by volunteering. I volunteer as a speaker this means I go around to schools, colleges and businesses talking about guide dogs and the import and job they do. I also fundraise helping out at street collections the cost of a guide dog over its life time is around fifty two thousand pounds!
Technology has helped you and many other disabled people with day to day life. What future tech projects are you most excited about?
Future tech I’m most excited about has to be Google’s car that can drive itself – they have been test driving it using blind people although it probably won’t happen in my lifetime I dream of a time when I don’t have to ask friends for lifts all the time and can do more things and get more places on my own.
All Apple computers come with build in screen magnification and screen reader and I think the screen reader is a lot more user friendly than many that operate on Windows.
Apple were also the first to produce a touch screen phone with built in screen reader for blind people. The iPhone has literally transformed the lives of many blind people and I am one of them. The ability to look up the menu for a restaurant while I’m sat there on my phone is amazing my iPhone also has an app on it which for me turns it into a hand held video magnifier, meaning I can use the camera to enlarge the font of say a menu.
As a Christian, what have been your experiences of UK churches caring and providing for the needs of disabled people been like?
Sadly not always positive, I was once away from my home church and went to a different one with my guide dog I walked in and the person leading the meeting told me that dogs were not allowed, and in so many words asked me to leave.
You don’t expect to go to church and have to explain the equality act and that it is breaking the law to deny you access to church because you have a guide dog. At the time I was really upset by it I stayed for the service out of principle more than anything and left.
No one should ever be turned away from church/faith because of disability regardless of whether that’s blindness, learning disability or physical disability, but I learned sadly that day that it happens. I was a very ‘new’ Christian at this time and was so incredibly saddened by the thought that someone who does not yet know God could be in a sense prevented from going to a church because of access. I really feel that God allowed that to happen so that I could educate the church involved.
Since this happened I have been blessed to help many churches look at their policies and procedures to stop this sort of thing happening.
There is also a lot of stigma around mental health in churches which is incredibly widespread – mental health conditions are put down as a lack of faith rather than seen as a medical/biological issue with a faith component.
The late great CS Lewis once said: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Regular readers to this blog will know that while my faith often crops up, I (hopefully) avoid being too “preachy”. You won’t typically see me reviewing worship albums or writing long essays on why the Bible is true.
I like to think I’m open about my faith all year round. I certainly am always happy to talk about it when people ask. But today I make an exception. You haven’t asked: But I’m going to talk anyway.
On Easter Sunday I do go a bit crazy. This morning I shared a load of Facebook statuses and re-tweeted a lot of tweets about the resurrection.
And I make no apologies for that. Because if you can’t talk about Jesus on resurrection Sunday, then when can you?!
The centre of Christianity is not a debate about homosexuality, women bishops or creation/evolution. But you’re very much forgiven for thinking it was. And it’s not your fault for assuming these issues are of primary importance. If you consume any kind of media, you’d assume that quite quickly.
The centre of our faith is a message about forgiveness. It’s a message of love and hope.
Sometimes I think atheists are rallying against a system, structure or God that Jesus (and most Christians) never believed in. We Christians are to blame for that. All of us have mis-represented Christ in one form or another.
If you want to know what Christianity stands for you only need to one thing. Read. Don’t read my blog. Don’t even read a book about God. Read the book God wrote about himself: The Bible. Read this…
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
“God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God.
“Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3)
Christ arrives right on time… He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.
“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Rom 5)
“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Ephesians 1)
Questions? Leave a comment or click here
Passion makes all the difference.
It was on the way back from last night’s historic event where Christian music finally got its own chart that one industry professional pointed this out to me: “The Edge could play an amazing guitar riff, but when Bono picks the guitar up, it doesn’t sound the same.” The comment was not a critique of Bono’s guitar skills but an observation about the way passion drives music.
Christian music is overflowing with passion because it’s not just the music that gets us excited, it’s the person we’re singing about.
Speaking at the launch, MD of the Official Charts Company Martin Talbot said that he has overseen dozens of charts “but I’ve never experienced the enthusiasm we’ve had from the Christian and Gospel labels”.
Later a representative from the same company told me she was staggered at the level of camaraderie and relationship within the Christian music world. Her comments reminded me of John 13:35 when Jesus said: “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
When the Official Charts Company launches a new chart they do it properly. When industry experts “discovered” (that’s their word, not mine) the Christian music scene they were gobsmacked. People simply didn’t realise such a huge market existed.
- More people go to Church every week than people who went to the London Olympics.
- Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons was the 4th biggest download of sheet music – 2nd only to Adele in the UK.
- 300,000 people went to Christian concerts and festivals in the UK last year.
- Katy Perry’s songs were played 1.4 million times on the radio last year. Chris Tomlin’s songs were played 3.12 million times in churches.
Christian music has come a long way in recent decades. No longer is the genre synonymous with poor quality cringe-worthy songs. In any genre there’ll be bad apples, but for the most part Christian music is top quality, and it’s getting better all the time.
Critics of the new chart worry a Christian ghetto is being created. But nothing could be further from the truth. Thousands of people sing Christians songs in the UK. Yet this beautiful picture of unified worship across backgrounds, races and denominations that Christians take for granted at events like Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor is hidden from the general public’s view. Having a Christian chart which is recognised and backed by a mainstream music organisation proves that Christian music is not some kind of strange side show for religious people, but a serious collection of great sounding, positive songs.
The Christian music industry is arguably set apart from how the secular world has traditionally operated. If you talk to the top worship leaders and record label bosses you will soon notice a common character trait. Real, genuine humility. I’ve interviewed many people within the Christian music industry yet I can’t think of anyone who has come across as only being interested in promoting their music. When they say they want to serve churches by providing songs that help people to worship, they mean it.
There’s a deep level of friendship even between representatives of “rival” organisations in the Christian music world. You could even argue the industry is not an industry at all but a community.
This chart has been a long time coming. I’m told there’s been plenty of debate behind the scenes as to what constitutes ‘Christian’ music. The organisers of this chart are not oblivious to some of these tricky questions. Some of the finer details are yet to be worked out. But what’s important and what should be celebrated right now is that Christian music has moved out of the ghetto. It’s been recognised as a legitimate, well-produced and relevant genre of music. If your a Christian this should excite you, and if you’re not I hope it encourages you to look into this world of great music. You don’t have to believe to belong. Let the future begin…
The Shack was called “deeply troubling” by Albert Mohler while Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message) compared it to well known classic The Pilgrim’s Progress.
As for me, I felt it had its ups (intriguing dialogue) and downs (questionable theology) but overall I can’t say I was gripped by The Shack fever of 2008.
But we’re five years on from all that, so why bring it up again?
I had the privilege of meeting the author of the Shack Wm Paul Young late last year. He taught me an important lesson right at the beginning of that interview, namely the importance of a man hug.
I’d barely said ‘hi’ to the big hearted Canadian before he was coming towards me in the traditional fashion.
Paul is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever interviewed. He believes The Shack gave people the ability to talk about God without it having to be a “religious conversation”. And I suppose he’s right, after all it wasn’t just Christians who were gripped by the book.
One of my favourite quotes of the entire 40 minutes that I had with Paul was when he said of God: “I’m trying to get as far away as ‘Gandalf with an attitude’ as I can”.
As for the controversy, he seemed untouched by the furor.
“I had my first protestors in Orlando, Florida with the bullhorn and the picket line. I was thinking ‘it’s 100 degrees out there and they are working up a sweat! It wasn’t long ago I was cleaning toilets and now I have protestors how cool is this?’ So I’m handing them bottles of water and one of them says ‘so do you work here?’ I said ‘no’ and he said ‘who are you?’
“I said ‘I’m the guy who wrote the book you’re mad about’ so we get talking and I find out not one of the protestors had read it. So we talked for 15 minutes and as soon as I walk away they are on the bullhorn saying ‘this violates the principles of God’.
“And I’m saying ‘God look at us human beings! It’s so much easier to be right than to love’.”
Paul concedes there’s one mistake in the book. “Just one?” I tease. Ignoring me, he explains, “The mistake in the book is where Mackenzie goes back in The Shack and he looks over to where Missy’s bloodstain should be and it’s not there. That’s a mistake it should still be there. Just because you work through your damage and your pain and your loses doesn’t mean the evidence of it disappears. There are still nail scars on Jesus’ wrists.”
We’re getting closer to the heart of the matter. And I’m beginning to understand I got the Shack wrong. In order to understand what Paul is writing, you have to understand his own story and background…
“When you have certain kinds of great sadness’s you’re set up to want to escape. It’s a very tender thing. I have a cousin who took her life just 10 days ago she fought the mental illness of schizophrenia her whole life and finally just gave up.
“I understand that and being in a place where you don’t want to run away anymore geographically and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt people the way you always have and it seems to be the way to get away. I’ve been there.
“There’s a metaphorical line beneath The Shack. You can take it as a story but The Shack is the house on the inside that people will help you build and a lot of us didn’t get good help. Sexual abuse is a part of my childhood somewhere close to 5.
“That’s why you have a loss of children around 5 in the books. In boarding school and an abusively angry father and the issue of belonging as a third culture kid emerges inside the storyline of Crossroads [his latest book]. Then religion teaches you to hide it all and create a façade that you can paint to the expectations you’re picking up from people around you as well as the religious expectations about the character and nature of God.”
“All of these things I’m in the process of trying to work this stuff out. As much as I would like Extreme Soul Makeover where God sends us to Disney world and fix us before we get back it’s not the way it happens.
“The intricacy and the inherent beautiful fragility of the human soul is such that it is uniquely damaged and only God knows how to heal it, and it’s going to take time. God doesn’t become an abuser for our own good. He doesn’t reach in and fix it apart from our participation and that goes back to relationship. He doesn’t even heal you because he wants to use you. He heals you because he loves you and he invites you to play because it’s about a child parent relationship.”
If that leaves you craving more then watch this…
No Women Allowed?
Just weeks after the Church of England voted to keep bishops as a male-only position, it has emerged that Bristol Christian Union (CU) does not allow women speakers.
The mainstream media had a field day yesterday with the Huffington Post and The Guardian both eager to report the story.
It’s nearly three years to the day that the then president of Solent University CU invited me and my friend Catherine over to her house for a curry. I was barely two mouthfuls into my meal when the question came, “Would you and Catherine consider leading the CU next year?” To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
Speaking from Experience
We both agreed and the year that followed was both challenging and extremely rewarding. We had an amazing team and I have many fond memories. As you may have guessed from her name, Catherine is a woman. The previous president was a woman. Others on committee were women. And yes, we had women speakers.
Nobody complained. Nobody kicked up a fuss. Nobody left.
This is obviously how it should be!
But what would we have done had someone said they could not attend CU because women were allowed to speak and in their view the Bible forbade this?
If you’re not a Christian, your answer may be along the lines of “kick them out”. But if you are a Christian, you’ll understand that us believers in Jesus place an extremely high value on unity.
Unity, Unity, Unity
I don’t know what I would have done faced with the issue that those in Bristol have come up against. To be honest with you, I’m glad it never arose on my watch! Thankfully God knew I’d probably make a balls-up of such a conundrum so in his mercy never let me face it!
Here’s what we can say: UCCF who oversee CUs in the UK do an amazing job. They have never taken a position either way on this debate. And while many Christians feel this debate should have been settled a long time ago, it hasn’t. And UCCF have acted with maturity by being honest in admitting Christians take different views, but that ALL Christians of ALL backgrounds should be allowed to hold their views AND be a part of CU.
Christians disagree. This isn’t news to the secular world.
But what does appear to be news is that every Christian, whether Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical or Quaker believes in one God, one Messiah and the new life that can be found through Jesus.
This is where UCCF’s ministry and philosophy starts and finishes.
Please, Don’t go…!
Some Christians hold views I really don’t like. But they are my brothers and sisters. I don’t want to see them leave the church I attend or the CU I was involved in. So, like me, you can passionately disagree with Bristol’s decision, but you can also love them. Their primary motivation wasn’t the advancement of sexism. Far from it, their primary motivation was to keep everyone unified.
Keeping everyone happy is an impossible task. But keeping everyone unified is not not impossible. Unity is a primary goal for any CU leader.
The question is simple: Which do you value more? Your own theology, doctrine and secondary beliefs, or unity?
One of the biggest lessons I learned through leading a CU was not only the importance of unity, but how much can be accomplished when Christians come together, lay aside theological differences and get on with the mission Jesus gave us.
After all, Jesus words in Matthew 28 (The Great Commision) make no mention of eschatology, communion or the place of women. His words are directed at people who probably disagreed on all of those things! Yet we’re expected to put these differences and debates to one side while we get on with something much more important…Making disciples.
If there’s a large percentage of people in your CU who won’t get on with the Great Commission unless teaching is only done by men, then again ask the question (as I’m sure the leaders did): What’s more important, The Gospel of Jesus Christ or women speakers?
Like most people, I hope Bristol CU realise that these two things are not separate but intertwined! They shouldn’t have to choose between them but accept both.
So I obviously don’t condone Bristol CU’s action, but I do understand that if you’re bring forced to choose between women speakers and Jesus’s mission then Jesus’s mission always wins. And that’s something that (rightly) angry and frustrated Christian women will understand.
EDIT: Seconds after posting this I read Bristol’s newly released statement which says, “we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men, to all BUCU events, without exception.”. This is great news!
If you’re downloading music or films without paying for them, you’re probably breaking the law.
People don’t care they are breaking the law. But if they worked in the music industry and witnessed redundancies all around them because of illegal downloading, they probably would!
Today I stumbled across a recent live Christian worship album uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. This was not done by the producer, record label or artist. It was done by someone who didn’t own the copyright. I politely pointed this out to him, and he kindly promised to remove it. His excuse? He didn’t know it was illegal.
You may think I’m being picky and being a kill joy. Many of you seemed to have this impression when I relayed some of the above on Twitter. I was shocked at the number of Christians defending this person’s actions!
So let’s deconstruct some of the arguments for illegally streaming or downloading music and see if they stand up…
I believe we as Christians should be leading the way in acting within the law and acting morally and in accordance with our own scriptures (Rom13:1-2)
1) It’s not stealing because it’s not physical!
According to this argument, when it comes to downloading, there isn’t a physical object to take so it can’t be called stealing.
I don’t know of many people who would steal a CD for the artwork! They steal it for the information (songs) on it. When people download – they are taking that same information. So the same product is being taken. It may not be being taken in the same manner, but the outcome is the same.
2) The artists earn too much money anyway. They won’t notice a few quid lost because I didn’t buy their CD.
Christians, let’s get a few facts straight: Probably the best selling Christian CD of the last 18 months was Spirit Break Out. It reached number 9 in the iTunes chart, and according to the people involved, it hasn’t even broken even yet! Worship leaders are clearly not rolling in it. You have to sell millions, not thousands to make a big profit.
But that point is actually an aside.
By the above logic, I could steal Rihanna’s car because she’s already rich and can afford another one.
But I don’t refrain from stealing music or cars because it will or won’t damage people. I refrain from stealing because it’s morally wrong.
3) I just illegally stream or download so I can decide if I like it. If I like it then I’ll buy it.
This is a really common argument. The ’try before you buy’ attitude sounds great to begin with, but what is it based on?
It’s based on the idea that stealing is only stealing if you hang on to something for a certain period of time.
So you could argue the first 45 minutes of listening to an album is not stealing, it’s just sampling/trying. The argument implies that if I continued to enjoy the product and held onto it for X hours or days then it would be considered stealing and wrong. But where’s the limit?
The limit is hour 0. In other words, unless you’ve already paid the money, it’s wrong and it’s stealing.
4) All music should be free, anyway!
These people want there to be a world where everyone benefits from the joys of music, but no one has to pay for it.
Can you imagine walking up to someone who already struggles to sell tickets to their gigs or get money from album sales and telling them to “just do it all for free!”? These people have mortgages to pay and children to feed.
To those illegally downloading music saying “it should be free”, can I just point out there’s already a legal and free way of listening to music? Spotify.
You have NO excuse to illegally stream music on YouTube now that Spotify is here. Thanks to Spotify – the person who wants music to be free, gets what they want. But they get it without damaging the artist.
It is shocking to me that we need to have a discussion on what constitutes stealing and what doesn’t. But all the statistics suggest that’s exactly what needs to happen. (Seeing as Ed Sheeran’s album is the most illegally downloaded, perhaps we also need to have a discussion on what constitutes good music? But we’ll save that for another time)
While I believe it’s wrong to steal regardless of your religious beliefs, I’m primarily aiming this post at my fellow Christians. Check Rom13:1-2 again. Too many are setting a bad example, damaging the very industry (Christian music/film) they claim to love and deliberately ignoring God’s commandments.
Sorry for the preach, but this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. I welcome your comments and am more than happy to debate this if need be…
The Dark Knight trilogy has been a triumph. Christopher Nolan has injected new life into the Batman character. The three films have had it all – detailed storylines, complex characters and amazing special effects.
I’m no expert on the films, in fact I can’t even profess to be a hardcore fan (I watched the three films in the wrong order). But the final film in the series - The Dark Knight Rises has further cemented my belief that Nolan’s achievement in re-imagining the story of Batman will go down in history for all the right reasons.
I’m not sure where the phrase ‘greatest story ever told’ originated from. But it seems apt to me that the story of Jesus is often given this title. If you think about some of the films most of us enjoy the most, they contain the same themes and messages as the Jesus story. Redemption, hope and love are just three, but there are many more.
The parallels between Nolan’s great story and God’s greatest story start with the city of Gotham.
Throughout The Dark Knight trilogy, we are reminded that Gotham is a city void of justice. The police are unable to crack down on crime and various gangs and evil figures rule. In the Jesus story, the Bible tells us that society at large and the world in general has ‘fallen’. Jesus himself said “why do you call me good? No one is good except God”. Try telling a friend that they aren’t a “good person”. It doesn’t go down well. Most of us realise we aren’t perfect, but we all believe we’re above average. But statistically it’s impossible for everyone to be above average! Humankind has something drastically wrong with it. The Bible calls this ‘sin’. And in Gotham, sin is everywhere you turn.
Just as in the time before Noah’s flood, there was a feeling that the world (or Gotham) was too bad to be redeemed and must rather be punished. (God even said he had “regretted” making mankind because it had become so sinful). In the same way, The League of Shadows decided that Gotham was so evil that it must be decimated of all human life. This may sound extreme, but we all long for justice and many even express joy when murderers and rapists are either locked away for life, or even given the death penalty in other nations.
Salvation through Batman alone
Jesus was well aware of how sinful mankind had become. But he didn’t pronounce immediate judgment. Batman also knew first hand how evil Gotham was, but he saves it anyway. In both cases, it was undeserved favour.
The city of Gotham falsely accused Batman of murder. Jesus was falsely accused of a crime punishable by death (treason). He was hated. But he, just like Batman, never gave up. Even though neither Gotham nor our own world deserved saving, mercy was demonstrated in both cases.
Dying for you
Hope is a major theme in The Dark Knight Rises. Without hope, the good guys in the film would have given up about 45 minutes in. But no, they slogged it out for the full 2 hours 45 minutes! In the Bible, prophets foretold of a day when everything would be made right again. This gave the Israelites hope, even in the toughest times.
Like almost every superhero film you can think of, the main character pays the ultimate price and either gives or very nearly gives his life to save the world!
When we honour soldiers who have given their lives in battle, we often quote the words: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” These words were originally said by Jesus. All of us can relate to them. Sacrifice is impressive. But there’s something even more impressive than dying for your friends. Dying for your enemies. Both Batman and Jesus did this.
The greatest story ever told
I genuinely thought The Dark Knight Rises was going to be a tragedy. When the nuclear bomb went off, I thought it was all over and Nolan had killed off Batman. When Jesus lay dead in the tomb, his disciples were devastated. But Jesus wasn’t going to go down in history as a guy who said some nice things and told people to be nice to each other. He rose from the dead, demonstrating he was God.
Batman also seemingly rose from the dead!
There’s some other possible similarities I haven’t mentioned (both Batman and Jesus descend into and rise out of hell / the pit. Could Catwoman be Judas?)
Of course, there are many aspects to the final Batman film that bear no resemblance. Jesus didn’t kiss a girl, let alone two! Neither did he drive a motorbike (although that would have been awesome). The overall storyline from sin and suffering to resurrection and redemption is striking. We all love a good story. It seems that 2000 years on, the themes of the greatest story ever told are continuing to influence popular culture. And rightly so.