Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gods, heroes, and superstars

While reading Aristotle's Nichomachian Ethics, my jaw hit the floor when he said that the gods are beyond justice. Justice only applies to humanity.

But then, as I was thinking about what Red calls "comic book apologetics" and I've expanded to include TV and movies as well, I realized that we still tend to think that way.

We expect that there are some denizens of the universe whose superiority exempts them from the normal laws of morality that govern us mere mortals.

Even in real life, we tend to equate power with authority. Despite all we know about the abuses of power, we almost automatically give the benefit of the doubt to the rich, the famous, the powerful.

It's wrong for me to sleep with my subordinates at work, but it's okay for David Letterman. I shouldn't endanger innocent civilians in a car chase, but it's alright for Jason Bourne. Nobody should flee the scene of a crime ... except maybe Spider-Man.

And torture is always wrong for an ordinary joe like me, but it's alright for GI-Joe ... um, I mean, for the U.S. Army and the C.I.A. But then again, aren't all the recruiting commercials set up like superhero movies?

Still, there's a part of me that wants that kind of freedom. I get excited watching it, reading it, thinking about it. I think, If I had power like that, I'd be the greatest hero in the world! Everyone would admire me and love me, and I'd always get the girl in the end!

Okay, I don't literally think those words; but those are the sorts of feelings that bubble up in me. I have a desire to be a hero, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I'm sure that's one of the reasons that action movies are so popular.

One of the revolutions of Christianity, though, is that no one - not even God - is beyond ethics. We can actually ask, "How can God be all-powerful and perfectly good?" God IS justice, and goodness, and right. God is not beyond them, in the sense of not being restricted by them.

And if not even God is beyond justice, then none of us are. Not the President of the United States, not the officials who ordered and condoned abusive interrogations, not genius movie directors, and for that matter not even fictional characters.

We are, all of us, bound to seek what is good, right, and true. We are, all of us, bound to avoid whatever is evil. Even at the cost of our lives. No exceptions.

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