Is Batman a Christ figure in The Dark Knight?
After looking at this metaphor, I’ll show how—in one way—Batman and Jesus preach totally different messages.
A few weeks ago, I watched The Dark Knight at a movie ministry event. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you need to watch it. (SPOILERS below, obviously.)
The Gospel Metaphor: Batman (Jesus) Defeats the Joker (Satan)
In this reading of the movie, all of Gotham/humanity gives in to the Joker/Satan.
The Joker, for example, threatens to blow up a hospital if no one kills Coleman Reese, a Wayne Enterprises employee. A man on the street shoots at him, but misses. Then, poor man’s Brett Favre tries to finish the job, but Bruce Wayne saves the day.
After the Joker kills Rachel and disfigures Harvey Dent, Gotham’s “white knight” becomes “Two-Face.” The Joker explains his victory to Batman.
Until [the city’s] spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with you? No. . . . I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!
Since every Gothamite has proven “sinful,” including Harvey Dent, Batman takes matters into his own hands. Batman (Jesus) takes the fall for Gotham’s sins, defeating the Joker (Satan) and making a sinful people righteous.
They must never know what [Harvey Dent] did. . . . the Joker cannot win. . . . I killed those people, that’s what I can be. . . . I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. Call it in.
The Gospel vs. The Gospel According to Batman
Let’s take a closer look at the gospel analogy in The Dark Knight. It seems plausible, but what about the great lie that underpins Batman’s “salvific” act? For Batman, suppressing the truth about Harvey Dent is key to Gotham’s salvation.
Consider, on the other hand, Tim Keller’s summary of the gospel:
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
The light of Christ’s grace reveals the depth of our depravity. The truth of Christ reveals the truth of our sinfulness.
Batman’s gospel, however, says that the truth kills hope. Jesus’ gospel says that the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
The “Batman as Jesus” analogy breaks down. Batman’s gospel depends upon suppressing the truth, while Jesus’ message celebrates it.
By the way, I think that the Joker’s view of human sinfulness—”All it takes is a little push!”—is absolutely true. The Joker’s preaching the gospel, but only half of it. (Like John Doe in Se7en.) He’s right about sin, but he leaves out grace.
What do you think?
P.S. Don’t Miss These Funny Dark Knight Parodies