Pastor Don Wolan

Pastor Donald Wolan
Downriver Christian Community Church
Melvindale, Michigan

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Jokers Are Wild

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
"Perception is more important than reality"
Lou Holtz former college Hall of Fame football coach

How do we view reality and judge various actions as being either right or wrong? In the famous novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the view and judgement of the times and circumstances depended upon the societal positional view lived under and accepted. If an individual was part of the ruling elite during the French Revolution and was being demonized by the poor uneducated mobs, his view indicated that trouble was brewing and his head would soon be demanded as payment for perceived crimes. If a person was part of the repressed and despised majority, liberation was at hand and a new and glorious day was dawning. Perspective - the way we view reality - dictates to us what we believe reality, as well as right and wrong, ultimately to really be!

Some people believe that reality is not the world they live in and that everything in this world is merely an illusion. The real world exists in some other dimension that they lack direct knowledge about, but that they know exists! Like Neo, the main character in the movie Matrix, reality was the world he lived in prior to taking a red pill. In reality, that world was really all an illusion to him! The true reality for Neo was a dark and foreboding world controlled by machines creating an alternate reality for the rest of humanity under their diabolical control!


In the movie Inception, the lines of reality were blurred by different levels of dream consciousness! Each dream level was reality to the dreamer, but not the actual reality they truly lived in. Determining which level was the real level of ultimate reality was a very difficult task for both the audience and those in the storyline. To be trapped in a sub-level of dream reality could quickly become the true reality for the dreamer! Whew!

Movies like these give us cause to pause and reflect on what ultimate reality really is and how we can know what it completely entails. Atheists will insist that ultimate reality is nothing more than all matter and energy in the universe. Hindus believe ultimate reality is Brahman. Brahman is non-dual pure consciousness, indivisible, incorporeal, infinite, and all-pervading like the sky. Brahman is of the nature of existence-knowledge-bliss-absolute-the ground of all existence, basis of all awareness, and source of all bliss. It is the reality of all realities, the soul of all souls, one without a second, the constant witness of the changing phenomena of the universe. From the absolute point of view, Brahman alone exists.

As Christians, the Bible reveals to us an existence and reality beyond this life. This reality is outside of our space and time dimension but intimately entangled with it. To understand this basic scriptural truth is to have a foundation for all the other things we believe about the world and the way it works. To accept this view is to accept the total worldview that flows from it. On the other hand, to reject this view will leave one with a false view of reality and establish a different set of core beliefs about the world and the way it works.

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

According to the Bible, a man's thinking is very important and will determine what kind of person he will develop into and how he will perceive reality. If the thinking is good, the man will be good. If the thinking is evil, the man will be evil. Pretty simple stuff until we understand the things that influence thinking in the first place. Ideas that influence our thinking make their way into our hearts through an assortment of avenues. Cultural mores, education, entertainment, religious training, associates, and various philosophies all contribute to shaping us as human beings. Author Richard M. Weaver wrote the famous book Ideas Have Consequences and investigated the role ideas have in the formation of our beliefs and actions.

Just recently, a lone gunman walked into a crowded theater in Colorado and opened fire on the patrons of a movie with a high powered assault rifle. The movie that was playing that night was the new Batman movie - The Dark Knight Rises - and was one of the most eagerly anticipated movies in recent years. Theaters around the country were packed for the midnight opening night showing of this popular series finale and viewers were very excited to see and participate in the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the event. Shortly after the movie began in the Colorado theater, the tragic events unfolded and pandemonium ensued. Twelve people died and many more dozens were injured and hospitalized. The news quickly went national, and the media quickly descended on the scene trying to get the scoop on the tragedy. The man who committed this horrible crime was taken into police custody as questions quickly surfaced as to the cause behind this man's irrational act. Information concerning who this man was and what he believed or thought was slow in coming, but one piece of information about this man made it to the national press quickly. He was quoted as saying, "I'm the Joker!" To the unobservant, his ridiculous comment made little sense except that he was "copying" and "identifying" himself with the actions of the Joker in the previous Batman movie.

On the other hand, this deranged killer and psychopath might have been trying to communicate to the rest of us his worldview and ethical code. Like the Joker in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight - played by Heath Ledger - this man might have been laying down all his cards for all of us to see. His perception of reality as well as right and wrong might have been that of the Jokers. Perhaps to him, there was no moral code of absolutes, such as right or wrong, and like the Joker, he didn't have to abide by anyone's rules. The Joker tells Batman during the interrogation scene that, "The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules!" This may have been the killer's worldview and philosophy, and he surely was acting it out unashamedly.

The question that troubled me was where did he possibly ever get that kind of idea in the first place? Never mind that we are bombarded continually through movies, the press, the educational establishment, and "experts" that life is really meaningless, there is no God to whom we will have to answer for our actions in this life, man does not possess a soul, and that there is no afterlife to look forward to or prepare for. Like the old Schlitz Beer ad, the world's dominate philosophy says, "You only go around once in life so you've got to grab for all the gusto you can."

The killer who intentionally identified himself with the Batman movie character Joker acted as the Joker would have acted. Exhibiting a total disregard for life or property, this real life Joker acted out in real life the ideas that dominated his mind! Watch the scene from the Batman movie The Dark Knight and listen carefully to the dialog between Batman and the Joker. The Joker laughs at Batman's and the public's "moral" code and tells us what his is.

The gunman in the Colorado theater shooting was logically walking out his own moral belief system that paralleled that of the Joker. If there are really no ultimate rules to abide by - that they are just man-made constructs - and this is what the Joker really believed, then we are free to construct our own reality and make our own rules. In his reality, the Colorado killer did not consider life "sacred" or the taking of it "wrong"! To him, the taking of the lives of other people holds the same moral grounds to him as the taking of the life of some pesty insect. When you make up your own reality, you are the ultimate god everyone has to answer to, and their life or death are in your hands.

May God grant us the wisdom and ability to communicate the life changing and ultimate reality view of the  Gospel of Jesus Christ to all. Ideas really do have consequences - whether good or bad - and are walked out every day by every human being. The battle we face as Christians is a spiritual battle with ideas forming the battle line of engagement. Until the ideas of the gospel win the day in all spheres of life, we can be sure that these type of events will happen on a more frequent and possibly more violent basis. Let us be diligent and faithful to the great commission entrusted to us because the jokers really are wild.

Stay Holy, My Friends!

Pastor Don

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