The Joker, Mass Murder, and Metanarratives

Within hours after the Aurora shooting, people were predictably asking "Why?"

Why would an intelligent young man dress up like "The Joker", arm himself to the teeth, booby trap his apartment, and then go on a rampage that kills and maims dozens, only to give himself up without a fight?

Speculations have ranged from mental illness to demon possession to blaming moral relativism in society. A particularly helpful take on the connection between the murders and the "Joker" is found here:

Religion Dispatches | Neither The Joker Nor Godlessness Drove Batman Shooting

In reference to Ledger's version of the Joker, I think this post gets close to the heart of the matter, and that is that there is no heart- no central self- to the Joker. He is an embodiment of random, absurd chaos. Kind of an anti-incarnation, or de-carnation of the Logos.

I take exception to this hackneyed phrase "it seems random, senseless, and destructive for destruction’s sake". The Joker is precisely destruction for no sake whatsoever. He could be randomly, senselessly compassionate or kind as well, for that is also completely congruent with his chaotic character (its been a while, but isn't there at least one scene where he is chaotically kind?).

Joker is the Neizchean ├╝bermensch, who wills to power simply for the will to power. Or, perhaps he is the incarnation of a hyper-Calvinist deity, whose kindness and severity have no predictability or logic to them. They just are.

It is for this reason that the Aurora shooter has betrayed the Joker identity by taking it on himself. The Joker has no story, no identity, no inner logic. The shooter has taken a story and identity on himself- that of the story-less Joker- and thus he has betrayed the chaos of the Joker by imposing the logic of the Joker upon himself.

The fact that he tried to provide an identity and "backstory" to his heinous deeds- "I am the Joker"- means that there is still some hints of divinely given rationality in him. The fact that we as a society are still asking "why?", still seeking a "backstory", shows that there are still some common values and rationalities available to us. Both of these point to a capacity for redemption: Being able to be re-knit into a divine story.

Our capacity for understanding ourselves as part of a metanarrative is evidence of the imago dei in us, and precondition to our redemption. Because redemption implies the salvation of persons, and personhood is rooted in our identity as part of a broader story that has a past, present, and future.

When we are in real trouble (although it wouldn't matter any more at this point) is when we stop asking why, and simply shrug our shoulders and go on to do whatever is next in our Rolodex of cravings. When we blink blandly at horror and beauty, there is nothing left in us to redeem.

To charge someone with blasphemy you must first hate God yourself

One of the members of Pussy Riot gave a very powerful final statement, that itself is worthy of meditation and prayer. See the full transcript here:

Pussy Riot Members Sentenced to 2 Years for Offending Russian Orthodox Church | Religion Dispatches

It makes me wonder: In thinking about the testimony of the Bible - stories of Jesus, Stephen, Paul - and the testimony of history - crusades, inquisitions, jihads, witch trials - do we ever find the charge of blasphemy used by someone who is a friend of God? Rather, is it not always and every time that when someone levels the charge of blasphemy, we find that in fact it is the accuser who hates God and who uses God as a tool to oppress, enslave, and control others?

The charge of blasphemy is always used by the outwardly powerful and supremely pious as a way to "protect" God's good Name, and protect the curiously silent majority who is supposedly outraged by the impious act. Yet it is always apparent that blasphemy is a wax nose placed on the face of power, to silence the opposition, and protect the status quo methods of maintaining power, prestige, and possessions.

Thus, the very act of willingness to use blasphemy as a charge against "the other" is itself defacto evidence that it is you yourself who hate God, who hates God's children, and who hates the dignity, freedom, and rationality given to us all as gracious gifts from God. Otherwise you would talk, you would reason, you would compassionately look at issues from your opponent's viewpoint.

Look, I am not speaking here of stopping acts which harm other people, or even acts that harm property. There is a place for forcible defense, and incarceration, for such acts in a just society. I am talking about using blasphemy and legal sanctions to shut down freedom of speech and symbolic actions done on behalf of protecting real humans from an oppressive and God-hating system.

The very act of embracing the use of blasphemy by Kirill and his Orthodox cronies and his Putinian masters, against three helpless women, is evidence to convict them of being God's enemies. Kirill, it is you who is motivated by religious hatred against humanity.

R.I.P. Facebook

On Saturday August 18, 2012 at 12:29:56 AM, I deactivated my Facebook account. Apparently, if my downloaded Facebook archive is correct, I was on Facebook for 5 years, 9 months, and 17 days (since December 1, 2006). In that time, I had around 1,350 "friends" while in Dallas until 2010. When we moved to San Antonio, I deleted about 300 of those friends. Tonight, I ended with 1,235 friends. How many of them do I talk to, or even take time to keep up with? A couple dozen maybe.

I don't say that to brag. I say that to say how out of control things can get. I have a home with a wonderful wife, three great kids, and an old dog. I have a job I love with interesting people that demands a great deal of my time and attention. I have friends and family that I can actually talk to or write to using other forms of electronic communication or (gasp!) go to see in person, or perhaps even write an old fashioned letter.

If someone wants or needs to find me, they can google my name. I'm all over the place.

I guess more than anything, Facebook has become a place where I have to censor myself, or else get into endless debates when I post something provocative (in a paragraph or less). In a soundbite culture, debate and discussion simply become sloganeering. The format of facebook does not reward (or really even allow) the development of complex thought, or nuance, or examination of data.

The other thing that Facebook was for me was a marketing tool. I started it as youth minister and college minister as a way of marketing the ministries I ran, and establishing virtual pastoral connections with my flock. But I can't do that anymore, because policy here does not allow that. And that distance, I think, is actually a good thing. Furthermore, using social media to promote myself and my ministry always felt like a violation of myself. Like I was prostituting myself. Like I was trying to be a "friend" without being who I really am, because I was always editing and nuancing what I wrote to be marketable to others.

So, if I don't want to "market" myself anymore, or constantly worry about my "nuance", or to get in an argument because I posted about ideas and events that seem compelling to me, it seemed like there was little left for me to do on Facebook. The smartest thing seemed to be to limit myself to posting personal pics, or fluff, or more often than not, nothing at all.

And that's just not that valuable or interesting for me or anyone else.

And so, if I want a format where I can post substantive essays when I desire it, or I can post lots of pictures and personal stuff when I desire it, I figured there is another place I could go. And it's been here all along. And I am typing on it right now.

It's this blog.

Since January 8, 2005 I have been on this blog. If people want me, they can find me. It's hooked to my Gmail account, my Google+ account, and through them to my macBook, iPad, and iPhone.

So, I guess that's my rationale for de-activating my Facebook account. I haven't made the deletion permanent yet. I figure I will decide that next summer. But for now, I am going to see how life goes without Facebook. I think I can imagine life after Facebook. I can certainly imagine less distraction!


Welcoming Vera

Vera Grace was born on August 1st. She is our third child, weighing in at 8lbs 1oz at birth, and 19 inches long. She was also our biggest baby!

Here are some pictures, mainly for family members to download.

This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.