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.

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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.