‘Wonder Woman’ Enters the Ongoing Battle Against Evil

Just last night, as our family went through the “New Testament in a Year” reading plan provided by The Crossing, we had a chance to review and discuss Luke 11:1-13, a passage of Scripture that famously contains – to our modern American way of thinking, anyway – perhaps one of the most unkind remarks Jesus ever made to His disciples:

Luke 11:11-13 (ESV)
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Yeah…kind of a jarring follow-up to the interaction that immediately preceded this one; Jesus had just taught His disciples The Lord’s Prayer in verses 1-4: “OK, here’s how you guys should pray to God the Father. And oh, by the way, since you are all terribly evil, here’s a lesson on how gladly God gives blessings to His children.” (?) The impact of these verses only deepens when the reader pauses to recall that Jesus was speaking to a select group of individuals who had left the entirety of their former lives behind to follow after Him. If Jesus calls these guys “evil,” what hope do you and I have?

Well, as it turns out, apart from Christ advocating on our behalf (Acts 4:12; Romans 8:34), zero.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman getting ready to open up a can on the German army.

Providentially, this part of the Crossing reading plan came hard on the heels of going to see the new Wonder Woman movie. Every member of our family came away from the film with nothing but praise, and I would venture to say that anyone who calls themselves a fan of the DC/Marvel universe really needs to see this one on the big screen. We had some reservations about taking our soon-to-be-11 child to a PG-13 film, but found a lot of helpful insight ahead of time – with no major spoilers – from 9 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Wonder Woman’ written by Dave Banks on GeekDad.

Leaving the practical details of the film aside then, as Banks has already ably provided those for us, our family was left to 1) enjoy a truly-fantastic film, 2) consume ridiculously-unhealthy amounts of popcorn, and 3) ponder the theological ideals that undergird nearly all of the plotline.

Simply stated, the “engine” that propels the entire Wonder Woman enterprise forward is nothing less than an imperative that the forces of good are called upon to confront and destroy evil. In this case, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has her island-paradise upbringing rudely interrupted by an encounter with the destruction and death of World War I when an American spy crash-lands within the hidden island’s protective sphere. Before long, utterly convinced that the source of all evil resides in Ares, the Greek god of war, Wonder Woman sets off to destroy Ares and thereby make all things right, disguised (badly, and never for too long) as “Diana Prince.”

Both my wife and I were struck by how closely Diana’s (ultimately naive) understanding of how evil works mirrors that of our present era, and every era since Genesis 3. To her credit, director Patty Jenkins offers no simplistic solution to mankind’s ongoing dilemma; some of the dialog spoken by the downed pilot (Chris Pine) could easily have gotten a “Two Thumbs Up!” rating from Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. As human beings, we are relentlessly drawn to believe that the wellspring of evil lies someplace outside of ourselves; our oft-repeated mantras of battling evil are more correctly viewed as “stemming the tide” rather than “ultimate solution.” Some of the more common rallying points for doing away with evil “once and for all” include:

  • “More education will awaken mankind to a better world.”
  • “Once we wipe out poverty and hunger, the world will right itself.”
  • “We need to put more money into this-or-that program.”
  • “What we really need is to foster more constructive dialog.”
  • “Let’s pass more laws (and increase penalties) to help curb this sort of behavior.”

Of course, all of these commonly-accepted ideas are good ones, and in fact goals that every Christian ought to be pursuing as best as he or she is able. “Merely” stemming the tide is no small thing, quite the contrary, and it is exactly the sort of faithfulness that pleases God (Micah 6:8; James 1:27).

Far too often, though, if I am honest, my own heart longs for simplistic struggles against evil, battlefronts that afford me the opportunity to label someone or something as The Real Problem and spend that much less time looking at the ways in which my own inner thought life betrays me as a selfish tyrant. It’s far easier to demonize the terrorists who once more went on a rampage this past weekend in London than it is to admit that each and every one of them also bears the “image of God” that we all share – a thoroughly-biblical phrase that the filmmakers themselves surprisingly insert into an otherwise-polytheistic/heretical narration track.

Bottom Line: Go see Wonder Woman. It’s exceedingly well done, filled with great performances and jaw-dropping action scenes. On top of that, our family found it to be a great way to open up a larger discussion of evil, the causes of both World Wars and the otherwise awful things we do to each other, forgetting (as we so often do) that every human being is endowed with dignity and purpose. We are all capable of monstrous evil…and yet, lest we forget, we also commit thoroughly-inexplicable acts of truth, mercy and love.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago, Part I

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