Church as the “Bane” of my Existence: Christian Reflection on “The Dark Knight Rises”

“Have we started a fire?,” says the petty henchman. Bane responds, “Yes, the fire rises.”

In the wake of one of the biggest movies to ever grace the big screen, I have a dire need to reflect on what “The Dark Knight Rises” (TDKR) has to say to the modern church in all of its capitalistic glory. Even if you were half asleep while watching TDRK, director and writer Christopher Nolans’ bold critique of capitalism shines brightly. Bearing several allusions to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Nolan lays out a ill-fated conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy, and, in Catwoman’s words, the fate of a culture who “wonders how [the rich] ever thought [they] could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”

Obviously, Nolan is speaking to more than just comic book nerds and black leather enthusiast, in Catwoman’s case; Nolan is most definitely juggling political motifs in a time where film has become more about entertainment than portraying a particular cultural message. And this message is clear. So clear that the fire is being kindled by Rush Limbaugh himself. Rush said that Bane, Batman’s adversary in the movie, was a heavy allusion to Mitt Romney in reference to his former company, Bain Capital. Nolan has refuted this claim, but hey, anytime Romney is made to look any more corrupt than he already seems, it has to be a good thing.

Now, can we make a connection to the Christianity? Is there a sturdy bridge on which we can walk from Wall Street to the church?***

It is no secret that churches and church organizations are highly capitalistic. Sure, they are tax exempt and claim to be a part of a different kingdom, but rarely does a church budget reflected anything but a capitalistic enterprise that feeds off money and money alone. If the budget is not enough, the competition between churches and their superstar pastors look strikingly similar to the competition between major retailers and companies. There are catchy slogans, personal attacks, and quarterly numbers that most definitely permeate both the church and the private sector.

This capitalism hits home with me as an aspiring pastor, educator, and church member. I see the effects of capitalism every Sunday. This problem is even more real to me due to the fact that my home church is slowly dying because the budget, the pastor-main-attraction, and the involved members are not up to par in the eyes of the capitalistic monster hiding under the pew that subtly influences everything. But how do we deal with these problems? How do we save a dying church stricken by capitalism in a once anti-capitalism religion?

In TDKR, Bane’s answer is to start a fire that consumes, burns down, and renews Western civilization. The church sits as the false idol at the foundation of Western civilization, tempting the world to be better when, at the churches most basic level, it still chooses to participate and even facilitate corrupt capitalism itself.

Maybe the only way to save our churches is to let them burn as Bane suggests; to let them die in the hopes that in their ashes we can practice the core of our faith: resurrection.

I am not sure if Jesus’s role is more like that of Batman or Bane. I am also not sure if chaos and death, or patience and fidelity are the answers to the churches problems. What I am sure of is there is a problem, and movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” provides a canvas on which we can all paint the problems and flawed solutions of our culture.

***interesting fact: Christian Bale played both Batman and Jesus? Coincidence? I think not!

Please join the conversation by leaving comments below, or emailing me personally at joshuacbarfield@gmail.com.   

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