Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Punisher: War Zone" is biblical

Actually, that would be a loose way of describing it... A better way to describe this movie is that it is "biblical." Hmmm, technically then, everything is "biblical" if described like that, but that's not the point.

I saw the latest Punisher movie two weeks ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it, because I believe that the story of Frank Castle is an escape for the part of the self that desires and craves for instant justice. Let me try to describe this part of the self (with my bias).

Bad things happen in this world. It is a given. However, when deplorable, vile events and/or circumstances happen in this world that is a result of intentional human activity against another human being, it infuriates the part of the self that considers these things to be wrong. For example, when I hear about things such as human trafficking, women and children forced into prostitution, thieves robbing a destitute family, people harming vulnerable members of the population (eg. elderly), corrupt government officials (or other people in positions of power), and other harmful things, I get mad. There is a part of me that wants to go off into a rage, bursting out screaming as loud as I can (think Dragonball, when they power up to go beat the bad guy), hunting the criminals down who have victimized the defenseless, and executing swift justice on them, because that is what they deserve.

Again, when I hear about horrible things like rebels/pirates/troublemakers in a troubled, war torn part of the world, stealing aid that is supposed to help starving children, there is a part of me that hurts deeply. There is a part of me that overflows with sympathy, empathy, and sometimes intense sorrow. What if that was me who was being victimized? Or someone I knew? It hurts so much that my anger starts to overflow, crying out for justice, asking why is there so much injustice in that situation and others like it. And I ask, what can be done? Evil in the form of hurtful human actions should not be triumphing this way. This evil needs to be quenched, by removing the human that commits the hurtful action. It needs to be punished.

It is in this sense the Punisher is such a great joy to watch. It is a delight to see him hurting other merciless criminals, blowing away baddies (literally), and killing law-breakers, punishing them for their bad deeds. Vigilante justice like the Punisher’s goes beyond what federal laws enforce, by removing the root and cause of the problem; the person who committed the wrong. A victim’s tears cry out for justice as they experience grief, fear, isolation, and loss. The actions of the Punisher dries those tears with maximum retributive justice and it is sweet.

So how is this all biblical? Um… give me a second… haha, just kidding.

I do not condone unnecessary violence. I do not condone killing. I do not condone vigilante justice (although, it is seriously tempting). These are all of course serious problems related to the Punisher’s lifestyle. The Bible explains in Romans 12: 19-21 (NKJV):
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This must be extremely difficult for a victim to hear, because all they must think about is how they have been wronged. They want justice and revenge, but Jesus says to repay evil with good?! How will that help their situation?! A victim under many circumstances wants to hit their predator back twice as hard, as punishment. But here’s the beautiful thing; God has claimed vengeance because He is the ultimate Judge. Some day, Jesus will act out God’s will and pay out to evildoers what they deserve, just as the Punisher does (but, ahem, not in the same manner I presume). As Frank Castle cleans house (or maybe that should read, cleans a crackhouse), so too Jesus will pour out His justice on our enemies because that is what they deserve.

As much as the Punisher considers what he is doing is right, and likewise, as much as I want to maim my fellow unruly, ignorant, disrespectful and foul-mouthed public transit riders for their annoying and disruptive behaviour on the bus, there is a problem with that kind of thinking. I think during the movie, after a traumatic incident, the Punisher is asked by someone indirectly hurt by his actions, “Who made you judge, jury, and executioner?” I need to ask myself the same question, what gives me the right to judge others? Am I not the same flesh and blood, made in God’s own image like the next person, and who also sins and does evil against other people? Of course I am and of course I do. I am just as horrible, maybe even more. I and the Punisher, are on the exact same “level” as the people we thought we were better than and less deserving of mercy, but more deserving of justice. We deserve pure retribution and punishment as well.

And to conclude, since it is Christmas, this is where the beauty of grace fits; the gift of God that no one deserves so that no one can make claim of anything else and boast that they are better than anyone (Eph. 2:8-9). Despite a grim society and moral depravity, God makes the justice that He is going to pour out on those who deserve it (ie. everyone) escapable. He loves you and me (and if he was real, Frank Castle) so much that He sent Jesus to earth, born humbly in a smelly animal stable, and later to die the death of a lawless criminal, the death that I deserved for my own wrongdoings.

As a lame gift, here’s a new Spider-Man pose; he went and saw Punisher: War Zone too. In this picture, he’s watching the end credits (yes, when everyone else left).

Spider-Man goes to the movies


Anonymous said...

tldnr (much) :P

(my apologies if you understood that - Johnson taught me that, so I find it funny)

Hilarious picture with Spider-Man, btw. Also, I wanted to say that based on this blog post, I think you will enjoy Mars Hill Church's teaching audio on Film & Theology (one of their pastors reviews a film [DVD, really] after screening it with the whole Church once a month). You can find it on iTunes, too.

Johnson said...

sounds like an action-packed movie

i guess i'll rent it when it comes out on DVD

and there's a lot of junk under spiderman's seat. he's not very environmental is he!

Anonymous said...

haha probably not a movie I'll be rushing out to see anytime soon. also, are you bringing Spidey to WC?

Tim said...

paulman - i probably would

johnson - yeah, theres a lot of junk there because people are messy. i asked spidey after, "what you going to do with all that junk? put all that junk inside your trunk?"
spidey replied, "if by trunk, you mean garbage receptacle, then yes i will"

jill - you're missing out....
and no, hes too heavy. i could always bus home and get him though, haha....the idea of wintercon in vancouver is still sort of a fantasy for me...