Saturday, October 15, 2016

I Refuse to Strike You Back

I will never hurt...another living soul...
You can do what you like to me, boy...but I refuse to strike you back.
Wolverine #67
By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Wolverine is the best there is at what he does. But what he does isn’t very nice.

Wolverine, aka Logan, aka James Howlett, is a violent man capable of extraordinarily violent actions.

While his legendary blood-spilling skills have saved the world more than a time or two, Logan remains deeply conflicted over his actions. Does his tendency for violent deeds make him inherently a violent man? Is this the man Logan wants to be?

Deep down, is he Logan the civilized man, or is he Wolverine the wild animal?

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said that “violence begets violence,” echoing the words of Christ in Matthew 26:52 that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Or, as Shakespeare so eloquently opined in Romeo and Juliet (and the HBO show Westworld has re-popularized), “these violent delights have violent ends.”

In the not too distant future, the villains have won and all the heroes are dead. Wolverine, now an old man, has long since retired from his violent ways. Even in the face of such victorious evil, Old Man Logan refuses to pop his adamantium claws and fight back. Why? For his violent tendencies caught up with him and he committed unspeakable atrocities that he can never recover from.

But what if he doesn’t fight back? Won’t the villains just walk all over him? If I don’t fight back, won’t the bad guys just take advantage of me? I need to stand my ground, protect my family, protect myself, and strike back. It’s the American way!

Yes it is. But first of all, Wolverine is Canadian. And second, Christ told us to do the opposite.

Our human nature implores us to protect our own and defend against the other. But Jesus countered this sentiment, saying, “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:39-40 NRSV). This goes against our instincts and sounds, quite frankly, like madness. Oh, my friends, but the madness gets only worse.

Just a few moments later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus continues, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 NRSV).

Love my enemies? Pray for those who persecute me? That sounds terrible. That sounds like people will just use me, abuse me, and toss me aside. Loving your enemies? Why, that’s just a good way to get yourself crucified!

Wait a minute.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what following Christ means. It doesn’t mean forcibly imposing your self-righteous will and “values” on the rest of the world (often through means of violence), but actually loving your neighbor, even to your own detriment.

Like I said, loving your enemy is madness. It’s not easy. It’s a struggle. Hey, it might even be impossible. It might even be the impossible.

But not loving your enemy is anti-Christ.

Again, this goes against our nature. It goes against my nature. I know violent vengeance is wrong, yet I still love revenge movies. I relish watching Liam Neeson use his certain set of skills to find his daughter. I cheer when John Wick hunts down the people who stole his car and killed his dog. And yet, I know that this is behavior that Jesus preached against.

And as much as I try to heed this teaching, I know that I, and everyone else, will falter. Even Wolverine.

Wolverine #72

But that doesn’t mean we should abandon the hope of non-violent, self-sacrificial, enemy love. It means we should continuously struggle against the desires of the self. It means we should take another second to consider lowering a fist or biting a tongue.

Perhaps it merely means we should reconsider being so eager to applaud and support violent rhetoric.

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