General: From Both Sides Now

I don’t read The Wall Street Journal every day, but this particular article on the “Opinion” page caught my eye.1 Well, what actually caught my eye was the photo of Batman in the middle of the article, plus this callout: “This summer’s blockbuster shows that Americans still understand the difference between good and evil.”

Jesus was crucified for telling the truth, but his truth cannot be categorized as conservative or liberal.

The articulate author of this op-ed piece, Andrew Klavan, was bemoaning the fact that Hollywood can only seem to produce films with definitive lines between right and wrong in fantasy or comic-inspired films such as The Dark Knight, Spiderman 3 or Narnia.

Klavan argues that when filmmakers handle realistic films about terrorism or some other social evil, “The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us.”

As one who grew up reading stacks of comic books as a child, I enjoy these action films with easily identifiable heroes and villains. But, I’m not so sure he’s right to conclude from the huge success of The Dark Knight at the box office that Americans are so keen on being reminded of the difference between right and wrong.

Klaven asks why conservative filmmakers don’t make realistic films with clearly defined values. His answer: “Doing what’s right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.”

Is he right? Has it come to that? Are all our displays of tolerance and our attempts to understand both sides of a question to be strangled by fear? As one of those who identifies with the values set forth by the “one crucified” — Jesus — I certainly hope not.

When I lived in California, my values were considered conservative. When I moved to Texas, my values—the very same values—are considered by some as liberal. I’m not unhappy about this. I don’t kid myself that I’ve got all the answers, but I hope that means I’m closer to following in the footsteps of Jesus. People couldn’t figure him out either.

We should not try to limit our Savior—because we can’t. He is not limited by our narrow viewpoints. Does that mean he is tolerant of sin? Of course not. He paid for human sin with his life.

Yet Jesus allowed prostitutes to minister to him. He set adulteresses free, telling them to sin no more. He healed both Jews and Romans, wealthy and poor, male and female. He not only talked to a Samaritan woman, unheard of for a Jewish rabbi, but also revealed to her he was the Messiah.

A pastor friend of mine gave the example of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. To the Jews of that age there was no such thing as a “good” Samaritan, of course. He said if Jesus were telling the story of the Good Samaritan to us today, he might very well call it the story of the Good Muslim.

It is unfortunate that we Christians tend to create Jesus in our own image. For when we do, we lose sight of how amazing our Savior really is. What would Jesus do? Would he fit any of today’s labels? Don’t be too sure. The biblical account shows him doing just the opposite of what was expected, not only by his enemies, but by those closest to him.

Yes, Jesus was crucified for telling the truth, but the truth for which he was killed could not be categorized as far right conservative truth or far left liberal. It was the wonderful truth that our Father loves humanity and sent his Son to be one of us, to live and die and be raised again to remove our sins and heal our hearts.

Our Savior sacrificed his life to redeem the world — the entire world. That redemption includes everyone who has ever lived or will live in the future. God wants all humanity to be with him as his beloved children forever.

Jesus loves both saints and sinners. He loves both conservatives and liberals. He loves both Republicans and Democrats. He loves both Batman and the Joker. He loves Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists — he loves every one.

So, fellow Christians, in the heightened atmosphere of partisan finger pointing and mudslinging accusations we’ve had to experience for the last year or two, let’s not forget who we are — for the love of Christ.

1 The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 25, 2008, “Opinion,” page A15.

Sheila Graham is a freelance writer and speaker on religious topics. She holds degrees in religion from Azusa Pacific Seminary and from Claremont Graduate University.

Author: Sheila Graham


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