Recently my oldest son and I watched a show on Netflix called Daredevil, and it lead to many weird and deep conversations. Most conversations involved – at least to some point – the fact that we were strongly disagreeing with each other about a character called Fisk. On first glance, Fisk (a rich guy with flunkies, body guards, car conveys and huge anger management failures) and his nemesis Matt Murdock (a blind freelance lawyer lying to his friends and also being a masked vigilante beating up criminals and thieves) both actively made their decisions and actions based on their total belief that they were doing it for the good of the city they loved and the people who lived there. I think Fisk is a sociopath, or a combination of serious psychological diagnoses, whereas Patrick thought he was determined, focussed, using his money and power in intelligent, precise ways Matt was too poor and grass level to even dream about accomplishing.
The series is over, we still disagree about Fisk, and while I’ve forgotten most about the show, there’s one piece of dialogue that I can’t get out of my head. I keep gnawing at what Fisk says, and it’s guided my scripture study and self-examination ever since.
I was thinking about a story from the Bible… I’m not a religious man, but I’ve read bits and pieces over the years. Curiosity more than faith. But this one story… There was a man, he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was set upon by men of ill intent. They stripped the traveller of his clothes, they beat him, and they left him bleeding in the dirt. And a priest happened by, saw the traveller, but he moved to the other side of the road and continued on. And a Levite, a religious functionary, he came to the place, saw the dying traveller, but he, too, moved to the other side of the road, passed him by. But then came a man from Samaria, a Samaritan, a good man. He saw the traveller bleeding in the road and he stopped to aid him without thinking of the circumstance or the difficulty it might bring him. The Samaritan tended to the traveller’s wounds, applying oil and wine, and he carried him to an inn, gave him all the money he had for the owner to take care of the traveller, as the Samaritan, he continued on his journey. He did this simply because the traveller was his neighbor. He loved his city and all the people in it. I always thought I was the Samaritan in that story. It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be deceived by their true nature.
FBI Guard #1: What the hell does that mean?
Wilson Fisk: It means that I am not the Samaritan. That I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill intent who set upon the traveller on a road…
I was floored by that sentiment, that self-study and awareness, and that scriptural angle. I often poke at myself: my persistent soft belly, evaluating how I’m doing as a parent, how much my calm is damaged in peak hour traffic, if my anxiety or depression needs professional help, which fictional character I’d most like to be… it’s all part of what I consider and try to be regularly aware of. The same with scripture study – I try to liken the scriptures to myself, so that I’m the repentant prodigal son AND the oldest son AND the father waiting and watching the road… but I had never considered being the bad guy. Not the “before” guy, the ignorant, the uncaring. At least, not unknowingly.
I’ve actively and repeatedly daydreamed about breaking specific people’s noses, about egging houses, about telling individuals exactly what I think of them and their behaviour – all of which are not hero or even remotely praiseworthy activities. I subscribe more to the “Turn your other cheek so I can punch that one too” unorthodox, explosive and hotheaded school of forgiveness, and am in no way close to graduating to the holier and devout schools of practicing forgiveness I hope to one day attend. But me, the one with raw knuckles and a thickly sticky blade, walking away from my actions, leaving blood and injury to feed the dirt? Me, the harlot? Me, throwing women and children onto the fire because of their faith – or me standing there not doing anything to stop it?
The thought that I’m just as likely the bad guy hasn’t sat comfortably with me at all, and I’m kind of glad it’s giving me hell. I don’t believe that having faith is easy – at times having faith is the most appallingly difficult action and actively exhausting state of being I’ve survived, and not even relatively intact. But I want to exercise my faith, and if that means wrestling with God’s angels and my own personal demons so be it. I’m trying to live in a way that I can say to myself “I did what I could” or “I did my best” or “I didn’t say/do what I really, really wanted to because I know that would have been wrong” and have that be the combined repentant pound of flesh and willing sacrifice. That unfortunately doesn’t equate with being comfortable though. For me it often involves stepping outside my usual orbit, or being opened to ideas from the sky or my inbox, from my friends and from people I’ve never met:
“Women with horrible reputations made lavish, unreasonable demonstrations of their love for Jesus, and it didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest when religious leaders smirked and wondered how it was that these women came to love Jesus so much. If he were around today, I’m convinced the story of the Good Samaritan would be the story of the Good Muslim, or the Good Lesbian, if indeed the audience he was speaking to were good Evangelicals like me and my friends.” – Steve Weins, in this post.
I liken the scriptures to myself, and I liken characters and songs and others to myself too. I may not have definite opinions on the motivations or goodness of some people (Nephi of 1st Nephi fame for example, or Snape) but there are also those I would like to become like (Caleb of Old Testament, or Captain Malcolm Reynolds). And if it means that I take to heart the words of a fictional sociopath, or an evangelical preacher, and become more Christlike in my intent and life, then I’m going to add Netflix to the things I’m grateful for.
Do you ever see yourself as the “bad guy” in your life? Has something unexpected given you spiritual knowledge, maybe via a spiritual black eye/belly ache? Are the motivations behind actions in the scriptures or movies/books you read/watch relevant to what you feel or think about the story/lesson/situation? Was Snape a good guy? Was Nephi? How do you liken the scriptures to yourself personally? Are you open to spiritual discussion or questions coming from different sources?