Mormon Batman

Keira Shae is the author of the phenomenal BCC Press megahit How the Light Gets In, a memoir of her early life in the dark underbelly of Provo, Utah. She will be Julie Rose’s guest on BYU Radio’s Top of Mind radio today at 2:00 PM Mountain Stadard Time. We present her essay “Mormon Batman” as a brief preview of the mature and reflective faith that you will find in her memoir. And because we love Mormons. And Batman.

 

Batman the vigilante is seen as both a hero and a criminal. To those who align with the law and revere the social structure in a unjust world, he is unpredictable and dangerous. To those who view the system as broken or favor less or no regulation, he is a corrective force–one that deals with crime and corruption in a way that the official entities cannot.

As my faith has matured and transformed, , I can see both sides. It is very difficult to place Batman on the scale.

He is obviously a fundamentally broken human being–his heart torn open from the deaths of his parents–and he (perhaps egotistically) believes he must “parent” and “save” the city of Gotham to correct its transgressions.

He uses his weaknesses as his strengths, and he pays the high cost of loving his people as well. Yet, he stands apart from his city.

He gives his money, time, skill, talents, and wisdom–all he has–to bettering his city. It often feels like bailing a rowboat with a teaspoon. The changes he seeks are slow to come, few and far between, and not always appreciated.

It is his principle of delivering his enemies into the system that tips the scale on my judgement of Batman. He has the ability to kill his enemies. He apprehends the perpetrator and leaves justice to the courts and law enforcement. Some would say his vigilantism proves that he has no faith in people nor his country, and they are partially right. I would argue that he obviously places some confidence in the systems in place by working alongside them.

I am certainly not the first to examine Bruce Wayne’s actions and motives, attempting to peg which side of the spectrum he is on. But my perspective has shifted as I contemplate my place within Mormonism as an agnostic, doubting, yet still engaged and loving member. To my stalwart friends and family, I seem unpredictable and dangerous, and that comes at a cost for all of us. To my friends and family who have left, I look a bit like a fake–a sell-out–by loving my Latter-day Saint people and history. The centrist rarely is appreciated.

Just like Batman, my ego often thinks I can correct the course. Just like Batman, it feels like the work is never-ending, but gives me purpose all the same. Just like Batman, I have created boundaries where I work alongside and not always within the structure. Just like Batman, my beliefs create isolation and sometimes distrust. Just like Batman, I still see the good here, and I long to strive with my people, and I love them deeply.

 

Comments

  1. You are not a tame Batman. Aslan would be proud :-)

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I too love Mormons. And Batman. Intriguing essay.

  3. Cheers to this post! Batman is a great character for exploring the reformers instinct. There are even different approaches to Batman that I think provide a fun picture of approaches to reform. There’s the Frank Miller Batman, who basically presents himself as a messiah figure tasked with saving the world from itself. Anyone who criticizes him is basically just a mutant who needs a good punch in the face. To FM’s Batman, all the “stalwarts” are like Superman, a bunch of goody two-shoes too naive to understand what’s truly needed. He saves the world in the end, but he’s also a huge jerk who causes a lot of other problems. There’s also the Denny O’Neil Batman. A savvy agent of reform with a big heart who relies on his brains as much as his brawn. He uses fear as a tactic on the corrupt, but avoids unnecessary collateral damage. He understands his villains on an emotional and intellectual level (sometimes he even sympathies with them!). He is also very well traveled. Christopher Nolan’s Batman is a more tragic reformer. He gets in way over his head and learns that upsetting the status quo, as bad as it might be, comes with a lot of unintended consequences. He learns some pretty harsh lessons about allowing things to get mixed up with one’s personal life (and the problems that come with delusions of grandeur and self-deceit). Finally, there’s Doug Moench’s Batman, who is a vampire.

    Anyway, anyone who finds a way to integrate Batman into their spiritual worldview has my vote. Best of luck navigating those tricky waters.

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    Thank you for this, Keira. Living between two worlds (and never fully belonging to either) is a common theme in the superhero genre, and is very appropriate for the journey you describe as well.

  5. I freaking love this. And I feel almost exactly the same–in that questionable middle ground. But now I can feel like Batman while navigating that space, and he is literally my favorite hero. Intriguing, indeed. Thank you!

  6. And ps. Buying your book now.

  7. Thanks for everyone’s comments. Batman is one of my favorites, too; I sure love the nuance. I am so happy to hear that you feel more empowered and positive in your relationship with the church when we envision being Batman. I’m certainly not alone and that feels better.

    And thanks for buying the book!

  8. You’ve articulated something I’ve felt for years now. Thank you! And now I have the added bonus of feeling like a superhero for sitting through another endless testimony meeting – though it was 10 minutes less endless today :)