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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

justice monster


recently i was introduced by my son to a really interesting TV show called 'dexter.' after viewing a couple episodes rented from the local blockbuster, i was kinda hooked.

the show is not what one would expect, given the title. this is a superhero show for a new millennium, telling the story of a serial killer named dexter morgan who does forensic work for miami PD, always on the scene but too close to the action to be that cool about it- something's a bit off. in a rather wild spin on clark kent's work in the newsroom, peter parker's photography or bruce wayne's direct line to the police, dexter works for the police in order to know where he can serve humanity. see, in order to satisfy his bloodlustful urges and still somehow be able to sleep at night, dexter morgan only kills other serial killers.

the obvious hypocrisy aside, this is an attempt at redemption. the guy recognizes that being a sociopathological murder machine is clearly antisocial, and struggles to understand himself and his secrets before he makes that one mistake that will ultimately lead to their exposure. dexter races against time and circumstance, making breakthrough after pyschological breakthrough, moving evermore towards becoming human, all the while taking what he feels is the moral high road and restricting his murderous appetites to those who 'deserve to die' (IE: those who prey upon the innocent, rather than the guilty.)

but what about us? this is a fictional character that we as a culture have created for our own entertainment, yet it is one who looks suspiciously like ourselves. we have this understanding of right and wrong and are able to discern between the two most of the time- at least in our actions. under the surface, however, we sometimes judge people unreasonably and subject them to harsh scrutiny, violence and humiliations galore within our heart of hearts. occasionally, we even share these negative perspectives with others, and in so doing, pollute them with the same toxins that are burning holes into our own ability to love and offer grace, help and support.

could it be that we create characters like dexter morgan as projections of what we wish we were cold enough to be for real sometimes? have we taken the whole superhero thing to startling new vigilantic heights, nobilizing sociopathy by creating a new type of superhero- a justice monster that needs no help in taking out the trash?

as we vicariously commit murder after murder, allowing ourselves to be entertained by the darkness that requires carnal satisfaction in the name of justice, Jesus' words in his famous sermon on the mount pose a challenge to us:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

in this small portion of Jesus' greatest oration, he acknowledges that murder is the ultimate outcome of something more subtle but nonetheless antisocial- the ability that human beings have to measure and evaluate each other, finding others lacking in worth. it is at the centre of our greatest crimes against one another and against God. perhaps if we could just stop deeming others 'unworthy' of blessing, favour, love, life and dignity (often because they fail where we fail) and see their inherent value, we wouldn't need to work out our issues by creating stories where killing others, rather than acting justly, even heroically on behalf of those in moral need is the solution.

i wonder what we'd watch on TV then...
or if we'd even have the time or interest to bother with it?