Thursday, April 4, 2024

Spies, Batman, and the free will of man?


Although I've watched every episode of old Adam West Batman TV show, I never really tried to watch the Man From UNCLE. I picked up the book hoping for a bit of mindless 60's mod fun and the book did deliver in that way. However, I was a bit surprised at the pokes the book took at how we view good vs evil.

no surprise, the book is filled with Batman's TV criminals, but happy surprise, most of them were very low tier. Most I hadn't even remembered (I'm thinking of you, "Cossack Queen." 

To be fair, the Penguin and Mr. Freeze do appear in the book, and both Poison Ivy and Scarecrow are on hand, even though I'm pretty sure neither of them were on the old TV show, so yeah, it's a full gallery of rouges along with the secret organization of bad guys, THRUSH. What, you didn't think we could have team-up without both parties bringing their own set of bad guys did you?

While the book is full of typical punching and shooting and ducking and kicking, it also leads us to very unusual spy base under the sea. It's not the 'under the sea' part that I find intriguing, it's the use of the space to create an atmosphere of creative effort that could ultimately save the planet and reform us of our worst behaviors. That's right...

The 'big bad' of this book has altruistic plans that are flawed by the whole free will thing. If the (unnamed here) big bad can just manipulate, pay off, and brainwash everyone on the planet, he can save us from the climate crisis, mass shootings by psychopaths, maybe even the hunger and war caused by greedy corporate interests... 

...If he can just get us past that whole 'free will' thing.

And so, again we are asked if our free will is worth the pain we cause. Some of my Calvinist and neuroscientist friends mind even argue that we don't really have a free will, that the concept is flawed and we are simply controlled by God, our hormones, or our influencers. 

I've always thought the idea of God not allowing us to have free will was a bit abusive. Sure, I'd love it if I made better choices, and I would really love it if some of my friends who vote for abusive power-mongers would make better choices. But if I can't make choices, am I really a person? Can love and be loved if I'm incapable of making a choice?

So, at the end of day I'm left feeling a strong need to have, justify, and protect my personhood as defined by my poor choice-making ability. My bad choices hurt me and others, but they also define me. 

But shouldn't I want to 'think' more like Christ? 

Shouldn't I want to be just a shell that He can communicate though? 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that we have (present tense) the mind of Christ, but we still don't really know His thoughts. So, maybe God is more than just 60's spy villain who wants to brainwash us into being mindless robots with no free agency. Maybe that's part of the real wonder and power of God's love, maybe He can love us as we are, and help us to be better 'us' instead of better others.

So go ahead and holster your pocket-lasers for a bit, park the bat-submarine in a safe harbor, and maybe just reflect on a God so great that He can allow both free-will and still retain all power.

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