Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Theology of 24 - Jack Bauer Justice

"The only blood on my hands is YOURS!" Jack growled just before he launched the woman terrorist out a several story window to her death.

That's probably the most "Jack Bauer" a moment so far in the new mini-series. Up till then, he's seemed to be almost "shoot second" kind of guy with a good, thick layer of bitterness. After all, he's a man who has taken extreme measures to ensure the safety of millions of people on at least 9 different days so far.

I'm sure that when he said that, and did that, many fans of the show cheered him on. And that's where I'm coming from on the whole "theology" part.

The show depicts a man who, in the first "day" suffers the abduction of his daughter, the rape and eventual death of his wife and the child she was carrying (unbeknownst to him until the last few hours of the day). From that point on, having suffered greatly at the hands of the evil in this world, Jack consistently finds himself drawn into situations where millions of other people's lives hang on whether or not he can stop the evil plot that has been set in motion. Of course, while motivations are seldom mentioned by the rugged hero, it's pretty obvious that he's driven by the hatred of the evil that would seek to destroy goodness in this world, a goodness that he's left behind him forever.

It's nothing new to say that when a story lights upon an eternal principal, it tends to resonate well within our culture. 24 is no different. We get a hero who will sacrifice his life, even descend to horrible levels to save millions of lives. While he breaks laws (and fingers, kneecaps and skulls) he's fully ready to accept the just penalty for his crimes. In other words, he doesn't ever justify the means by the end. He understands the evil he takes on, its consequence and is ready to pay up.

As the series moves along, he tends to have others absolve him of his "methods," until the 7th day, when he's called before a congressional committee to answer for his crimes. Needless to say, he doesn't do any time that day, because yet another threat emerges and his heroics are needed.

The next time, however, he's on the run and he ends up a nomad, fleeing from every government on the planet, an outcast.

That's where the miniseries finds him. Throughout, he's a wanted man for his violence and murder.

Despite needing to face prison if he lives, Jack is determined to save lives, ready to die for the world and pay the price for all he's done.

As with most superheroes, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to note that Jack Bauer has some Christ-like characteristics. Dark ones, but they're there.

Most notably, his willingness to die in his effort to save millions of people who are about to die from an evil of which they're not even aware. His humility in not ever wanting credit for what he's done. Now here's the stretch -- the way he takes on evil (in his methods) to save the people and is willing to suffer the penalty for that evil in the process of saving them. In effect, Jack is crucified each day, sometimes literally being killed and brought back to life, whipped, stabbed in the side, etc.

The last thing, which indicates a rather dark, but Biblical world view is the issue of justice. Jack understands the law and understands that evil requires cold, hard justice. Everyone will eventually agree that, despite Jack's methods, his results are perfect. He may become ugly, descend to levels no one else would, but he puts and end to evil, saving lives. The only blood on his hands is that of the guilty.

That said, Jack is not Christ. Most notably because he uses the "weapons of the enemy" so to speak, in order to defeat evil. Christ became the sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God against our sinfulness. Jack, essentially, incurs a just penalty with his actions, crucifying himself in the process in order to stop the evil (for the day) and save people (for the time being, and sometimes only some of the people--since he loses his wife, his family, eventually, friends, etc.). So, it's not a perfect analogy. They never are.

But what strikes me the most is the issue of justice. We have an ideal that states that evil will pay a price. Evil deserves no trial by jury. Evil should be gutted and/or thrown from the top of a building. Instinctively, we know this. We root on the hero that blows these fictional bad guys away.

The theology there is that God is going to return to this planet one day. And he'll be the righteous avenger of His holiness and his perfect creation that our rebellion spoiled. All the wickedness that we've ramped up over the millennia will be ripe for His judgment and due every ounce of His wrath.

The only salvation is to admit that we're all hopeless. We cannot pay off this debt. We won't be able to plead for Him not to throw us off that building, as it were. We'll get it down to the last drop of the hatred that God has for evil. The time for mercy will be over.

The time is now. Just like the villains on 24, they have time to turn back, turn themselves in and admit what they are: terrorists. But when Jack gets to them, that time is over.

For us, in the real world, we can "turn ourselves in" by going to Christ and accepting His payment and, in exchange, accept His Lordship over our lives. If you haven't done so, do it today. 

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