Sunday, February 27, 2011

He-Man and the Sermon on the Mount

Sunday morning, I had the privilege of introducing my son to my favorite childhood hero, He-Man.  The introduction came via Hulu and when scrolling the episodes, I recognized what was my favorite episode as a child, "Dawn of Dragoon."  As a kid, it was my favorite episode because He-Man risked his life to save the bad guy. 

While trying to throw He-Man down the "bottomless pit of Tatoon", Dragoon is actually pulled over the edge and into the abyss.  Fortuitously for him, however, he's caught on a ledge.  In response to his calls for help, He-Man slides down to the ledge and then pulls Dragoon back up to safety.  Of all the He-Man episodes I watched as a child, that's the one scene that I remember.  It made quite an impression on me. 

Watching that episode 27 years later, however, the dialogue after that event (and believe me, He-Man has some lame dialogue) hit home with me in a new way. 

Dragoon:  “I don’t understand. You risked your life to save me? I wouldn’t have done that for you."
He-Man:  "That’s how we’re different. I believe in saving lives."
Dragoon:  "Even your enemies?"
He-Man:  "I may be your enemy, but you’re not mine."
Dragoon:  "Maybe I’ve been wrong. Maybe saving lives is better."

All the reading I do from authors who take seriously Matthew 5:38-48 believe that one of the (many) reasons Jesus doesn't want his creation to kill is because it simply perpetuates evil.  One can see in history that when a group of revolutionaries use violence to overthrow a regime, the new regime set up by the revolutionaries often becomes as, or even more, violent than the previous regime.  While a forced lack of conflict (peace through superior firepower) can exist for awhile, it's not a real peace.  Violence simply begets more violence.  To take someone's life sends them into eternity, rather than giving them the chance to chance through a self-sacrificial love - the love Jesus showed for his enemies on Calvary. 

But loving one's enemies opens up the possibility of them being transformed.  While it's certainly likely the act of love may cost the Christian their physical life, it introduces their enemy to the love of Jesus.  And the love of Jesus is what our enemies need to encounter.  The sword leads to more bloodshed.  The cross leads to transformation.

What's also so interesting about this He-Man episode is that it counters the prevalence of the Myth of Redemptive Violence found in most kids' cartoons that feature good-guys and bad-guys, as pointed out by Walter Wink in The Powers that Be.

Matthew 5:38-48
38 "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'*39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,* carry it two miles.42 Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow.
43 "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor'* and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies!* Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends,* how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.