Faith & Fandom
Suicide Squad: Heathens
When the marketing for the Suicide Squad movie was in full swing, they began using the tagline, "Worst Heroes Ever." While the tagline is tongue in cheek, especially since this was the first feature length film about super villains, it really holds some truth. They were bad guys doing "good" or goodish, regardless of their motivation. They weren't the heroes; they were villains doing good. One of the thing I love about the squad in any version, not just the movie, is that they all know they are bad guys. They don't have delusions of grandeur or think they are misunderstood. They know they are screwed up. All the heroes think they are heroes, even if in a vain of fake humility they deny it. The worst/best villains think they are heroes, too, for that matter. But usually the people that comprise Task Force X are comfortable with the notion they are the bad guy.
I think that's something we could use a dose of. Let's be super honest with ourselves. We think we're the hero, right? Maybe not a superhero or anything, but if our life was a story (which it is), we see ourselves as the hero of that story. Maybe we just see ourselves as the good guy, and whoever is against us is automatically the bad guy. Especially in faith communities, we can do this in a frightening manner. We get the attitude that we are right, so everyone else is wrong, and that makes us the hero and them the bad guys. (For the record, I believe the Bible to be true and I believe Jesus is the way to salvation, and that God is the only God). I may believe that my faith is right, but I don't think going at anyone like they are the villain of the story is ever going to be beneficial.
I think we need to come to grips with something. We are the worst heroes ever. In reality, we aren't heroes. We are villains. We may do good in this world and live in some fashion of obedience. We may do things that please God, but it's only because of what He has done. We doing good doesn't make us heroes. It just shows that, like the Suicide Squad, the bad guys can do good in the right situation.
Before you potentially get angry with me and think I'm knocking anyone, hear me out or, more importantly, hear scripture out.
1. Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
2. Romans 3:10-12: "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'”
For us to think we are the heroes of this world is a bit delusional. For us to think we are better than anyone at all is misguided. We are all in the same broken place. Thankfully, we have someone who is better and enabling and guiding us than Amanda Waller. When Waller takes her broken bunch of bad guys, she threatens them, belittles them, and blackmails them into doing her will. There are plenty of villains through their history who, like Slipknot, ended up with their heads blowing up because they failed or crossed the line. Thankfully, when God calls us and uses us, He isn't interested in forcing us into situations or threatening us. He is interested in helping us become who He has called us to be.
Check out John 15:5-11: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
One of the parts of this scripture that stands out to me the most is this, "apart from me you can do nothing." This isn't to insult us or make us feel like we aren't good enough. I think it is to make us aware. We aren't the self-sufficient heroes of the world. We aren't the best God has to offer. We are simply people that, when we remain in a close relationship with God, can accomplish far more than we ever could on our own. One of the biggest problems for people who serve Jesus is when we think we can do it on our own. We get into routine of serving, or we do the work of God and stop relying on Him. We do it in our own strength and we end up burned out, not just in service, but in our relationship with God. Every time Amanda Waller held up her little head exploding app on her phone, she was telling the squad "I control you." God, on the other hand, is calling out to us that everything we need can be found in Him, but without Him we are just going to be in constant struggle. God wants us to be in Him and to be in relationship with Him. He also wants us to live lives that bear fruit. Do you honestly think Amanda Waller cares about the well being of the people she uses? Absolutely not! But God does. God wants us to have the fullest and most powerful life possible, regardless of how far we have fallen. He actually cares if our life has joy and is fulfilling.
In Waller’s crew, motivation is simple. Convicts are working towards various goals and rewards when they do their virtually impossible tasks. Time off of prison sentences, provision for their families, clean slates, cash, whatever it is — they have something they are working towards. Most everyone has a price or a button that can be pushed. Waller specializes in doing that, as she said, "Because getting people to act against their own self-interest for the national security of the United States is what I do for a living." On our end though, when we are doing the things that God calls us to or when challenges arise, it's not to earn something for ourselves or to gain some special favor from Him. He isn't trying to be manipulative or vindictive towards us. He is putting us through things so we can become who we were created to be. Look at this passage in James 1:2-4:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The difficult and sometimes even seemingly impossible tasks we go through are what helps us to become complete. In the Squad, things get a little bit easier when you complete your mission, like Harley's espresso machine, or Croc's B.E.T. But sometimes when we succeed in God, things get even harder because He isn't interested in just making us comfortable. He wants us to be fruitful. John writes, ”He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2). We should be glad when things are seemingly difficult or are more than we can handle because it's a reminder that those times God specifically is working to shape us into far more than we could ever be on our own. Unlike Waller, God actually has our best interest in mind in the face of hardship.
While the majority of the team made it out of the movie unscathed, the body count of Suicide Squad members does reinforce that going into this team drastically increases your likelihood of death. Out of the dozens of squad members to file through the ranks, over 35 different squadies have died in the line of duty. To be fair, most of these characters are D-Q list villains you've never heard of, but they still died. Pretty much any time a situation starts with a bomb implanted into your neck, you should be aware of the concept that death is an option. We may not get explosives, but there is definitely a level of death and sacrifice that should be equally understood while walking the life of a believer in Christ.
The organization CFI: Christian Freedom International reports that a Christian is martyred every 5 minutes. That means that roughly 288 Christians die for their faith a day. That's astonishing to me. While this may be the daily reality in many parts of the world, the probability is that you sitting here reading this will not be martyred. Even though we may not have our lives taken from us, we are still called to lay our lives down. Quite often, when we hear people being told of Jesus, we hear about the warm fuzzy altar call. Jesus does love us, He does want our cares, He does want our anxiety, and He does want to give us peace and abundant life. He wants all of those for us, but He paints a harder picture when He calls out to His disciples.
"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" (Luke 9:23- 25)
Jesus goes even harder in Matthew where He clearly shows us what we should expect that following Him could cost us everything.
“For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:35-39)
Jesus may give us a task that sounds like something coming from Amanda Waller, but He understands what sacrifice means. He knows what it means to love and obey to the point of pain and death. He also isn't calling for us to suffer blindly or to lay down our lives for nothing. A few chapters later in Matthew, Jesus gives us this assurance.
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." - Matthew 19:29-30
Amanda Waller's pitch for a Task Force X project was rightly questioned by the government. The notion of calling on the bad guys to do the work of heroes sounds crazy. It may have been a lot easier for the government to fund and back a team of second rate heroes and give them upgraded gear or publicity, but Waller knew she wanted the worst. She wanted the ones she knew would be willing to die. She wanted the ones who had already been humbled. She wanted the ones that she could throw under the bus at any given moment. She wanted them because she could manipulate them.
On our end, Jesus wants the worst, but for different reasons. Jesus wants the worst because He loves us. He knows that our sin, our mistakes, our failures, and our disobedience don't disqualify us from His service or His Kingdom. Look at Paul's grasp of this concept in 1 Timothy.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:12-16)
Paul knew full well that he belonged on the Suicide Squad, not the Justice League. He knew he had been a murdering villain to the world of faith, but He knew this didn’t stop Jesus. Even though Paul had been like the Deathstroke of Jerusalem, Jesus knew saving and using the biggest villain the Christian faith had seen at the point would only go to show how powerful God's mercy could be and what His love could accomplish.
Let me encourage you: the next time you see someone that looks like they are beyond God's love and grace, don't write them off. God is in the business of using the "Bad Guys" to do good. If you have ever felt like you aren't good enough to be used by God, you're right. However, none of us are, which is why it is so beautiful. Encourage others to God no matter how far away they are, never think you are better than someone because you are further in your journey, and never discount yourself to think you can't be used. So dear heathens, take it slow.