THE new movie this weekend, Suicide Squad, is another comic book adaptation. Rarely have I been this excited about a comic book movie. The source material represents the best mainstream comics have produced for quite a while. The movie tried very hard to capture that and did so in some ways, but does not measure up to the comic book. Both are a story about coming this close to finding true redemption. For the most part, and predictably, that angle is hard to find among the typical action film debris – but it drives the story forward and is worthy of some comment. I will try and make this spoiler free, but warnings nonetheless.
The premise of the story is simple enough. A ruthless and heartless government operative takes the worst of the worst super villains in the prison system, injects nano-bombs in their neck so she can control them and then sends them out to do good missions. The villains are of course incredibly cynical about the entire enterprise and do not give it much effort until they discover they were chosen not so much for their abilities as their expend-ability. Then, out of pride, they decide to show our ruthless and heartless government operative just who they are and we begin to discover their humanity. However, no matter how much good they do, our ruthless and heartless government operative always pulls the rug out from under them. Sure, they gain little perks from time-to-time, but true redemption forever eludes them.
If you think about it, that is a perfect metaphor for how most people think things work with God. They think of God as the ruthless and heartless government agent, operating through coercion and never truly rewarding. But when people think about God that way, they miss an essential part of the story. Working out of pride to show yourself worthy may help you discover your humanity, but it is not until you understand that your humanity is deeply flawed, and confess that flawed nature, that you can find true redemption. It is not the ruthless and heartless government agent that prevents them from finding redemption, it is their own pride. That pride lets the agent know that once released from their coercion, they will return to their villainous ways.
The various members of the Squad represent different approaches to and stages of finding redemption. To say much more than that is to wander into serious spoiler territory, so I have to stop now.
Great comic books generally borrow from far more established literature and Suicide Squad is no exception. It is a completely redressed and expanded telling of the Dostoevsky classic Crime and Punishment. In the Russian novel Raskolnikov finds redemption. In Suicide Squad, each character represents a path that Raskolnikov could have taken that does not quite achieve redemption. Crime and Punishment is a classic Christian tale – Suicide Squad is a fine representation of where our world so often misses the Christian message. In Suicide Squad each character, with one possible exception not fully explored, is so busy finding and proclaiming themselves that they fail to simply say how wrong they were and allow themselves to be fixed – thus redemption eludes them.
The Christian understands that redemption lies not in our worth or our capability, but in our confession of our lack of worth and our lack of capability.
Our redemption lies in the fact that we have God’s love in spite of our lackings. It is only when we discover our lack of worth and capability that we discover just how deep the love of God really is. Our redemption comes from God, not our own efforts.
Like the Suicide Squad, the nation today seems to be in search of redemption but is constantly coming just this close and falling back. That’s what happens when you remove our loving and benevolent God from the equation. That’s what made the Suicide Squad comics so good, they were such a perfect reflection of the frustration and futility that permeates our current culture.
Is this not the perfect time for God’s church to stand up and offer the true redemption that only God can provide?