I've just returned from watching the latest installment of the DC Cinematic Universe. It was a roller-coaster of a movie; alternating between gut-wrenching realism of the horror of the First World War, tears of joy, of sadness and giggling. Yes, actual humour - oh, and colour- in a DC movie. That's a first. But I digress.I actually left the Cinema wondering whether the writer was a Unitarian or a Quaker from what it had to say about war and humanity. It is a movie with a philosophy. It raises questions over the automatic trust we put on our 'heros'; the way we glorify war and dehumanize our villains.
The movie follows Diana, Princess of Themyscira as she encounters the world of Men/Man. In the movie, the God Zeus created the world and populated with humanity in his image. Humanity was noble, loving and kind (so not the hoary of Zeus of Greek myth then....) but Ares (God of War) sees humanity and is jealous. He inflicts upon humanity greed, jealous, spite, hate, causing war and violence. It's a fall from grace moment. Not through eating of the tree of knowledge, but a fall due to violence, greed, hate. The Rev. Edward Higginson, Minister at the Unitarian Chapel on Westgate, in Wakefield during the mid nineteenth century wrote that 'Original Sin' - if indeed there is such a thing - was not sex, nor knowledge. It was violence. Sin entered the world, he mused, not when Eve bit into the apple, but when Cain slew Abel. The first act of violence, of hatred, was the first sin. And has tainted humanity ever since.
In the movies mythology, Ares rebels and kills all the other gods and wages war Zeus created the Amazons to fight Ares, to protect humanity and the earth. With his dying breath, he creates Thermyscia and hides it away from the world of men, waiting until needed...
As a youth Diana learns important lessons about war; Altho' it is their Sacred Duty to defend the World from Ares, Hippolyta (Diana's mother) tells her daughter (who is more than little bit too interestd in war and weaspons) "War is nothing to hope for". Moreover, "Fighting doesn't make you a hero."
Diana is plunged into the midst of the First World War, that war 'To End all Wars.' A war she believes is inspired by Ares and is determined to rid the world of Ares and therefore war. But it's not that simple. Nothing ever is.
Diana wrestles with her own morality. She believes in killing Ares she will end war. But after killing a chemically-enhanced-DC-Movie version of General Eric von Ludendorf, there is no peace. The warlord is dead the but fighting continues. Shock reveal! The British politician who was arguing for an armistice was Ares all along, urging on all sides, 'whispering into the ear' of generals, scientists and politicians, creating ever more terrible weapons to 'win the war' and decimate humanity.
You see, Ares ( like many Christians do) see humanity as irrevocably broken. As a fallen race, as damaged, full of darkness. Surrounded by the horror of the Western Front in 1918 even Diana admits he's right
"I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer
you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learnt this the
hard way ..."
Diana experiences the limits of her own understanding of justice—a
simple desire to set things “right” in the world—and discovers that the
“good guys” are not always good and that darkness and light co-exist in mankind. Although Diana sees that corruption, she still believes that humanity deserves a chance.
Yes, the world can be an ugly place. A terrifying place. The recent events in Manchester and London show us that. Perhaps humanity is broken, filled with darkness and needs wiping off the face of the planet.
But Diana has seen the other side of humanity. Predictably she's fallen in love with the male lead Captain Steve 'Above average actually' Trevor. Whilst she has seen the ugly side of humanity, has seen and experienced the darkness, she has seen something Ares has not: Love. The light of love. That of God in humanity. Or, if you prefer, that of Good in humanity.
She sees love in all its facets: in human relationship, in friendship, comradeship and sacrifice. It's in the moment of the sacrificial death of Trevor that Diana realises the power of love. That love is the most powerful force in the Universe.
It's about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world."
It's about what you believe and she, like me, and many others, believe in Love. There's been worse battle cries ("Truth! Freedom!Justice and a hard-boiled egg").
Whether you see humanity as broken, irrevocably damaged or not - or somewhere grubby in between - is about perception. Humanity is capable of great beauty, of great joy, and great evil. Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Stalin and Suicide Bombers are all part of the same human family. And, as Diana learns, you can't out-source evil, you can't shrug off the evil in men's hearts to an external being. Be it the devil, doctrine or Ares. Diana expected the war to end when Ares died. It didn't because humanity is damaged, in some respects broken. Humanity is messy. The answer wasn't so simple. We cannot wash out collective hands, like so many Pontius Pilates, of all those dark spaces in humanity, of all those terrible things we have done. We have to take ownership of them.
If, like Ares, you want to see humanity as fallen, as evil as broken then you'll
see the darkness. That will be all you can see. But if you see
the light, humanity is not broken, far from broken because of Love. But more than that: Love wins out.The light wins out. Love is stronger than
hate. Love is stronger than death.
Love is about the self, friends, family and is sacrificial. And all those other things St Paul wrote about it (patient, kind etc etc) It is the most powerful force in the universe. Diana's final
battle cry which brings down evil
"You get what you believe, and I believe in Love. Only Love can
truly save the world"
is mine also.
If you experience the world as broken and unlovely you will only see the darkness.
But if you experience the world as ok a bit grubby but lovely, you will see that light and the love. You will be that love.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth
not God; for God is love.