Book Review: God on the Streets of Gotham

The caped crusader stopped thrilling me. After so many Batman movies, one wonders why movie producers aren’t utilizing the many original novels out there instead. God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay gives Batman a different spin.

Batman has fascinated many since its inception in the DC Comics. Paul explores the similarities between Batman and Christ. Paul isn’t saying Batman was ever a believer, but he dissects Batman and Batman’s famous villains. The villains are a bit like us. Paul looks at Two-Face and how he went from the savior of a city, good, district attorney, Harvey Dent, to a disillusioned bad guy with one half of his face burned beyond recognition. Harvey or Two-Face mourned Rachel Dawes loss when Batman in one episode was forced to choose who to save. He also explored the Joker and Bane. Paul referred to Batman’s purpose as a calling.

“There are very few things that would compel a sane man to tackle the evil lurking in Gotham’s mean streets at the rise of every moon. Radical, unflappable submission to a cause is the most rational and reasonable among them. Batman didn’t just submit to his ideals, to his calling, in the mountains of Nepal. Every day he renews his commitment, and every night he submits again—even at the risk of discovery, injury, and death.” (pg. 92)

I especially liked this chapter. Paul spends a lot of time on dissecting Batman’s purpose as a calling. It reminded me of my calling and how often it can be discouraging. Sometimes, you wonder if you make any difference at all? Paul talks about how Batman suffered doubt, too. In these chapters, we read of Paul’s childhood or snippets of real life examples as he compares a fictional character to Christ and other biblical characters. He explores the evil in Gotham, comparing them to our own sinful struggles. This book puts Batman in a different light; one that I hadn’t even thought of, nor did I realize how deeply those Batman stories dwelt into humanity, inferring Christian roots, but not declaring them.

When my nephew saw this book, he wanted to borrow it. The fact that Paul brings in a popular superhero to discuss deep theology is a clever way to bring in this generation while helping them to understand God, evil, and tough biblical questions. Batman had to make some tough, not so clear choices in his stories, and in life we often find ourselves in plots with no clear endings or easy choices. With a new appreciation for the masked crusader, the Dark Knight, I now see these movies from a different angle. Batman had no super powers. He had friends and the realization he couldn’t do it alone.

Paul brings humor to cut through the deep stuff. Batman had to rely on his friends and his wit in order to survive the evil that lurked in Gotham. Friends kept him accountable, Paul points out in one chapter. Lucius agreed to help Batman/Bruce Wayne in order to get him his own money from his company, but Lucius would tell him if Batman/Bruce Wayne crossed over a line into darkness Lucius would quit. To quote Paul, we need people who will keep us accountable and drag us back into the sunlight. Evil isn’t always obvious and it’s the small steps from the sunlight into the darkness that change us for the worse. Evil isn’t going to invite you to murder someone right away; evil will first ask you to do something small and trivial in a dishonest way. It could be bad thoughts that lead you away from the sunlight into doing something you can’t take back.

God on the Streets of Gotham left me wanting to read more. It’s encouragement in a dark cape and cowl, fighting an evil and discouragement that dresses up as Scarecrow, Two Face, Bane, and dyes its hair Granny Smith apple green. I gave it five stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.