Early on in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes (who works in Gotham's District Attorney’s Office) are discussing Joe Chill, the man who shot and killed Bruce's parents and who was just killed in front of them as he walked out of a courtroom after being freed by a judge. As Rachel drives them away from the scene, Rachel tells Bruce that Falcone, one of Gotham’s biggest crime bosses, orchestrated it all to get Chill into the open to kill him.I really like this scene from Batman Begins for a couple of reasons. First, it hints at a more biblical and holistic definition of justice. Justice is often perceived as doing what can be done to right or punish a wrong, an evening of the scales. But associating justice with a word like harmony presents a forward-moving aspect to the term. It gives an inkling of the healing, reconciliation and life-giving nature of justice—and that has something to say to us when we consider Jesus actions on the cross. One aspect of atonement we often discuss is the satisfaction of God’s need for justice, and that broadens when we think of justice not simply as a transaction but in terms of healing, bringing together and restoring the way things are meant to be.
Bruce: Maybe I should be thanking them.
Rachel: You don’t mean that.
Bruce: What if I do, Rachel? My parents deserved justice.
Rachel: You’re not talking about justice. You’re talking about revenge.
Bruce: Sometimes they’re the same.
Rachel (emphatically): No, they’re never the same, Bruce. Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about making yourself feel better. Which is why we have an impartial system.
Bruce: Well, your system is broken.
She swerves the car and drives down an off-ramp to the underbelly of the city.
Rachel (as she drives past slum like conditions): You care about justice? Look beyond your own pain, Bruce. This city is rotting. They talk about the Depression as if it’s history, and it’s not. Things are worse than ever down here. Falcone floods our streets with crime and drugs, preying on the desperate, creating new Joe Chills every day. Falcone may not have killed your parents, Bruce, but he’s destroying everything that they stood for.
She stops the car in front of a building guarded by two suited thugs.
Rachel: You want to thank him for that? Here you go. We all know where to find him. But as long as he keeps the bad people rich and the good people scared, no one will touch him. Good people like your parents, who will stand against injustice, they’re gone. What chance does Gotham have when good people do nothing?
But another reason I like this scene is because Rachel confronts Bruce with the personal responsibility—one that operates in cooperation with others, in a community—that comes with bringing about a world that operates justly and rightly. She shows Bruce the effects of inaction and challenges him to pick up where his parents left off—not only stemming evil but also bringing life, help and aid where there is none. And that issues a challenge that we all need to heed. When we accept Jesus’ gift of life, we are also issued into God’s work in the world—actions of restoration, redemption and life-giving.
This scene brings a lot of God-talk into open spaces—and that makes it one of my favorite movie moments.
(Image: Warner Bros)