If Batman is about to become the C.S. Lewis of crime-fighting due to the crisis of faith evinced, that plotline isn’t evident in Issue 53.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find support for all your positions in every bit of pop culture that comes around. Such is the case with the latest issue of Batman, in which, the Internet tells us, we discover that Batman is an atheist.
Case closed, and we didn’t even have to read past page two! Given that Batman was most likely Episcopalian prior to leaving the faith, that’s fitting. As the joke goes, you know an Episcopalian is serious when he gets out the Bible. That is why I, an Episcopalian in good standing, didn’t get out my Bible, but did actually read the issue. (It’s much shorter than the Bible, for starters, so it didn’t interfere too much with my Sunday.)
In it, we find that Batman—that is, Bruce Wayne—definitely doesn’t subscribe to any faith tradition, although he did spend time wandering around, vaguely looking for transcendence and flirting with Buddhism. Instead of faith, he found the bat, which became his faith.
That’s a little more interdenominational than the Episcopal Church normally is, but it probably fits in the small-c catholic tradition. Also, he doesn’t go to church. In other words, whatever he wants to claim, Batman is still an Episcopalian.
The Case for Batman Being an Episcopalian
On the other, other hand, there is the passage from the Bible about being as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove, so maybe Batman fits right in. That’s pretty deep in, however. One has to read all the way into the New Testament—the book of Matthew, to be precise—so it can be forgiven if the other parishioners weren’t aware of that particular admonition.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If Batman is about to become the C.S. Lewis of crime-fighting due to the crisis of faith evinced, that plotline isn’t evident in Issue 53. What is evident, however, is that while that crisis is central to the issue, reducing it to “Batman’s an atheist” is a superheroically simplistic reading.
Instead, we see that Wayne has stopped believing in Batman, in himself. He’s lost touch with his roots, the ones planted when he chose a life of fighting crime. Batman went too far in apprehending Freeze and found his way onto Freeze’s jury—as Bruce Wayne, of course—to ensure Freeze would be found not guilty. He didn’t do so because Freeze was innocent, but because Freeze still deserved justice, which Batman had not afforded him.
The Sins of Pride, Idols, and Probably More
That was Wayne’s crisis of faith. He exalted himself before all others; he even prayed to himself. Then, suddenly, he was no longer there. The spirit abandoned the son, leaving him to wander Gotham as before, but without the belief.
“He does not provide solace from pain. He cannot give you hope for the eternal,” Wayne continues, in his attempt to convince the other jurors. “He cannot comfort you for the love you lost. God blesses your soul with grace. Batman punches people in the face.” (So maybe that C.S. Lewis-style conversion and crossover is possible still.)
Except that’s not how it ends, either. To suggest so would be a projection not based on the text too heavy a lift for even an Episcopalian. No, Wayne isn’t getting ready to get up on Sunday morning and head to his local parish, any more than the issue “confirms” that he’s an atheist. His crisis is in himself.
Read it all at the Federalist