Most people know about the Dark Knight’s beginnings. Little Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of his eyes and he was unable to stop them. Growing up, he trained with ninjas and eventually donned the cowl and became Batman. Now, he fights to rid Gotham City of crime and the supervillains who want control of it.
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman captures his arch-nemesis the Joker and returns him to the asylum. Joker gets free and with the help of other villains, he swiftly takes control of the asylum. As Batman makes his way around Arkham to recapture all of the free inmates, he runs into one of the most fearsome villains he’s ever faced: Dr. Stephen Crane, also known as Scarecrow.
To bring his victims to their knees, Scarecrow exposes them to a deadly airborne gas that affects their brain and causes hallucinations, usually involving their worst fears. Once exposed to the drug, he continually exposes them until it overwhelms them or they die from shock. He catches Batman off guard a total of three times, sending him into a downward spiral of madness.
Batman is forced to face his greatest fear: not being able to save his parents from death or any one else in need. In the first sequence, he finds his close friend Jim Gordon’s body. He was not able to get to Jim in time, it seems. Batman continues into a morgue and finds both his mother and father’s dead bodies. They both cry out to him, asking him why he was not able to save them. In a third body bag, Scarecrow pops out and exposes Batman to even more gas, sending him deeper into madness and careening him into Scarecrow’s world.
The Scarecrow scenes show Batman’s reality as he knows it destroyed, and he is forced to traverse platforms while hiding all throughout the level to escape Scarecrow’s piercing gaze. His goal is the bat signal, a beacon of hope not only for the city but seemingly for himself as well. Once Batman reaches the beacon, he aims it at the giant villain and wakes up from the nightmare.
This happens two more times, Batman foiling his adversary’s plan every time. At the end of the third time, Scarecrow is confused and flustered, claiming that Batman should be dead with the amount of toxin he has pumped into his blood. Batman gives no explanation because none is needed.
If you listen to Scarecrow’s interview tapes, the final tape contains a recording of Batman foiling the villain’s experiments with innocent people. A minor scuffle can be heard and Batman speaks to Scarecrow, telling him that he has developed an antidote and that the drug is now ineffective. Batman continues in a taunt, “How does that make you feel, Crane? Threatened? Humiliated? Scared?”
Batman clearly knows fear and knows how to navigate it well. But of course, this is fiction. How does this relate to us, normal human beings who were not trained by ninjas and are so fearful of every little thing that comes our way? Can we easily overcome fear the way Batman so heroically does?
One of the most powerful things in the world is fear. Fear renders us immobile and completely vulnerable. When overwhelmed with fear, at most, we are left powerless, often frozen out of indecisiveness and a failure of knowing how to react. Fear can bring any person to their knees, no matter how strong they think they are. Everyone can be affected—yes, even Christians are vulnerable to fear.
Scarecrow magnifies fear with a drug that messes with your head, making your worst fears real. If we buckle under the weight of hypothetical fears, imagine if those fears became a reality; we would be completely overwhelmed. How can we hope to resist?
Batman doesn’t do it alone. Despite him typically being a lone wolf, in order to overcome Scarecrow’s tactics, he is forced to use his ultimate weapon and rely on the basis of everything he does: hope. For him, the bat signal represents hope—hope for things to come and hope that someday things might be better. What drives Batman is the hope that he will one day be able to fix Gotham, even if it means sacrificing himself. Despite it killing his parents, Batman still cares about Gotham City and every single one of its inhabitants, which explains his conviction of not killing any of the criminals he captures.
What hope can we have? The same.
We can have hope for things to come and hope that things will be better. We can have hope that Jesus saves and he has already defeated the enemy. We can be confident in this hope, especially in the reminders and promises He makes to us throughout His Word. In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses reminds the Israelites that God will “never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Even in the darkest, most hopeless times, God is still near.
Again, in Isaiah 43:1, God tells his people, “Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” If we are God’s and He is omnipotent, what have we to fear? Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” We have something much greater than a bat signal. We have God himself as our strength!
It might sound weird, but one of the greatest weapons Batman has is not only hope, but love. Because he loves and cares for Gotham, he is willing to lay down his life for it. In 1 John 4:18, John writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” If we truly love Jesus like he first loved us, then we can easily overcome fear.
Interestingly enough, the phrase “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times—one for every day of the year. With all those times God tells us to not fear, how foolish it would be of us to give in to fear! And yet, we often forget the Lord, and fear comes and settles in and we fall to our knees, defeating ourselves in the process. For you see, fear is actually powerless; it has only the strength that we give it. Once we realize this, we can take hold of God and stand back up to watch fear cower away from us. Then, like Batman, perhaps we ourselves can ask fear what it is so afraid of? For it truly has something to fear if God is for us.
In the end, Scarecrow escapes, kind of like how fear is driven away. It runs and cowers into a dark corner, waiting to blindside you sometime soon. Yes, fear will attack again, usually, catching us off guard when we are unexpectedly vulnerable. But we can live with the hope that fear has already lost. Fear can be overwhelming, but fear has already been overwhelmed. Once we believe that wholeheartedly, only then can we overcome our greatest fears.