Monday, November 10, 2008

Sinestro's Insight (What Lanterns Fear)

Green Lantern has had a renaissance lately, with a re-telling and re-imagining of some of the core elements of Hal Jordan's secret origin. It keeps all we have learned and pushes it forward to a more mature dimension. Writer Geoff Jones shows, like Frank Miller once did in Batman: Year One, you do NOT have to ditch all that is canon to update a hero's origin 40 years later. The rings CAN work on yellow now and break that "spectrum barrier" - if the wearer can truly overcome their fear.

Furthermore, we discover that fear is THE major boogey-man lurking in the backs of the minds of many Green Lanterns - fear of losing their power or of losing control.

Hal Jordan has been made a bit younger, but we don't mind. We get a little more Tom Cruise/Top Gun out of him. He is brash, hot-headed, gutsy but one thing he is not - fearful.

Well, not much. When Green Lantern Abin Sur's spaceship crashes on Earth, and he offers Hal his ring, we find out that he was transporting a dangerous interplanetary felon who escapes - a demon in fact. But why was Abin Sur in a spaceship when his ring could do anything? Even fly through space at trans-luminal speeds. "A ship? He didn't need that ship!" says Tomar-re, a senior Green Lantern to Hal on the homeworld of the Guardians. Well, Abin got infected with fear because he had listend to Atrocitus the demon - so he got himself a ship as a back-up plan - and that very action is what got him killed.

Hal finds this out during training - a Green Lantern cannot afford to doubt. He will lose all his power at his moment of weakness, and it will get him killed.

After he returns to Earth, he finds a new mentor - Sinestro of Thorugar. Now long-time fans KNOW Sinestro was one of those cheesy "Lost in Space" Dr. Smith kind of villains. "Sinestro?" we'd howl. "You've got to be kidding me, right?"

He is cheesy no more. He is the wise and sharp-minded critic who hones Hal Jordan's skills. He is perceptive and serious in his calling. He declares himself the greatest of the Green Lantern Corps and shows his stuff so heroically - even taking a beating from the demon but sucking it up to pound the demon right back - that you like him. You LIKE Sinestro.

NOW you have pathos. NOW you have pain when he falls into villainy. Oh - what helps grease his slide into evil? Well, some extra fear and controlling from the Guardians themselves (they have a terrritorial edict "forbidding fraternizing" that harms Hal and Sinestro's relationship just as they bond) And of course, Sinestro was told by the demon Atrocitus how his homeworld of Korugar would descend into chaos - so naturally, Sinestro will want to take control to stop this as the Guardians have taught him - ensuring he will become a tyrant and dictator and thus needing to be removed by the Guardians. Then, as you guessed, Korugar DOES descend into chaos, because fear is infectious.

The demon's indirect attack succeeds. Fear and doubt are successful weapons. The very things Green Lanterns cannot afford to have.

You know what anger is? Fear with testosterone.

Last week I blew up on an issue about some nerd rage over a false assumption that the Christian Children's Fund had rejected a donation from Gen Con, a role-players convention that has a lot of D&D stuff. Long story short: I jumped to defend CCF, assuming deep spiritual reasons, and gamers leapt up, brandishing virtual pitchforks that they were being treated badly by "fundamentalist Christians."

We should have all shut the hell up. Literally. Satan was having a field day that week as elections were going on. Fear was in the air nationwide, and tensions were high and frankly, I was dog-tired. I have a more grueling schedule than I care to admit.

Gen Con and CCF have both cleared everything up. All is well. All is well. And Rich Burlew's little commentary and lack of shame at his part in the disinformation? Well, who cares? He was stupid. I was stupid. I was really stupid for listening to his voice. To believing he knew the truth.

I have also gotten and sent back some really juicy e-mails from my man with the Masters in Evangelism and Spiritual Development on this matter. They are full of weeping and tears of repentance on both sides. (If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd love to sell you.) Spiritually, we are worlds apart. Emotionally - eh, not so much. Mentally - he is my better. But I repeat to all who can hear or read this: I have sexier legs.

And much more faith.

What brings Hal Jordan to the front under Geoff Jones writing that I like so much? What makes Sinestro such a sympathetic villain? You understand their fears, their angers. Hal has to forgive the man he believes hurt him and got his father killed before he can move on - the shocker is it is Sinestro who gives him this wisdom!

Sinestro of the stupid-geeky name gives Hal Jordan top-notch advice. He sees the problem clearly: "You need to get a hold of your anger, Jordan. That's what almost got you killed today. I don't know what or who you're so angry with, but you continue to direct it at me. You need to grow up, deal with it and get on with your life."

My Man of Masters and superior mental ability said this:

You don't have to be this alone in order to serve God. You could have friends, family, home and STILL follow Jesus. You could actually be happy doing it. You don't have to be celibate or poor, or miserable.

Now, I have TAUGHT this in the jail to new believers. I have never thought otherwise - but guess what? I have taken my life and edited it down - angry at so many pastors who treat Christ contemptuously, unwilling to be fools for His sake.

But I have edited it almost too much and have gotten hard. I have transformed my life to a level that is perceived by him and other Americans as misery. No home, no family, no friends and no money. A monkish existence.

I agree that is exactly what it appears to be - especially when I get angry - but he missed a fact he did not and could not know.

Jesus has given me more than I ever let go of for Him.

I didn't tell him I now live in home bigger than the one I grew up in. In a far more lovely city and with twice as much ministry -or three times as much.

I didn't tell him that my family is/was not happy with my choice, so distance from them is a blessing. My true family are the children of God, and we do have smiles and good communion together. (They are incredibly generous to me, far more than my birth family has ever been.)

I didn't tell him that poverty is a choice (& that is only on the surface - we were eating steak today, though yesterday we had salmon) - and being celibate means not worrying about a whole bunch of things I used to worry about. (Is she going to get pregnant? Did we ruin our relationship by getting intimate too soon?)

In fact, he'd be absolutely right - if Jesus didn't walk the Earth and make this "sacrifice" worth it. By giving me His Spirit which is NOT angry.

"As He was, so are we in this world."

"If any man wishes to be My disciple, he must first take up his cross and follow Me..."

Holiness looks painful even pitiful to the average man. They refuse to accept it. They cannot believe you are happy. Celibate? Poor? Alone?

Well, I cannot believe it at times either - but it is true. I'm usually happy like a kid is happy. But I can see why he said that. Why he thought it was true, especially when I lose my patience. Why I am not cut out for "interpersonal evangelism". I am too radical. Too weird.

I think following Jesus as a disciple is more important than having a wife. Than having a job. Than anything else. Before you jump to defend your marriage, your job, etc. let me add: when He is ALL you have, you get pretty serious about Him; there are not many distractions. Like the apostle Paul said, I have very little other concerns in this world. This is not about salvation. This is about learning what Jesus felt in this world: being intimate with Him.

But my "Sinestro" opened my eyes. You can learn things even from the carnal. You can get too serious and become hard.

I AM going to work on having more fun. I AM going to drop off my fear and seek more joy. It is the second "fruit" of the Spirit is it not?

God help the person who tries to hand me their fears again.

Or their angers.

Amen.

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