Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why Batman is Catholic, Pt. 2

So we know why Batman isn't an atheist. Let's look at the other non-Catholic item in the article that is considered Bruce's most probably religious affiliation, namely, High Church Anglican/Episcopalian. Let me add another qualifier at the outset here. The idea of Bruce as a lapsed anything is really just the back-door way of pushing the atheist argument. As one respondent in the article says, when has Batman done anything half-assed. Once he's made a commitment, I think it's safe to say he's all-in. Being a rational guy, he would most likely take the path that since there can be no commitment more significant than that of man to his Creator, Savior and Judge, I don't see him "lapsing" or whatever.

Anyways, we move onward. We know Batman is some form of Christian. The fact that he studied in the Orient a long time ago really doesn't dislodge the multiple scenes displayed in the article of Batman/Bruce in prayer. True, many might argue that these scenes are ambiguous, but that seems a bit dishonest. For decades, we've seen Batman at his parents' graveside, past depictions of kneeling/hands folded, crosses for his dead loved ones, and so forth. Add it all together, and you have a tough time arguing for a non-Christian Bruce Wayne.

Finally, you've got a canonical Batman story, The Chalice, by Chuck Dixon, that has Batman as the guardian of the Holy Grail and explicitly Christian. The only real counter people have to this story is that they didn't like it. Nobody can really explain how the Christian aspects of the story somehow contradict Batman's character. Again, we are speaking of the traditional Batman, not the "Batgod." Given that there is more than enough evidence for Christian Batman, let's look at the Anglican angle and see what the arguments are there.

1. His family is rich, and everybody knows that WASPS are Anglican/Episcopalian.
2. A cross bottony in a cemetery scene.
3. Elliot Maggin said so.
4. He had an ancestor in the Revolutionary War who was buried in an Episcopalian cemetery.

Let's ditch Number 4 right away. My entire family is Baptist going back at least 3 generations. Who knows what we'd be two centuries back? From the article, we don't even know how this guy is related to Bruce. Nothing doing here.

Elliott Maggin said so. And Joe Kelly said Batman was an atheist. The problem with Maggin's characterization is that he doesn't really say why he believes this. My guess is the first two reasons above. It's difficult to refute this one much further, since no real reasons are given. I will say, as the article does, that Maggin is much more of a Superman guy (and made his Batman/Episcopalian comments in the context of a Superman story), so I don't know that his Batman opinion should weigh more than say, Frank Miller or Chuck Dixon, both of whom have written Batman and Batman Family stories.

The cross bottony scene on the future grave of Bruce Wayne from Teen Titans #18 makes for an interesting point. Here's my problem with this. The cross bottony is described as an Anglican symbol, but I see it in Catholic settings all the time. That it's on the Maryland flag is unconvincing as the cross is a pretty universal symbol for Christians in general, and I'm not sure how distinctive the cross bottony really is for one group or another. The article doesn't really give references here either.

I think the article is entirely in error when it tries to claim that Bruce chose an "Episcopalian-style Christian cross" for Jason Todd's grave marker. The cross in question is a Celtic/Irish cross which is quite common in Catholic circles, though I admit that it gets some play in Anglican circles as well. This site,, has info (though I can't vouch for its accuracy) on both of these crosses here and here. I think the best we can say for this is that it provides no real evidence one way or the other, with the exception that they are more nails in the coffin of the atheist theory.

Finally, the best argument for Bruce being Anglican comes from the fact that he is from a billionaire family that seems to fit the WASP profile perfectly. This is actually somewhat convincing. Let's face it. When you think of really rich, old money, aristocratic-type families, you're going to be thinking of Episcopalian folks. It's tough to come up with a direct counter-argument here, except to say that, while Bruce's background fits this description, there is nothing in his personal character that would indicate an Anglican of any sort. The forces that drive Batman really don't seem to have much of a grounding in Anglican beliefs/theology. Any believers from the Anglican Communion tradition are welcome to offer examples to the contrary. I'm just saying that I don't see it. Moreover, as the article mentions, Gotham is usually regarded as a fictional Chicago, the same way Metropolis is New York and Central City is St. Louis. With that in mind, rich Catholic family might be a bit more likely. But hey, I'm not going to just ignore the fact that this weighs more heavily for the Anglican argument. Anyways, we'll say this particular bit still stands as evidence of a non-Catholic Batman.

We'll deal with the remaining anti-Anglican arguments next time. We'll also open up the pro-Catholic side of the equation and see how that flies with the readers here.

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