At the end of the film The Dark Knight, Batman and Commissioner Gordon stand over the fallen body of Harvey Dent. Dent was the district attorney who fearlessly fought organized crime until the Joker arrived and killed his fiancé, melted half his face, and twisted his mind. The result was a villain Batman fans recognized as “Two Face”. Dent kills the police officers who betrayed him and dies in an attempt to kill Gordon’s family. Batman and Gordon are left with a seemingly impossible problem. Even though they stopped the Joker’s reign of terror, the Joker ultimately won by destroying Harvey Dent – Gotham’s white knight – a symbol of hope for the people. In that moment, Batman decides to assume the guilt of Harvey Dent to preserve the symbol. His final words still ring in the ears of movie-goers as they exit the theater, “…sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”
Gordon and Batman created a lie about Harvey Dent for the people of Gotham put their faith in. Ironically, Alfred – Bruce Wayne’s butler –was also concealing truth: Bruce’s love – Rachel Dawes – chose Harvey Dent over him. Alfred creates a lie to spare him the pain of rejection after Rachel dies at the hands of the Joker.
Is their hope without truth? Is faith good regardless of its object? Can a lie save us from pain? The answer at the end of The Dark Knight appears to be yes. Faith and hope don’t need the truth. The world is a dark place where we must make our own hope and sometimes a lie might be all we have.
At the beginning of the final installment to the epic trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises viewers get a very different perspective. Eight years later Gordon is a hollow man about to be replaced as police commissioner whose family left him for Cleveland. Bruce Wayne is a crippled recluse, spending his days in obscurity inside the walls of Wayne Manor. Alfred struggles as his lie about Rachel imprisons Bruce from moving on. All are haunted by the lies they told and the fleeting peace they bought.
The villain of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane, stands before the city and exposes the lie about Harvey Dent:
“This man has been given to you as a shining example of justice! You have been supplied a false idol to stop you from tearing down this corrupt city. Let me tell you the truth about Harvey Dent…”
Bane goes on to read Gordon’s own confessional letter and the city descends into terror and hopelessness. When Alfred tells Bruce the truth about Rachel, it ends their relationship. It turns out a lie isn’t enough for real hope and faith; not for Bruce, Batman, Gordon, or Gotham. The truth matters.
Hope based on a lie is empty. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” In other words, If Christ is not raised from the dead and we die and life is over then Christians are fools. If Christ turns out to be like Harvey Dent, then we will all be destroyed for trusting in a false savior.
Truth is by nature exclusive. Two plus two is four and nothing else. Walt Disney World is in Florida and can be found in no other state. Water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom; no other element will work. While at times truth may be complex, that doesn’t negate its exclusivity. Four people may witness a crime and have very different testimonies about the event that are all true. Yet the crime still occurred in one way and any testimony that diverges from what actually happened is false.
In our culture, people tend not to believe in exclusive, absolute truth. They believe people develop their own truth and as long as it works for them, it is true. In other words, truth is relative. It doesn’t matter whether something is actually true; it only matters if it works for you.
It doesn’t matter if your god is true or false, as long as you get what you need from him, her or it.
It doesn’t matter if your lifestyle choice is right or wrong, as long as it makes you happy.
It doesn’t matter if your ideas fit the facts, as long as they help you achieve your goals.
In The Dark Knight Rises we learn the opposite. If your truth doesn’t correspond to the actual truth it will destroy you and everything you build on it. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul writes in verse 25, “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator…” As a result, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice” (v. 29) and, “for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (2:8). Paul makes it clear that believing a lie leads to destruction. This is why truth matters.
Confronting the lies nearly destroyed Batman, Gordon, and Alfred. Confronting the lies in our own lives may be no less painful. Tearing down our false gods, wrong lifestyle choices, and foolish ideas will not be easy because we often need the lies we have made. Yet it is what all seekers of the truth must do. Truth is uncompromising. Will we compromise with the truth to hold on to the lies we think we need?