Pax Romana: Fixing Mistakes?

2013-04-08 12.40.09I have recently been trying the waters of creator-owned comics recently. I have found that I really like Jonathan Hickman’s creator-owned work, a lot more than his Marvel stuff–which on the whole is pretty good. I just finished reading his book Pax Romana. I found that this book asks a very good question and offers an obvious answer that we must accept.

In this book, the Roman Catholic Church discovers how to time travel some fifty years from now. They decide to send a small army back in time to 312 CE at the rise of Constantine to fix the mistakes that the western world made so as to make a better world. I really encourage you to read it.

As comic books go, the plot is very well structured. The artwork is very unique in a way that I like. The use of colors and black-and-white imagery is astounding. I really like the way that Hickman will forgo the art and switch to full-on dialogue to give exposition.

I also appreciate his handling of the sensitive issues he works with. By having the Catholic church do this, he risks opening a hornet’s nest of trouble upon himself. But he is able to minimize his feelings about religion and focuses on the sociological ramifications. When he addresses the Council of Nicaea he doesn’t fall into Dan Brown-esque fairytales about a council called to establish a Bible. He shows what the council was really trying to decide for the early Christian movement.

The core issue of the book, in my estimation, is the question: Does capability lead to a moral necessity. In other words, just because a person can do something does it mean that person should do it? Church is able to travel back in time. Should they? In the book the church goes back to Constantine with a small army. But when they arrive, the Cardinal who was in charge of the mission did meet the expectations of the general commanding the army and was killed. The General took over the mission and fought for Constantine.

2013-03-31 19.16.09Eventually the soldiers who were part of the General’s command staff, marrying into the people of that age, began to feel as if the mission was going off course, that the General’s commitment was wavering. So he is killed and the generals violently split up leaving the world at a stand off. They fixed the world of the mistakes we see that have been made by replacing it with new mistakes. And that’s Hickman’s answer.

There is something broken about human nature. There’s something wrong with us. No matter how hard we try we fail. And if we go back in time to fix our past we will only find a new way to break it. That’s what happened to the church in the story.

So to go back to the main question: if we can go back in time to fix our mistakes, should we? The answer is no. Because while we may fix our past mistakes, we will only do so by making new mistakes. We are broken. It’s what the Bible calls sin. And unless we are fixed by a force from outside of us, we can never be fixed. Both on the level of the individual and on the level of the larger communities and societies to which we belong.

And that is the Christian Gospel. The only force external to us that can fix us has acted indeed. God as Jesus the Messiah has conquered sin and defeated it. It does not require us to go back in time. Rather, Jesus only asks us to trust him and wait for his resurrection in our own bodies. That’s the good news, that our brokenness is fixed by the death and resurrection of Jesus experienced in our bodies by the power of God’s own Spirit.

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~ by hankimler on April 8, 2013.

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