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Monday, July 09, 2007 

Sinestro's Oath, The Human Condition, And Sin

Last week I received my copy of Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps. It was a little over week since it actually hit the shelves as I get all things comic book related from Mile High Comics out in Denver. Normally any big news in the world of comic books comes out on Wednesdays as that is the day any new books are released.

For those of you not familiar with the character Sinestro a brief introduction is in order:

Sinestro was the creation of John Broome and Gil Kane over at DC Comics way back in 1961. He was a native of the planet Korugar in the Green Lantern Corps space sector 1417. (the Green Lanterns are an intergalactic police organization led by little blue guys called Guardians. (It should be noted that the Guardians are not Smurfs.)) Sinestro was once considered to be the greatest of the Green Lanterns, but as the years passed, he became more obsessed not simply with protecting the Korugarians, but with preserving order in their society. Eventually he concluded that the best way to accomplish this was to conquer them, and to rule the planet as a dictator.

When Hal Jordan (a current Green Lantern) was chosen to be a Green Lantern, Sinestro was assigned to train the newest member. Jordan was horrified with Sinestro’s treatment of his home planet and had a hand in exposing Sinestro for who he had become.

For his punishment, Sinestro was sent to an anti matter universe where he partnered up with the Weaponers of Qward, who hated the Guardians as much he did. The Weaponers aided Sinestro by creating a yellow power ring to battle the green ones used by the Corps.

For years Sinestro battled a number of Green Lanterns as, truth be told, he was just a “B” list villain only to be defeated time and time again. The tales would normally have Green Lantern’s ring nearly out of power only to be recharged by a green power battery by reciting the oath:

In brightest day, In darkest night, No evil shall escape my sight,
Let all who worship evil’s might, Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!

The power ring would always get recharged and Sinestro would always get defeated, hauled off to a galactic jail, or just flat out escape to wreck havoc at a later date. The same tale, told over and over. That is until last week.

Last week had Sinestro doing something a little bit different. He decided that he would start up his own group, his Sinestro Corps, to bring order to the galaxy through the only means he knows, tyranny and fear. Since disorder has run rampant under the more peaceful means, he decides that fear will be the cornerstone of his Corps. “As long as there is life, there will be fear” he declares. He gathers several thousand recruits who have “the ability to instill great fear” on their home worlds, all of them deadly and dangerous. Each one of them issued a yellow power ring like Sinestro’s to help instill that fear. The Green Lanterns are in for a world of hurt!

What struck me hardest wasn’t the excellent story telling by Geoff Johns or the brilliant pencils of Ethan Van Sciver. What hit me the hardest was actually in the beginning of the book. Sinestro has taken the oath of the Green Lantern Corps and perverted it to charge his own yellow power ring:

In blackest day, In brightest night, Beware your fears made into light.
Let those who try to stop what’s right, Burn like my power, Sinestro’s might!

With that little oath Geoff Johns takes Sinestro from the “B” villain list to the big leagues. No more does he think he is a villain, as comic book villains often do, but rather he believes what he is doing is the right thing to do in order to bring order and stability, albeit his order and stability, to the universe. “Let those who try to stop what’s right, Burn like my power” is a shot across the bow for all do gooders who value rule of law over the ends justify the means style of order.

What did I find so fascinating about that? I can’t help but be fascinated by how Johns’ script hit on the fact that evil does not consider itself evil and wants to do things it’s own ways. I keep remembering a conversation I had with a family member who believed that humans were really just good and only flawed in the fact that they just fall short of God’s law but still are really good at heart for trying. Falling short of course is a huge understatement to say the least. If fallen creatures are good by nature then they don’t even need redemption. By now I’m sure you can see where this is going.

We all are fallen and sinful creatures who from the time we were conceived are born with a cancer. That cancer that kills us all is called sin (Ps 51:5)! Sin is not just a disease that we can get better from by working at with all our hard work until we get better. Again, sin is a cancer that will kill everything that lives. And if we deny that we are with that same sin we are really fooling ourselves straight to hell (1 John 1:8-9). And if we deny the disease, then ultimately we will deny the fix to Adam’s first sin in the garden: Christ.

Article IV of the Augustana confesses the cure for what ails us:

Our Churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they that are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By his death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight. (Romans 3:21-26, 4:5)

We all want to do what Sinestro wants to do, that is to say, to do what’s right in our own eyes, and in doing that, we fail miserably. As fallen creatures we continually choose our own path, just like Sinestro, time and time again. And just like Sinestro, we fail to call evil evil. Just like Adam, we continually want to choose our own path. And just like Adam’s first sin, the end is always the same, death.

I ‘m glad that the days of comic book villains who are calling themselves evil are gone or at bare minimum, on the way out the door. Good riddance to the bad guys joining the “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” or “Secret Society of Supervillains”.

While the shift in the language might not be welcomed by some, it is by me because it speaks to the core of sin. Sin by its very nature can’t look into the mirror and see itself for what it is. Sin decides for itself what is right. Sin would kill us all if not for Christ being nailed to a tree in our place. Yes, thankfully Christ who was without sin took on human flesh and vanquished sin, death and even Satan himself (who also wanted to do things his own way).

And thankfully Christ gave us the Church where His Word is preached and His Sacraments are administered. It is there that we all can go to face that mirror that Sinestro can’t seem to see. It is there that we can confess that we sin in thought, word, and deed. It is there that his called and ordained servants absolve us of those same sins in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself. And that is what a character like Sinestro can’t do or have respectively. And for that, Sinestro will have to, like many who don’t know Christ, live with fear instead of Light.

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Came across this post in google, looking for the text of the Sinestro Corps' oath--the oath itself didn't show in the search results, but your title caught my attention.

I thought this was a well-written, well-thought-out post on the topic; You have some very interesting, relevant points. I don't think I'd ever really considered Sinestro in quite this light, but now I wonder at the fact it took so long.

Thank you Walt for your kind words! As a Sunday school teacher I’m always looking for “new” ways of explaining things to my high school class. Sometimes they get the allegory , sometimes not so much. My thinking is that if they’re smart enough to learn calculus, physics, and two or three languages they should be smart enough learn basic Christian doctrines like the nature of sin. As long as I don’t end up “dumbing it down” I don’t mind using a little pop culture reference to get the wheels turning and thinking a bit.

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