By now, you’ve all heard: Jesus Christ and Superman have a lot in common. In fact it came out in the news this weekend that the movie studio sent a lot of prepared sermons to preachers and pastors across the U.S. (additional links here and here). It makes me wonder if the guy who showed a preview of “Man of Steel” as part of his sermon at my church a few weeks ago is hip to Hollywood and actually received an advance sermon copy.
As a child, Superman was my number 1 comicbook hero, I loved the stories. I still remember how amazed I was when my mom showed me a page from a coloring book that showed Superman and Jesus together, shaking hands. How awesome was that! I know Jesus’ street cred went way up that day in my mind.
After seeing “Man of Steel” this weekend, I was taken aback at how human Superman seemed. In a more real, less angsty way than the WB tv show, Superman, the Kryptonian, became fully human.
This struggle between humanity and superior being was also on display in Spock during “Star Trek: Into the Darkness,” and will likely be seen in the next Wolverine movie. (These are the only two movies I’ve seen in the theaters for a long time, I promise.)
But something about this “Man of Steel” didn’t quite seem right. Then it hit me: Jesus was not a man of steel at all, but a fully human, weak man, made of flesh.
There’s that, which is pretty obvious. But playing into the mythos of Superman is the idea of how he saves us. It’s the same way many WANTED Jesus to save them way back when: We want Jesus to punch evil through building after building (spoiler alert: Superman punches people through buildings). In other words, we want Jesus to take up our idea of a sword and start chopping away for our forgiveness and freedom from sin.
Scholars call this the myth of redemptive violence. The idea that the only way to seek peace from violent perpetrators is to overthrow them violently.
But we know a different Jesus than that, don’t we? The sword is not a sword of our making that we then put in Jesus’ hand with permission to slashing evil. Rather, the sword comes from him — from his mouth (symbolism anyone?). While on earth, Jesus could have been king. But that is not how God chooses to work. He chose to humble himself and become a baby, the weakest, most defenseless being. And then he lived a life that showed us a way to fight that threw violence out the window while displaying a form of rebellion against the powers that be. This is the life we are to model — and it doesn’t fit into any box we have created.
In fact, in the movie, the film creators show us exactly what we try to do to Jesus. At one point, the U.S. Army brass is expressing concern about Superman’s allegiance. He responds by saying, “General, I grew up in Kansas for 32 years, you can’t get more American than that.” As missionaries, this should scare us the most when we consider the story of Christ. Are we making Jesus American (or some other nationality) when we share about the Gospel?
I mean, after all, even the guy who played Superman wasn’t American.
Much of this issue focuses on the role the church plays in reaction to society. How do you handle the balance? Have you heard the comparison between Jesus and Superman? How do you respond to the comparison?
How are you avoiding making Jesus belong to a certain country or people?