It was the single line in a blockbuster movie that pointed the audience directly to Christ. A phrase that revealed the contradiction between fantasy and reality; and it was said by a man in blue spandex. That’s right, Captain America aka Steve Rogers stated the iconic words before leaping of an aeroplane in 1.5 billion dollar grossing film ‘The Avengers’ when he said, “There’s only one God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”
Trawl through many other films in the superhero genre and you will struggle to find literal references to Christ. Indeed, it can be somewhat contradictory to even state that there is a single god in these stories when you have the likes of Thor and Loki battling in the outer reams of the universe and Superman a descendant of a superior race.
Yet despite the knowledge that the DC and Marvel universe’s are both fictitious, the public remain fascinated and fully invested in the stories of these characters; these men and women who came to earth in order to save mankind. Sound familiar? I have heard the phrase ‘Jesus is my superhero’, and I cringe at it. To me, it is a way of making Christ ‘trendy’ and ‘relevant’. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it all seems rather tacky to me. Whenever I see an image of Christ on the cross with a brilliant red cape hanging behind him, I find him all but appealing. A man with a cape is not relevant. Sure he is handsome, strong, courageous and is intrinsically good….but he is not real. So how is he like Christ?
With the occurrence of the Depression and threat of WW2, humanity literally and fictitiously needed a saviour. DC comics filled this need by creating the world’s first superhero; literally named ‘Superman’ this saviour came from the far off planet of Krypton and possessed the power to do extraordinary things. In many ways, Clark Kent represented the hope that the world hungered for during the 20th century, and even though we knew he wasn’t real, we followed his adventures anyway. Over the next 75 years new heroes came into being. Captain America, the typical US underdog was formed during WW2 and was shown to actively fight Hitler; years later Spiderman was given his own movie trilogy that showed him saving New York City after the events of 9/11.
Movie sales and sheer obsession with these characters show that real or not, humanity is desperate for hope. We need someone or something to have faith in so we know that the evil in the world will inevitably fall to the goodness in us. We are in want of this so urgently, that we are willing to find it in the made up charades of characters that wear colourful spandex and do bizarre yet terrific stunts.
I am the first to jump on the superhero bandwagon. Hearing Captain America say those words thrilled me; a Christian superhero, could fantasy get any better? Yet I am aware that I am drawn to these characters because they possess the skills, powers, personality and even appearance that I am so in want of. Not that I want to be able to turn into a giant green monster and smash things, but I certainly want to make an impact in this world; to be seen and be known.
Perhaps we are fascinated with superheros and all they offer us for 2 reasons.
1. They tell us we are capable of far more than our present situation. Their fictionalised presence tells us that there is intrinsic goodness in humanity and that this will win out against our struggles and the evil in the world.
2. We are aware that humanity is in many ways helpless to stop evil. The majority of us feel that we do not have the power or influence to determine the outcome of global events ranging from war to crisis relief after a natural disaster. By believing, or pretending, that there is a saviour we can escape this reality and wait for it to pass.
By placing this reasoning together, I am led to the conclusion that an extensive aspect of humanities fascination with superheroes is actually our need to possess the hope that there is a saviour. And as we are unable to fulfil this need by ourselves, we must look elsewhere. Like Captain America said, he doesn’t dress in lycra, wear flowing red capes, fancy head pieces or carry around an all-powerful hammer. Rather, our saviour came as a human and then sacrificed his life in the ultimate act of heroism. Following this he did the extraordinary and rose from the dead; defeating the laws of physics, life and logic itself.
It seems to me that humanity has always had a real superhero; a saviour they could call upon to rescue them in times of trouble and distress. Yet we so often choose to fall into the fictionalised arms of men with Spidey senses and retractable claws because we struggle to trust the truth of events that occurred 2000 years ago.
I titled this editorial, ‘Jesus Christ is Actually Superman’ not because I think Jesus is a superhero; far be it from me to describe the LORD in such a manner that discredits his power and authority. But I chose this to show the parallels between perhaps the most famous of all superheroes and the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. In our limited understanding, perhaps Jesus Christ really is our superman, the saviour prophesied in Isaiah 53 which tells us that “by his wounds we are healed.” Yet through these words we know that Jesus Christ is far more than an alien, a genetically modified man or a billionaire philanthropist; and for this I am exceptionally grateful.
This piece was published as an editorial for Apropos Walk on August 18, 2013.