Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Messiah of Steel: Could Kal-El point us to Jesus?

Recently Christianity Today's "Her-meneutics" blog (here) informed us all that Superman is not Jesus.  To this I believe the world uttered a resounding, "Duh!" 

I don't believe I have ever met a person who believes the Superman is the equal of Jesus Christ.  I don't think I have ever met a person who believes the King David is the equal of Jesus.  Their inequality does not stop us from exploring some very interesting, and sometimes helpful, parallels between the fiction of Superman and the history of the New Testament.

"Man of Steel" director Zach Snyder has been very open about the fact that he and screenwriter David Goyer were intentional about the Christ imagery in the film.  This is nothing new to film or literature.  Modern stories often employ Biblical imagery and language to add structure and purpose to their own plots.

Most of the parallels between Superman and Jesus Christ are fairly obvious.  Superman is sent by his father from the heavens to earth in order to be a super powered beacon of hope.  He is born in a unique way, the first natural birth in thousands of years.  He is raised by adoptive parents who are used to working with their hands.  Superman grows into a man and at the age of 33 presents himself as the savior, or at least a savior, of humanity. 

"Man of Steel", however, takes some of these parallels farther than other stories have.  There is a focus during the film's flashback sequences on the suffering that Kal-El will go through if the world discovers who he really is and what he can do.  This culminates in a scene where Kal-El seeks advice from a church.  While listening to the pastor, there is a stained glass window depicting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

"Man of Steel" takes one particular angle of the Christ story and runs with it.  This is the messiah-king motif.  King David falls under this same umbrella.  And I think this has contributed to some of the confusion about how Superman can possibly be an archetype of Jesus Christ. 

In the age after the writing of the New Testament the term "messiah" has been so closely linked with Jesus that we can miss the fact that a messiah is a violent type of person.  David, the archetypal messiah, performs his first official duty by smashing Goliath's face and cutting off his head. 

Superman is this type of messiah.  He is not going to die for the sins of the people.  He is not going to offer them life everlasting.  He is going to save them from physical evil here on earth.  He is going to crush the enemies of mankind.  He is going to (SPOILER ALERT) snap General Zod's neck in order to save the lives of innocent bystanders. 

And how is this supposed to point us back to Christ?  It reminds us that the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus were not nice fluffy events.  And they were not salvific for everyone, at least not for the enemies of Jesus in the spiritual realms.  It reminds us that the very first proclamation of the Gospel was a promise given to Adam and Eve: that the Messiah would crush the head of the serpent once and for all.

Maybe some of our discomfort with thinking about Superman as a type of Christ comes from our "wimpifying" of the Savior.  We forget that Jesus is every bit the warrior that David was, every bit the superhero that Kal-El was, but much more.  His enemies were from the heavenly places and He crushed them, not with a great display of strength, but with the ultimate display of weakness.      

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