The Superman Gospel

What the ‘Man of Steel’ says about our need for a Savior.

Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all—their capacity for good—I have sent them you ... my only son. – Jor-El (Superman, 1978)

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The world we live in is complicated. So much so that, if we’re not careful, we tend to question the integrity of those things that are simple. And that’s the thing about Superman: He’s simple. He can do most anything, and most everything he chooses to do is good.

First appearing in Action Comics #1 back in 1938, Superman has spent nearly 75 years engaged in "the never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way." But as society has shifted and conflicts around the globe have caused people to question the means of “the American way,” Superman’s vivid blues and reds have seemed increasingly out of touch with the graying of the world around him.

Sure, the iconic “S” shield can be found on virtually everything from T-shirts to tattoos, but it seems to have become more synonymous with the idea of power than with the virtues of Superman as a character. And while comic books have ridden a tidal wave of cultural relevance over the past decade—three of the top 10 highest grossing films of the last decade are movies based directly on comic books—inaccurate understanding of Superman’s simplicity has made him seem like a character from a bygone era.

A perfect example being 2006’s Superman Returns. Instead of starting fresh with the character, director Bryan Singer opted to make the $200 million-budgeted Returns as a sort-of sequel to Richard Donner’s Superman II. And if making a sequel to a 26-year old franchise (that also ignores the final two installments) wasn’t confusing enough, Singer also decided to take the divine undertones of the Donner films in a decidedly Last Temptation of Christ direction by having Superman “unknowingly” father a child with Lois Lane. A twist that seemingly sought to be both edgy and humanizing, but came off as completely out of character.

So while it might seem shallow or reaching to try and identify a superhero with the savior of mankind, one might also argue that it is telling to look back and see how people’s perceptions of the character of Superman and the person of Christ have mirrored each another—with attempts being made to bring “relevance” to both while they seemingly move from being staples of our society to the sidelines.

However, as Man of Steel screenwriter David Goyer says, "We didn’t come up with these allusions of Superman being Christ-like, that’s something that’s been embedded in the character from the beginning." So, there’s reason to believe tha the new take in Man of Steel may embrace its subject's multitude of messianic parallels. And such a change could benefit the perception of Christ, as well.

While it’s still too early to know for certain, Man of Steel seemingly promises to tell a bigger story than we’ve seen from Superman in cinema before, but also a story that is rooted in something simple: love.

The love of fathers for their son. The love of a son for his fathers. And how that love ultimately helps shape the choices the son makes—from the smallest decisions to the most fantastic of feats.

It’s a story that may be simple. But one that begs to be told.

9 Comments

Emily Dause

1

Emily Dause commented…

CNN has a similar story up on their website... at the moment it's the first thing you see when you go to their main page, which surprised me! It made me think of what I'd already seen at Relevant... http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/14/superman-coming-to-a-church-nea...

Matt Vaughan

4

Matt Vaughan commented…

I actually wrote about the marketing of Man of Steel to Christian audiences, and about how it's better than 'Christian' movies: http://muchvaughanted.blogspot.ca/2013/06/man-of-steel-son-of-man.html

Ram

1

Ram commented…

Many may have missed the Plato's reference in that movie which I think makes this movie even more engaging.

I was really surprised how philosophically astute the movie makers were.

http://www.convorama.com/2013/06/man-of-steel-plato-and-jesus.html

Heather McConley

8

Heather McConley commented…

While we were watching it this weekend, I turned to my 14yo and said, "Aren't you glad that, when Jesus came to earth for a cosmic battle, he just died? He didn't do all the physical destruction we're seeing here." :)

Philip Wade

1

Philip Wade commented…

I agree with you on your Man of Steel points, but as far as Superman having a kid in Superman Returns, it is not really out of character for him.

He sleeps with Lois Lane in Superman II (there is a scene where they're laying in bed together under the sheets, appear to be naked, snuggling). It's the PG family friendly way of saying: "they just did it."

In the Richard Donner Cut of that movie, after the scene where they're in bed together, Lois Lane walks out into the main chamber wearing nothing but a pair of socks and his Superman shirt.

Either situation screams 'sex.' And children can happen from sex.

The thing Superman Returns glosses over is that if you consider his amnesia causing 'roofie' kiss where he kisses Lois making her forget that Clark is Superman -this should have left Lois scratching her head when she ends up pregnant -with a Superbaby, doesn't remember having sex with Superman and he is no longer around...I doubt she'd have won the Pulitzer for: 'Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."

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