Tag Archives: Jesus

What Superman and Jesus *Really* Have in Common

I’ve made no secret among people I know that I was severely disappointed with this summer’s Man of Steel.  Among very long lists of reasons why, a major one has been the over-the-top force-feeding of the idea that Superman is a representation of Jesus.  On a normal day I’d assert that they are barely alike and that anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  I remember no parts of the Gospels that tell of Jesus saving Mary Magdalene from the bald and maniacal Roman governor, Lex Luthicus.  Nor do I remember scenes in Man of Steel where Kal-El spoke against the hypocritical politicians of Metropolis or sacrificing himself to execution as propitiation to Jor-El for the sins of Earth. (Take note: Jor-El did not send Kal-El to save the people of Earth; Jor-El sent Kal-El to Earth to save Kal-El and the Kryptonian race.  Where is that Jesus parallel again?)

But this evening I had something of an epiphany.  The two characters *are* alike.  Not necessarily in parallels within their stories, but in how their stories have been handled and treated.  In fact, they are so similar in this regard that I can explain it by describing only one, yet the description works perfectly for both:

The story is of a man of humble roots but a fantastic origin.  He grows up and gives his life to saving those who cannot save themselves.  His story has been told over many generations, and those who hear it and *understand* it have celebrated and been moved by its beauty. Over the course of many years, this story helped shape cultures and entire groups of people knew it as they knew their alphabet.

But as it became more commonplace, as the idea became engrained into the popular consciousness, many people claimed to know it but actually only knew the name and the images they had been shown throughout their lives.  They had never actually picked up a book about this man to learn what the real story was.  They knew the bullet points and little else.  They still claimed to like the story; they still claimed to like that incredible man, but as they allowed it to be about culture and not about the actual story–to not be something that they tried to really understand and to be moved by it–they lost touch with what the message was in the first place.

As culture and societies changed, people began to mock the story.  They said that we were too advanced or sophisticated or evolved to accept such nonsense.  They would point out aspects of it that they interpret to be childish, or remnants of a long-gone era.  The more holes they believed they found, the more the culture at large embraced those perceived holes as truth.

Throughout all of this, there always remained a steady stream of people who did read the story and who did understand the themes and ideas, and really did understand why it was so appealing.  They would find themselves unapologetically drawn to it, and they hoped and yearned for a day when the world would see the beauty in it again.

So they would tell the story again and again.  They would put it into modern contexts but keep the message the same; keep the characters exactly who they were all along while applying contemporary concerns and addressing current issues.  Sometimes through this, new people would find the truth about the story, and they would join the ranks of those who showed it to them and attempt to tell more.

So then what happens when someone comes along and wants to re-tell this story on a large scale, but their motives seem to be less about the story and more about their personal gain?  They update the story but remove and reverse all that made it what it was.  They render the original concept utterly meaningless by all the alterations they make.  All the world takes notice and celebrates the new interpretation because it is recognizable but flashier, is easy to swallow, and appeals to their senses; but those who have understood the story all along cry foul.  They try to tell everyone that THIS story is not THAT story, but their protests are ignored and ridiculed.

“It has to be updated for modern society!” the new audiences say.  “Surely you cannot expect us to go along with those outdated concepts.  You’re only upset because you think you own this story and you only want it told YOUR way!”

“But those concepts are exactly the ones that we need in this modern age!” the others reply back.  “The problem all along hasn’t been that the story is irrelevant, but that so many have missed what the story is really about!  Contextualizing it to today can work but this has betrayed what this character actually stood for, and has undermined the entire meaning and message of the original story.”

Yet it feels as if it will be to little avail.  How difficult it is to try to show others the quality of something when something that looks the same but is easier (yet emptier) is being offered to them by someone else.

And it is at this point that the two stories stop being similar.  I can live my life without people “getting” the actual story of Superman, but my heart aches over those who would take an easier, false Gospel and think that they know Christ.  So if we’re going to compare the two stories, let’s make sure we’re comparing what they really have in common.

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The Correlation of A and B

So yet again I was taking a jog around this wonderful neighborhood called WordPress when a commenter on a post caught my eye, and I decided to check out their blog.  That led me to this post:

http://cboye.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/pulpit-freedom-sunday/

I’ll give you a second to read that. . . . And I agree with her (or him . . . I’m not absolutely sure, but with a name like “Katz,” I immediately assume “her”).  I’ve actually written several blog posts around and related to the same idea, such as how Republican and Christian are not synonymous, or how a commenter on a particular documentary hit the nail on the head, or what bugs me about Christian magazines, and how a movie from my childhood perfectly illustrated some of the misdirection that many Christians seem to have on issues with the occult.  (If, as you find  yourself reading this, would like to see anything I could have written on subjects such as these, I suggest looking at my “I’m a Christian” category.)

Let’s step to the side, now, and discuss a separate-but-related topic, which I will drive into the previous one in a minute.

Relativism, and also pluralism in a philosophical sense, is increasingly common in Western culture.  This means that it is more and more believed that “whatever you want to believe is true because it’s true to you, but you can’t tell someone else that what they believe is false, because what they believe is true to them.”  This runs in direct conflict with most religions, when they are followed as they are taught, and Christianity is certainly included in those.  The problem that this worldview has is that it’s internally contradictory, as I discussed in my post from a few months back, “The Inconsistency of ‘Tolerance.‘”  Every religion can’t be right because most religions claim others are wrong, or their teachings contradict each other; you can’t take the buffet approach and expect that to be true, because we live in a world of absolutes, besides the fact that your emotions and desires do not determine reality; saying everyone should just accept what anyone wants to believe is self-defeating because that excludes the people that hold to creeds that claim to be the one truth.

Yet regardless of the clear problems with such a theological and philosophical approach, it is held by a vast amount of people.  Consider some comments on an article written by once-Christian-then-atheist-now-Christian-again A. N. Wilson on the reason for his re-conversion that toss out anything he has to say because they don’t, ” . . . understand […] why people (theist or atheist or any-theorist) have the need to prove that what they have is better than what the other has;” or “Those who believe in a g/God have a need to do so. Those who have no such need tend not thus to believe. At present Mr Wilson has a need.” I also saw some negative reviews on Amazon for books defending Christian faith, such as Ravi Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, making statements like, “In an era where our teachers and ministers alike are striving ever harder to imbue our children with a sense of the beauty of cultural diversity and concord among the peoples of the world, Johnson and Zacharias’ contribution to children’s literature is shameful and backward,” or “I don’t see any difference at all in the real teachings of Jesus, Budha, or krishna [sic]. They all teach Love, Compassion and unity w/ all that is … i.e. god.” Then there were the comments on a post around which I based one of my own posts, in which the author asserted that Evangelical Christian alliance with Mormonism is a bad idea.  Some said things like, “. . . Who are you to say what is right and what is wrong? If you study the orgins [sic] of Christianity from Constantine, you’d be running the other way asking, ‘where is the true Church of Jesus Christ?’ […]  Who is to say the Mormons are wrong? A bunch of preachers in a bunch of Prostestent [sic] Churches that get paid well for what they preach? What did Christ or any of his apostles get paid?  I could go on, I just get tired of seeing people bash other religions when they really don’t have any basis for what they say other then some concocted interpretation of the scriptures . . .” (Fun feature with this last article I mentioned–Jay North commented on it.  As in THE Jay “Dennis the Menace” North.  He’s Mormon.  Okay, moving on.)

Not only is a serious Christian faced with the obstacle of people tossing out what they say entirely based out of this modern idea of “everyone’s right, no one’s right”, thus making sharing our faith very difficult, but we have to stand tooth-and-nail against that approach making its way into our churches and teachings, which seek to sterilize the world-changing message of the Gospel.  This gets to be frustrating.  It’s frustrating to try to express your honest tolerance of the existence of other belief systems, but your unwillingness to accept them as equal to the teachings of Christ, and have people therefore write you off as closed-minded or a bigot.  When that happens, it becomes very tempting to scream “unfair!,” because, regardless of whether people want to admit it or not, people and organizations in America do bend over backwards to try and play nice-nice with many religions (especially Islam) but don’t bat an eye at disrespecting Christianity.  (Please refer to the above blog post by Katz for my final response to such issues).

Now let’s head back to the beginning of this post, where we find those claiming the Christian faith are, on one hand, fighting for “their rights to be Christians,” and demanding respect from the world because they are Christians, while on the other hand, they are trying to resist the worldly pressure to “just say that your belief is one of thousands of ways to be a good person, nothing more.”  Are you noticing a correlation here?  I am.  I’m going to step out on a limb and declare causation, too.  A very logical conclusion is that (B)–widespread acceptance of relativism has led to a great deal of, if not all of, (A)–Christian culturism and the digging in of heels.  I think this is a good thing to notice, because it helps give me a better understanding of where someone who equates their Christianity with conservative social movements is coming from, and also gives me a better awareness of how a non-believer may see me as “just as bad as them” since I don’t think Mohammad and Jesus basically said the same things.  Interesting how this leads me back into that place of “the radical middle.”

As is often the case, I don’t have much discussion prepared on this beyond the initial observation.  So please share thoughts with me in the comments if you want to expand more.