This weekend I went to see Man of Steel.
I liked it. Didn’t love it.
Actually, I was kind of disappointed.
Going in, I heard over and over again about how much Jesus imagery there was in the movie. So, naturally, being an ordained minister, I prepared myself to lead the audience in an altar call following the movie.
Unfortunately, Man of Steel didn’t turn out to be quite the modern reinterpretation of the gospel I was led to believe, or which Warner Bros. hoped pastors would believe to help them sell more tickets.
Was there some Jesusy stuff in the movie? Sure. Superman has a unique birth, he sort of sacrifices himself to save the world but not really, there’s a not so subtle moment where he’s sitting in church in front of a stained glass image of Jesus, and there’s another scene where he hovers in a sort of crucifix position.
Past that I didn’t really see the Jesus connection.
Ok, that’s not exactly true. I didn’t see a Jesus-type character in the movie, but I did see the type of character most of us want Jesus to be.
Superman is the American Jesus.
He’s the quintessential American hero who leaps over every obstacle, ignoring international boundaries to fly in to beat up the bad guy and save the day….while doing no small amount of damage along the way…..which he’s apparently not responsible for.
He’s the incarnation of the big, strong, good looking, take no prisoners archetype we idolize in America and which so many of us wish we could be.
He’s also nothing like the real Jesus.
Superman flies in at the speed of sound, flashy red cape in tow.
The real Jesus comes in humble and meek, riding on a donkey.
Superman is invincible.
The real Jesus was pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities
Superman kills his enemies or at least beats them to a bloody pulp.
When it came time for the real Jesus to confront his enemies and save the day, he died for them.
If anything, Jesus was the anti-Superman.
I think few of us would admit to our affinity for a Superman Jesus rather than the real deal, but think about how we usually talk about and portray the real Jesus. It doesn’t matter what it is, if Jesus did it, he would be the best at it. When we portray him in movies and plays, he’s always a toned, good looking guy. And just like Superman, we wait and expect Jesus to save the day whenever and wherever we need him to with no help from us.
The sad and unfortunate truth is that for many of us the Jesus of the gospels has been replaced by one of our own creation who fulfills all our desires and behaves just like we would if we had God-like power.
In a lot of ways, we’re just like Jesus’ Jewish audience in the gospels. We’re looking for someone else, something else. Something bigger, better, stronger.
Jesus was a poor outcast, but we recast him as a conquering king, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but we fight them in his name. Jesus declares it the poor who are blessed, but we lust after the American dream, Jesus bids us come and die, but e do everything we can to keep out of harm and stay alive.
Don’t get me wrong.
There’s a lot of times I wish Jesus was a lot more like Superman and would come flying in to save the day every time I need him too.
But Jesus is no man of steel.
He’s a man of the cross.
And maybe that’s a good thing, because if Jesus really was like Superman that “go and do likewise” stuff would be a whole heck of a lot harder than it already is.
Grace and peace,