Theology of Superheroes

Christian Education Series

INTRODUCTION


The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever.
— Deuteronomy 29:29

 

Hidden God of Wisdom, you reveal yourself to us in and through so many unexpected things. Let our exploration and our learning lead us to a deeper relationship with you. Let your Spirit stir our curiosity, so that we may be open to knowing you in new and exciting ways! Amen.


We confess that experiences of God are not limited to Sunday morning sitting in a church pew. They are not limited to prayer, scripture readings, the sacraments, or worship. As we seek to connect people to a deeper faith and more diverse experiences of God, we need to look beyond the walls of our church and the experiences of our personal discipleship practices...finding God in creation, in relationships to others, in our homes, in our schools, and in our places of work. To challenge us further, I ask: Can we experience God in rap music, the latest fashions, through Facebook memes, or in blockbuster Superhero movies? Can God be experienced in popular culture?

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Anyone exploring the religious and spiritual currents streaming through American culture cannot limit that exploration to institutional faith. Experts largely agree that many Americans, especially young adults, who shy away from traditional expressions of faith are still connected to religious messages and symbols, but receive these connections in and through pop culture. These religious symbols and messages can be found throughout our Western culture, but are clearly visible in the superhero figures who have leapt from the pages of comic books to the screens of blockbuster movies and hit television shows. A mixture of patriotic and religious symbols in these movies and shows reveal the reality of a “civil religion” in the United States that can be seen in many of the explicitly American superheroes.

But does this reality of a “civil religion” need to be feared by people of faith, by the Church? Or can it be embraced, explored, and used to reveal yet another perspective of God and how God can be experienced in the world? As faith leaders struggle to finds ways to keep religion relevant, can made-up superheroes offer a relevant connection to the very real presence and power of God?



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In this Christian Education series, we will explore these questions. We will look at the religious symbolism and themes in several Superhero movies and explore their connections to the Christian faith. We will seek to find ways in which the Church can use these hugely popular icons to lead people to explore their own faith, their own power to change the world, and God’s power over the evils of this world. Yet, we will also raise concerns on how these “harmless” movies, if not approached with a constructive perspective, can detract from faith, serve as a replacement for a deeper spirituality, justify violence in the name of “justice,” and become idols to which we offer worship. Now, this is not an alarmist cry to boycott superhero movies, but as people of faith, we must be open to explore how the things in our lives affect our faith. It can be fun to find ways that the things we love build up and strengthen our faith, but we must also be willing to honestly assess when the things we love may act as stumbling blocks and may hinder our faith. This promises to be an interesting exploration, filled with dynamic discussions and learning. I look forward to reading your thoughts, experiences, and feedback in the Comment Section below!


Additional Resources

  • Superheroes and Faith: How Religion Plays a Role in Comic Books: CLICK HERE
  • Who Needs a Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, and What's Holy in the Comics: CLICK HERE
  • Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society: CLICK HERE

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