Theology of Superheroes

Christian Education Series

THE SUPERHEROES WITHIN US


Now to God, who by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory.
— Ephesians 3:20

 

Empowering God, you know we are a broken and flawed people, yet you choose to be in relationship with us. You call us to follow your Son and you empower us with your Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, let us bravely seek to do the good, to be the good needed in our world. Amen.


In another session of this series, we look at both the constructive and the dangerous connections between Superman and Jesus. Christ as a “superhero” offers quite an interesting exploration of our perception of God. Still, I hope that we can ultimately agree that God is greater than any superhero, even Superman. Yet, shifting perspectives on who is the superhero offers an equally dynamic discussion. Can everyday people, like you and me, be superheroes? As we see in many recent movies and tv shows, the answer is clearly yes!



The biggest difference between superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, or Thor and superheroes like Spider-Man, Rogue, or the Flash is that the latter heroes are ordinary people who are asked to answer the call to be superheroes for a world in need. Superman is really an alien, Kal-El, “disguised” as an average guy, Clark Kent. Wonder Woman and Thor are “demi-gods” born with powers beyond human capability. We can’t be these superheroes. On the other hand, Spider-Man, Rogue, and the Flash are just ordinary teenagers, who unexpectedly get powers and must make the conscious choice to use their powers for good. They have extraordinary abilities thrust upon them whether they like it or not, and must decide what to do with these abilities.

So many superheroes are complex characters with all the imperfections of real-life human beings. They’re not all that “heroic” in comparison to Superman, who came to embody a kind of idealized moral perfection. Furthermore, these heroes always have other real-life problems to deal with in addition to fighting crime. For example, The Avengers in Captian America: Civil War argue and fight amongst themselves like a dysfunctional family. Wolverine and Cyclops are both in love with and fight over Jean Grey. Some heroes, like The Thing and the Incredible Hulk, are closer to monsters than typical heroes and consider their powers to be a curse. The Hulk was explicitly modeled on Frankenstein’s monster, and like that poor creature, many superheroes are usually misunderstood by society. They’re outcasts, often wrongly hunted as criminals. Several heroes are limited in some way: the X-Men’s Professor Xavier is a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair; Iron Man’s Tony Stark has a heart condition; Daredevil is blind.

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The idea of heroism in many superhero movies is rooted in ordinary people who find themselves with unique abilities and struggle to overcome personal weaknesses to use those abilities to be better than they thought they could be. A hero is someone who shares Spider-Man’s motto: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Deep down, they may not feel all that heroic, and they may feel like their power is more a curse than a gift, but they’re doing the best they can to use their power for good. This is not far off from the Bible’s vision of heroism. One need not be a super-human being from another planet or a demi-god to be a hero. God works through the foolish and the weak, not only the strong and powerful (1 Cor. 1:26–31). Can God..is God working through you? Can people of faith be the "superheroes" the world is looking for?


Additional Resources


If we are superheroes, is it OK to stop the villains with violence?

If we're not superheroes, is Jesus?

Share your thoughts and feedback in the Comment Section below!

CLICK HERE to start at the beginning with the INTRODUCTION to the Theology of Superheroes series.