The Online Community Of Christian Geek Central


    Superman as Messiah

    Share

    mindspike
    Admin

    Posts : 552
    Activity : 697
    Geek-Cred : 38
    Join date : 2010-08-24
    Age : 42
    Location : Evansville, IN

    Superman as Messiah

    Post  mindspike on August 25th 2010, 11:14 am

    The subject of religion is seldom addressed directly in comics literature, but the symbolism of salvation seems to be inescapable. The single largest problem with a discussion of this nature is that these characters have been treated by hundreds of creators over scores of years in hundreds of different ways. We have no single body of work to unify the perspective of any given character.

    Superman is the one most often singled out as a stand-in for Christ, but is he really?

    Through the years, a few aspects of the Superman character have remained consistent:
    * he comes from another planet
    * his power comes from his alien nature
    * he uses his power to save the innocent and punish the guilty
    * he inspires others to better their own lives

    As a symbolic representation of Christ, Superman fails in several ways that really matter.

    Jesus came to us from a divine origin. Superman's origins are rooted in humanism - all accounts of Krypton have that society as having developed technological and physical perfection. In spite of this perfection, the destruction of the race was caused by moral and intellectual flaws of intolerance and hubris.

    Jesus power over nature comes from a natural authority over creation, so that creation obeyed his will. Superman uses power derived from physical and technological superiority to impose his will over nature without nature's consent. The embodiment here is one of triumph over adversity, not sovreignty.

    Jesus purpose on Earth was to redeem the guilty and bring the realization of sin to those who believe themselves innocent. Superman saves innocent and guilty alike from the consequences of internal and external evil, but always makes sure that consequences of another sort are visited upon the guilty.

    Jesus purpose was to redeem humanity from the consequences of inherent sin. He does this out of love for humanity and in obedience to the Father. Jesus obligation is to the Father, and humanity's obligation is to Jesus. Superman is often seen absorbing the consequences of evil in place of others, this is portrayed as a civic and moral duty of the strong to the weak. Superman is at fault if he fails to act, he is obligated to humanity, while humanity itself is under no obligation to address the moral failings of themselves or others.

    Jesus lesson to humanity was, "You are flawed, you need a savior." Superman's lesson to humanity is, "Do your best to be a good person."

    If Superman is a messianic figure, it is only in the eyes of secular producers and consumers who do not understand religion in general or Christianity in specific. The character embodies many good things, and represents values we hold dear, but the message is one of morality, humility, civic duty, and self-empowerment, and not of salvation. Like Superman, you too can be a *good* person through selflessness and hard work.

    As messiahs, superheroes are simply not up to par. What then, is the literary purpose of the hero in reformed theology? Any takers?


    _________________
    -Winston Crutchfield
    "The rational mind is dangerous; the Christian mind is devastating."
    http://criticalpressmedia.com
    Opposing Forces powered by Fate!

    Paeter
    Admin

    Posts : 3481
    Activity : 5017
    Geek-Cred : 50
    Join date : 2010-02-17
    Age : 38
    Location : Mesa, AZ

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Paeter on August 25th 2010, 11:55 am

    mindspike wrote:

    As messiahs, superheroes are simply not up to par. What then, is the literary purpose of the hero in reformed theology? Any takers?

    Agreed. And I would add that no fictional character is up to par as a "messiah", because at some point they will differ from Christ, since they are not actually Christ.

    I think the purpose of the hero in good theology is to illustrate either the character/role of Christ in our salvation on the points that they DO have in common(the glass doesn't always need to be half empty), or to demonstrate the fallen nature of humanity. Namely, our NEED for a hero to right wrongs and "fix" the world.


    _________________
    -Seek The Truth!

    www.spiritblade.com

    ProfessorAlan

    Posts : 104
    Activity : 115
    Geek-Cred : 3
    Join date : 2010-07-09
    Location : Central Ohio

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  ProfessorAlan on August 25th 2010, 3:30 pm

    Superman as Jesus, or Superman as Moses, both have been put forth as options. I think the chracter's origins more resemble Moses personally, but there are certainly aspects of deliverer/messiah.

    Paeter
    Admin

    Posts : 3481
    Activity : 5017
    Geek-Cred : 50
    Join date : 2010-02-17
    Age : 38
    Location : Mesa, AZ

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Paeter on August 26th 2010, 12:05 pm

    ProfessorAlan wrote:Superman as Jesus, or Superman as Moses, both have been put forth as options. I think the chracter's origins more resemble Moses personally, but there are certainly aspects of deliverer/messiah.

    I agree. Moses was the big one until Superman made such a big splash with his resurrection in the 90's. Since then the comparison's have really begun to shift to Superman. At the Superman panel at San Diego ComiCon a fan even asked if Superman walking along and answering questions somewhat indirectly(in the current story) was meant to reflect Jesus. The writer said it wasn't intentional, but that the metaphor for Jesus is always running in the subconscious.

    Siegel and Shuster (sp?) were both Jewish though, so if either was intended from the start, my bet is Moses.


    _________________
    -Seek The Truth!

    www.spiritblade.com

    Guest
    Guest

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Guest on August 26th 2010, 6:24 pm

    Paeter wrote:Siegel and Shuster (sp?) were both Jewish though, so if either was intended from the start, my bet is Moses.

    Awww, you beat me to it. Michael Chabon suggested a different inspiration in his book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon references something called the Golem of Prague, a clay lump shaped in the form of a man and animated by Jewish mysticism, charged with defending Jews from persecution in the Ghettos of Prague. At the very least, I thought it was an interesting alternative. The Moses comparison is unfamiliar to me; I would think that works best when Kandor is more prevalent.

    mindspike wrote:If Superman is a messianic figure, it is only in the eyes of secular producers and consumers who do not understand religion in general or Christianity in specific.

    Hmmm...if writers find inspiration in religion and spirituality, then I would speculate that more might be going on there. Why bother to throw in a nod to something that Christians or Muslims or Buddhists would identify and can get excited about? It might well be an invitation of a writer to engage in a discussion of comparison. By discussing how Superman differs from Jesus, we might gain a better understanding of why Jesus is the superior example.

    It may be that there is an appeal for a writer to take a theological idea and explore it from a secular standpoint. Without a certain amount of creative freedom, the variety of storytelling potential is limited.

    I remember discussing the new Superman movie from a couple of years ago with a friend. One thing I noticed about Bryan Singers movie was a de-emphasis on the crime fighting aspect of Superman, which you get a little of in the Christopher Reeves movies. In the newer one, there is only one scene showing Superman intervening in a bank robbery, and we might easily interpret this scene optimistically. The bank robbers have ridiculously high-grade weaponry at their disposal so Superman might as well intervene for the sake of safety as much as anything else. There is no "epilogue" for the scene showing the robbers being placed in handcuffs, and Superman saying, "take them away" as he does in the old days.

    I don't expect too much beyond a certain point with Superman, because he's a Superman, and from a story telling perspective, there is something interesting about exploring the character's potential flaws.

    mindspeak wrote:What then, is the literary purpose of the hero in reformed theology? Any takers?

    Oh, I'm game, but I think I need clarification; what do you mean by "reformed theology"? Without a better understanding, I can only approach this as "what is the literary point of a hero?" I think there is a drive for a lot of humans to be creative in different ways, fiction is one outlet. Fiction can function as emotional practice for us, a way to explore our emotional reaction to circumstances from a position of relative safety (this was something I came across in a radio interview, regarding the appeal of horror and tragic drama fiction). It can help us work through what-if scenarios, I think. The Dark Knight is the example that comes to mind here, the movie explores so many facets of justice, social justice, crowd mentality justice, personal and collective vigilante-ism, etc. From a more simplistic standpoint, there's a certain amount of wish fulfillment in fiction that is about a hero or superhero.

    I would also say that the purpose of a hero in fiction is about the same as the purpose of fiction itself. To entertain, distract, and amuse. Sometimes a writer will make up a story with no other purpose than to try and make a great story. It's what Tolkien aspired to do, the best example and not the only one. "Why climb a mountain?" "Because it's there!"

    mindspike
    Admin

    Posts : 552
    Activity : 697
    Geek-Cred : 38
    Join date : 2010-08-24
    Age : 42
    Location : Evansville, IN

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  mindspike on August 26th 2010, 10:11 pm

    Desert Kris wrote:Oh, I'm game, but I think I need clarification; what do you mean by "reformed theology"? Without a better understanding, I can only approach this as "what is the literary point of a hero?"

    That's a valid question, and you went on to explore the pure literary role of heroes in general. But literature, as with any work, cannot be divorced from the twin contexts of origin and interpretation. I really admire Paeter's ability to apply a Christian interpretive context to works that lack a specifically Christian origin. I'm mostly concerned with the question of origin, which is all the author can control. When the author is writing from a viewpoint of reformed theology, and wishing to convey a literary message within the story, then how should Superman figure into the story?

    Paeter wrote:I think the purpose of the hero in good theology is to illustrate either the character/role of Christ in our salvation on the points that they DO have in common(the glass doesn't always need to be half empty), or to demonstrate the fallen nature of humanity. Namely, our NEED for a hero to right wrongs and "fix" the world.

    Paeter's been reading my journal again... Shocked A Hero should point to Christ without assuming that role. But that's far from the only answer in line with reformed theology. Tolkien is a good example, as the characters of Gandalf and Saruman are portrayals of angelic beings in a fantasy world constructed from a Reformed Theological perspective. Tolkien never set out to write allegory or literary lessons, but he agreed with Lewis, Chesterton, and MacDonald, that the symbolism of fantasy is inherent to its origin, and that fantasy by its nature is always symbolic of fully realized aspects of the world with which we are familiar. As the real world reflects the existence and character of its Creator, so does the fantasy world reflect the character and ideas of its creator.

    As a Reformed Theologists, or as Christians in general, what ideas do we want our fantasies - particularly our strongly evocative Heroic fantasy - to convey?

    The "Death of Superman" was mentioned as evocative of Jesus, as is the current "walk across America". The Bible has been a literary fixture in our culture for so long that relationships like these will inevitably be drawn, but limited to a cultural frame of reference. So that Superman's death and resurrection is evocative of Christ in the nature of the story, it is purely humanistic in its substance. Paeter could probably get a Bible lesson out of it - I don't think I could, my focus is way too different.


    _________________
    -Winston Crutchfield
    "The rational mind is dangerous; the Christian mind is devastating."
    http://criticalpressmedia.com
    Opposing Forces powered by Fate!

    Paeter
    Admin

    Posts : 3481
    Activity : 5017
    Geek-Cred : 50
    Join date : 2010-02-17
    Age : 38
    Location : Mesa, AZ

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Paeter on August 27th 2010, 12:22 pm

    Desert Kris wrote:Oh, I'm game, but I think I need clarification; what do you mean by "reformed theology"? Without a better understanding, I can only approach this as "what is the literary point of a hero?"

    Regarding your question about the definition of "Reformed Theology", here's a decent starting point: http://www.apocalipsis.org/reformed.htm

    (I replaced the word "reformed" with "good" in my restatement of the question because I don't always line up with finer points of Calvinism. Most evangelical Christians are "reformed" in their theology.)

    Hope that helps in your discussion of everyone's favorite Kryptonian!



    _________________
    -Seek The Truth!

    www.spiritblade.com

    Cerddaf

    Posts : 10
    Activity : 10
    Geek-Cred : 0
    Join date : 2010-07-13
    Location : Manchester, England, UK

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Cerddaf on August 27th 2010, 12:50 pm

    To be honest I find the Superman type superhero unsatisfactory.
    Usually they appear to be utterly uncorruptable, self-confident, allknowing, and so get compared to Christ.
    But they aren't him, they are only more powerful members of God's creation, and should be sharing in our fallen nature. Spiderman is more true to Scripture in this way.
    And to be honest, a story with an omniscient superhero is dead boring. That's why they ended up giving Superman "weaknesses" (kryptonite, his love for Lois Lane, etc). It's the only way to end up with a story worth reading.

    Paeter
    Admin

    Posts : 3481
    Activity : 5017
    Geek-Cred : 50
    Join date : 2010-02-17
    Age : 38
    Location : Mesa, AZ

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Paeter on August 28th 2010, 2:31 am

    Cerddaf wrote:
    And to be honest, a story with an omniscient superhero is dead boring. That's why they ended up giving Superman "weaknesses" (kryptonite, his love for Lois Lane, etc). It's the only way to end up with a story worth reading.

    Not quite a "superhero", but I'd recommend "The Spectre" by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. Great series with a nearly omnipotent title character that wrestled with moral issues like justice, evil and the wrath of God. The author doesn't represent a Biblical view across the board, but he does more often than any secular comic writer I've read. Very intriguing stuff!


    _________________
    -Seek The Truth!

    www.spiritblade.com

    Sponsored content

    Re: Superman as Messiah

    Post  Sponsored content Today at 1:49 am


      Current date/time is December 3rd 2016, 1:49 am