I recently saw the new Superman movie “Man of Steel.” It was a fine enough movie that entertained me. Good action, good special effects, and enough of a story line to keep me interested. However, a couple days later I was reading a guardian article (found here) that describes how part of the marketing campaign for the movie involves playing up the similarities between Jesus and Superman. There is even a website that has resources for leading discussions and preaching. You can probably guess that I have a few problems with this… Here are a few quick reasons why Superman is not Jesus:
Reason 1: Jesus is not from Kansas and Jesus is not American Sorry folks…Jesus isn’t from the American heartland. This is by no means meant as an insult to the good people of Kansas. I have never been there, but I’m sure it’s a wonderful place.
This may seem like a rather silly and obvious point, but it’s something that needs to be said. The typical American picture of Jesus is a white man with long brown hair. He looks like a perfect northern European and/or someone who would fit right in with the typical white American suburb. Superman, with his black hair and square jaw, looks how every good American man should. But let’s be honest… Jesus was a native of Middle East. The chances are not very high that Jesus looked like any of the family members in “Leave It To Beaver.”
Why is this point important? Because we are the country that constantly gets patriotism and Christian faith confused. This confusion is completely understandable because America, more than other nations, has always been a kind of faith statement. It’s easy to get our confessions of faith mixed up. However, that means we need to be absolutely clear: Jesus is not and American superhero.
2. Our God is strong enough to be weak Superman is what we expect to find out of a god. A being that is super strong and can destroy bad guys. The problem is that it is hard for me find support for that picture of God in scripture. In fact, there is more support in Scripture for a God who works through weakness.
I Corinthians 1:27: But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
II Corinthians 12:9-10: but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong
Look, as Christians (and specifically as Lutherans) we believe that God is most fully revealed in the suffering of Christ on the cross. If that is true, than any comparisons to superman become pretty absurd. We believe in a God who chooses to come to us in weakness. God didn’t come as a conquering general or as the almighty emperor. In fact it is Satan who tempts Jesus with both of those roles and Jesus rejects those ideas.
The ministry resources webpage for the movie allows you to download a pamphlet for sermon/bible study ideas based on the movie. At the end of the pamphlet they quote Philippians chapter 2, but I think they missed the point of Philippians. Paul writes this
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8
Biblical faith does not confess a God who beats up the bad guys by coming down to earth and being stronger than everyone else. Biblical faith confesses a God who comes as a human being, who is humbled, who meets us in death and life. Biblical faith confesses a God who chooses weakness.