Friday, July 28, 2006

More thoughts about Superman

Superman is a Christ-figure. In any incarnation of Superman that is even remotely faithful to the story, Superman is a Christ figure. He can't help it.

I think the recent movie may have laid it on a little thick, as if they expected the viewer not to get it. But it's impossible for anyone familiar with the story of Christ not to associate Superman with Christ on some level, and for those unfamiliar with the story of Christ, it is best to let Superman simply be Superman.

I have heard convincing arguments that Superman is not a Christ figure at all, but rather that (since his creators were Jewish) he is a MOSES figure--arriving in a basket to save his people.

I agree. Superman is a Moses figure. But Moses was a prophetic pre-curser of Jesus. Moses himself is a Christ figure.

Pug wrote a while back about why Jesus isn't a superhero. A lot of what he says is true and a lot of it makes good sense. There are a lot of ways in which Jesus is fundamentally different from any superhero. He didn't wear a cape, he didn't have a secret identity (but he did frequenty instruct people (and demons) not to tell those around him that he was the Messiah (Luke 4:41, Luke 5:14, Mark 8:29-30)). However, any metephor or allusion can be destroyed by focussing on the differences instead of the similarities.

Pug talked mostly about the heroes of the Marvel Universe (and I think most bad things to have ever happened to Superheroes are Stan Lee's fault, but that's another post for another day). Pug contrasts the gospel to Superheroes, saying "The story of the gospels are about fixing what went wrong. Helping people get back to the optimal state of being, in close relationship with God. It is Not the story of some ordinary, talented, but oh, so misunderstood Guy who suddenly discoveres or recieves amazing powers. It is Not the story of a man and his stumbling, and doubting his way towards his own destiny. It is the story of the ultimate sacrifice." And he's mostly right.

But Jesus is more than the suffering servant. That IS a part of Jesus, and without it the story of the gospels would be diminished and Jesus would not be who he is. But Jesus Christ, in addition to being God's son, betrayed and forsaken by the world, is also God, the creator of the universe come in power to overthrow the powers of darkness and bring glorious salvation to this world. Christ is a sacrifice, and it would be both heretical and simply foolish to ignore that. But Christ is also God's coming in glory and power--although neither that glory nor that power looks like we humans expected it to look.

And Superman is a figure of this aspect of Christ. And I think that's pretty cool.


Elliot said...

It sounds like you're both emphasizing Christ's divinity, actually, just drawing different conclusions.

Paul said...

Absolutely we're both emphasizing Christ's divinity. I would say that it is not so much that we are drawing different conclusions as that I am emphasizing a different implication of Christ's divinity (while by no means denying the implications Pug points to).

Pug said...

sorry about the late answer, i have just survived a massive hard drive failure and have thus lost all my passwords....

Yes, one can say that Christ coming is the full glory of God, and that it sure didn't look anything like what we puny humas had expected it to. And i will also easily agree that Stan Lee's superheroes are mostly boring. But whenever i discuss superhereoes, the comon reference seems to bee the Marvel universe, and i will refuse to accept Chirst as a Marvel superhero.

Not only because of the cape, but Christ volunteered for the ultimate scarifice, most superhereoes has their powers thrust upon them more often thant not out of the blue. Superman was born like he is, he had no choice in the matter, All he has to do is to reconcile the facts of his natural powers and find the best use of them. Christ had to vlounteer to give up his undisputed divinity, accept becoming human. He had to give up the voice behind the word that created, and become a specchless child that needed parent to feed him and change his diapers (If they had diapers back then).

He sacrificed a lot of power, to become as helpless as us, a human in full. The problem with superheroes is often the other way around, man coming to terms with becomming god or at least godlike.

And yes Chirst told people not to spread the word that he was the Messiah. But he never refused the claim, he never hid his identity. He merely tried to slow down the pace of events. The mood quickly became rebellious against him and telling people not to start hysteria is very different from actually hiding his identity

The latest superman movie has yet to open in Norway, and thus i haven't seen it yet, so i may miss certain points, but it is the general idea i dislike.

It feels like by accepting the various superhereos as ersatz saviours we diminish the real saviour. And i have to say i dislike that. I have no problems with superheroe as such, i just dislike the fact that they are often used as a perfect analogy to Messiah, and they are not. At least not in my highly subjective view of the wolrd

Paul said...

Of course Jesus is more (more important, more complex, more good, more meek, (and also more powerful)) than Superman. There are layers to the identity of Christ that Superman doesn't address.

The important thing is that Superman is a Christ figure, Christ isn't a Superman figure.