The Theology of Superman

So I’ll come out and admit that Superman is my favorite superhero. I love that big blue boy scout who always flys in at the last moment to save the day. What I find strange is that in spite of the immense impact that Superman has left on pop-culture, I often find that Superman fans are in the minority now. Whenever the favorite superhero question comes up the usual answers are Batman, Spider-man, or one of the X-men or Avengers. Superman is sort of the Elvis Presley of Superheroes in that everyone knows who he is, but there aren’t that many people today who would say he’s their favorite anymore.

The Last Son of Krypton, may be just a little too old fashioned for a modern audience. Not to mention he is not exactly relatable to most people. In a lot of ways he seems just too good to be true,  and in a world where “dark” and “edgy” are seen as the norm Superman sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s stronger than anyone, faster than anyone, and on top of this he is selfless and merciful to the point where it can make you roll your eyes. Superman is too good for anyone to relate to, he’s borderline perfect. So what’s the appeal and why do I like Superman so much?

Here’s a short independent film that I really think helped capture more than it probably meant to:

In the film a young girl who has run away from home is asked ten questions by Clark Kent (Superman) in exchange for a lighter she lost. The questions expose a troubled past and (whether intentional or not) get down right theological within the confines of the Superman mythos.

The girl in this film who goes by “Sarah” reveals in the interview that she doesn’t believe in Superman. When asked why she replies:

“There is no Super-Man, I mean there’s no one like that. If someone that powerful really existed why is the world such a horrible place? Wouldn’t he do something about it? They just make up this perfect hero we can all look up to… but in the end of the day nothing happens and people like me don’t matter.”

Clark Kent asks Sarah if there’s anything he can do to help, but she turns down the offer. When he again offers to give her a ride, she says refuses again saying that “you will just drag me home.” Clark replies by saying:

“If Superman were real, and I’m not saying he isn’t, but if he is… I don’t think he would drag you home.”

When asked why Clark thinks that he replies:

“Well if he just forced you to do what he wanted you to do, he wouldn’t be much of a Superman now would he.”

Now maybe this is just my over analytical mind at work, but I couldn’t get around drawing an analogy to God in this little exchange.

Now I’m far from the first one to draw an analogy between Superman and Christianity.  People SM660have been drawing connections between common Christian themes and Superman for decades. I mean it’s almost too easy.

A savior comes from the heavens to show us the way. He was raised in humble beginnings and grew up among the lower class. He looked just like one of us but it is clear from his incredible works that he is something more. He is given opportunities to rule over people or to use his abilities for his own gain, but instead he choses to remain selfless and uncorrupted, allowing people to choose right and wrong rather than forcing anyone to conform to his will. In the end of the day he knows his life’s mission was to save people no matter the cost.

Hopefully by now you get my drift of how these connections are pretty easy to draw. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Superman is a fictional “Messiah” figure, which I think is what always draws me to him. Sometimes it’s good to believe that an incorruptible force of good does exist out there.

As Sarah learned in the aforementioned film, it is important never to give up on the idea that something good, pure, and incorruptible can exist. “Too good to be true” doesn’t have to be the case all the time, and hope is not always a lost cause.

Now I’m not holding my breath for an alien in spandex to come and fight all my battles for me, but I am of the idea that sometimes Messiahs are real, and sometimes God gives us a gift greater than anything we deserve.

As a Christian I believe that all men are sinful, but that God loved us so much that he humbled himself in the form of Christ to come and show us the way. I believe that Christ did not just come and die, but that he willingly gave himself up to take on the full weight of sin and death so that we could be saved. I believe that Christ truly saved us all and that he continues to offer redemption and saving grace to all who seek it. For many maybe this story seems “too good to be true”, but for me I think sometimes stories are too good not to be true. The God I worship knows what it is to be both king and rebel, rich and poor, invincible and broken, and I believe that all things work together for good.

I’m a Christian and I love Superman, not because he is relatable, but because he reminds me that there is a champion of good out there who has overcome every evil this world could muster, and that because he lived it is ok to hold onto hope.

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2 thoughts on “The Theology of Superman

  1. Hey, interesting read. Check out my blog post from yesterday. You’ll see why I stopped to read yours when I saw the title. Take it easy!

  2. Very interesting post. I always enjoy engaging with God and life through the imagination and Superman is a fine entry point for that.

    Another interesting element of Superman’s story is his Jewishness. He was invented by two Jewish kids from Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown!) and his story has a lot of Jewish themes. He’s an immigrant who escaped a planetary Holocaust. His real name, Kal-el, is very Jewish sounding, and his alter ego is the picture of an attempt at assimilation. Can you think of a more goyish-sounding name than Clark Kent?

    All that Jewish imagery, when mixed with the Christian themes that you rightfully identify really gives one a lot to ponder. I love it!

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