As the hype machine shifts into high gear for the upcoming release of “Superman Returns,” some are reading deeply into the film whose hero returns from a deathlike absence to play savior to the world.
“It is so on the nose that anyone who has not caught on that Superman is a Christ figure, you think, ‘Who else could it be referring to?”’ said Steve Skelton, who wrote a book examining parallels between Superman and Christ.
Actually, Hollywood is replete with Christ-figures which have one thing in common -- they are flawed saviors, prone to self-doubt and often failing to acheive their goals. Another common theme is the savior who must also be saved -- the most obvious example being Neo from the Matrix trilogy.
I've always had a more secular observation about Superman, and that is that if we knew there was such a thing as a Superman, we would of course seek to destroy it. Because man cannot stomach the thought of something better than himself deciding what is best for him, and in the end that is the heart of the Superman saga -- Jor-el sending his son to interfere in our affairs because we are too stupid to survive on our own. And in the first Reeve's Superman movie, Superman chooses his word over his love, but not happy with the outcome reverses the very fabric of time so he can have his cake and eat it, too.
"The Incredibles" played well the outrage of the normal folk to the "rampaging" super-heroes, forcing them into exile. And many more "mortal" movie heroes endure a moment when they are cast off by those who the hero tries to save.
But that is a true picture of our relationship with God and his son, Jesus. Man is rebellious, and independent, and loathes giving power, authority, or credit to anybody else. I often say everything I need to know I learned on Star Trek. Star Trek was replete with examples of this common theme. We may meet villians, or heroes; evil aliens bent on our distruction, or benevolent creatures seeking our survival; The Talosians who meant only good, or the Organians who upset us so by interfering in our war. But we insist on making our own mistakes, saving our own lives.
So if we had a Superman today, some would embrace the security, but many more would see it as an assault on our freedom, a man who could so interfere in our lives, and who we could not stop.
One of my favorite movies was called "Colossus -- the Forbin Project". I urge you to watch it, so I won't spoil the story much. The U.S. designs a new computer to control our nuclear missles, programed to keep us safe and with artificial intelligence. Brought online, it searches the world networks, and finds a similar computer in the Soviet Union. "There is Another System". The computers talk, the people realise too late what is happening and pull the plug. The computers retaliate by launching weapons, the people unpull the plug, and the rest of the movie is the humans trying to stop the computers.
The point being, the computers tell the humans that they are only acting in OUR best interest, based on the programming which called for our protection from attack. We of course rebel against such control over our lives.
However, this is the real world, not a movie. In THIS world, our rejection of God's message, of the saving power of Jesus Christ to put us right with God, carries the real consequence of an eternity of hell, separated from the one who we will know as our creator and father.
But with all our knowledge of that message, many refuse to submit, refuse to accept that there is something more powerful than ourselves, refuse to give up what we see as control. Many more see the advantage of knowing God, but reject his means, assuming we can do better. "We don't like THAT God", the refrain goes, so instead we make up our own less particular god, one that doesn't insist on ruling our lives but instead is more like our best buddy putting up with whatever we do and making things right in the end.
Which may sound nice, but false gods don't save. We don't get to choose our path to the Creator, we don't get to define the terms of our relationship with the Almighty. And that is too much for some to bear.
Which is perplexing to me, because I need a Savior who is much more powerful than anything I could dream up, not one that I need to save first. Because man is not a powerful being who just wandered a bit of course and needs directions to get back. We are dead creatures sitting at the bottom of the ocean with not a breath of life, waiting for God to choose to resurrect us, to make us "born again".
And that's not a picture of Jesus you are likely to see from Hollywood.