Superman Returns -- and So Should the Church
- Friday, June 30, 2006
(AgapePress) - He is the son sent to save humankind. He is beaten, ridiculed, denied by those closest to him, and nearly gives his life in an attempt to save billions from death. Okay, I'll admit, the parallels are there if you are looking for them. One critic hailed the new hero of Superman Returns as Jesus Christ Superman -- a play on the rock opera from the 70s. But the mundane side of Superman's life seems to make identifying him with Jesus a stretch. Unless you are a disciple of Dan Brown's, that Superman was married (albeit briefly) to Lois Lane in Superman II presents a problem, and that he requires an alter-ego (Jesus did not hide who He was) suggests a bad fit.
But the single, most important non-starter in trying to apply the moniker of Savior of the World to Superman is that he strayed from his mission -- at least temporarily. There is no doubt that Superman is emblematic. But I would like to argue that, at least in Superman Returns, he has more to teach about the mission of the Church than the nature of the Christ. Superman Returns serves as a microcosm of what can occur when the Church abandons its mission to the world: it leads to bitterness and emboldens evil. However, the movie also suggests fruitful ways for the Church to re-engage.
For those interested in using the movie Superman Returns to examine why people reject the Gospel and what a good initial Christian response might look like, MovieMinistry.com has prepared an outreach Bible study that uses the film to kick off discussion and drive people to the Scriptures: Does the World Need a Savior? Do You?
Abandoning the Mission
When critics compare Superman to Jesus, one piece of evidence they provide is that his father, Jor-el, has sent his only son, Superman (Kal-el) to Earth to be "the light" that shows people "the way." Yet when astronomers discover remnants of Superman's home planet, Krypton, his curiosity is piqued and, without a word, Superman leaves the Earth he was sent to save. Jesus never abandoned His mission to satisfy His curiosity. But this lesson in Superman Returns could easily serve as a cautionary tale to the Church. God has commissioned the Church to use its time, talent, and resources for evangelism and good works -- to cooperate with God in saving the world. Unfortunately, the Church, like Superman, often becomes distracted.
For example, as researcher George Barna has pointed out, only a sliver of Christians tithe, and many churches have refocused much more of their spending on themselves by way of facilities and church programs than they do on evangelism, outreach, and missions. Gene Edward Veith, reporting in WORLD Magazine in 2005, notes that the church designates only two percent of its income to missions. We would be embarrassed to know what percentage goes to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and aid the sick -- activities which, along with the Great Commission to spread the Gospel, were explicitly commanded by Christ of His followers. The Church cannot abandon the mission with impunity. We ought to expect a backlash.
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