Faith in Film, Man of Steel


Tonight we continue our look at cultural interpretations of God with "Man of Steel." I'm sure you're wondering what a superhero film has to do with God. Well, quite a lot actually.

It begins with the origin of Superman, one of the oldest superheroes in the American cannon. Superheroes are America's cultural mythology, and as such they reflect things about us, including the faith and beliefs of their creators.

Superman was born in 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio, the product of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They were two Jewish men living in the great depression. When you think about their background and what was happening in their lives, and you consider the person of Superman, a picture starts to take shape. He not only embodied the best of American ideals, like Truth, Justice and the American way. But if you look at his powers, Superman embodies another ideal.

He is all powerful, dedicated to saving humanity, and unafraid to clash with governments. He comes as an orphan to a couple in Kansas, grows up as a human though he's not, then dons his mantle at 30 years old to save the world. He's meant to elicit comparisons to Christ.

That's the case with "Man of Steel," too, which takes a look at a different aspect of Superman's origin story, specifically the time that's usually passed over as he grows up and figures out who he's going to be. In that way it explores a part of the Jesus narrative that's typically not discussed either. It's one of the reasons that we had the new movie last Spring, "The Young Messiah," which looked at Jesus' life between age 7 and 8.

There's an element of Superman hiding himself from the world, debating about when to reveal himself, that touches on a part of the narrative. Then, of course, he dons his mantle, turns himself over to the earthly authorities and save the world.

He's made out to be a savior, much as he is in comics and every other iteration of this story. But, as always, there's an element that isn't right. Superman comes to save the world because of the worth of humanity, but that's not the Biblical narrative. Jesus came to save us because of the greatness of God.

1 John 4:9-16 says, "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."

Superman remains a pale reflection of that, no matter who creates the narrative.

Discussion Questions:
1. Did this film work for you? Why or why not?
2. What is your concept of a savior? How does Clark Kent/Superman compare to that concept? How does he compare to the culture's concept of a savior?
3. Does the world think it needs a savior? What does the world want in terms of a hero to save the day?
4. If Superman were real, as in this movie, and appeared, as he does in this movie, how would we react? What if the Jesus of Scriptures came back to the world, would we recognize him?

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