Jesus Christ Superhero


No, this isn’t about the big news that Tim Minchin will play Judas in a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar. (JT for Jesus, anyone?) This is about Pastor Mark Driscoll who recently decided that popular culture had given him a great idea for a sermony blog post. That’s always a dangerous decision to make.

Creatively, and because no one else was doing it, Driscoll decided to talk about The Avengers.

The plot line is nothing new: a big threat to human life is looming, and a superhero or team of superheroes rises to meet the challenge and save the day. To say it another way, a proverbial hell is looming and people cannot save themselves from this terrible fate. So, a humble savior comes to make a great sacrifice so that evil can be defeated, people can be liberated, and a new kingdom can dawn in which people can live peaceably.

What is curious is that the superhero is usually part human and part something otherworldly. In that way, the hero is like us but simultaneously unlike us. Or, the hero is like us, but better. They have emotional frailty, moments of grief and sadness. But, they somehow overcome all odds to do good and vanquish evil selflessly and tirelessly for the good of others. They also have superhuman powers, insights, and abilities. Sometimes they even die, or seemingly die, only to return to life as if they were invincible.

If you’ve been paying attention (for five minutes at any point in your experiences in religiously saturated culture), you may have some idea where this is going. Superheroes are popular? That must mean…

Maybe everyone who bought a ticket to The Avengers deep down really wants to meet Jesus?

I’ll bet that took a lot of thinking. It almost makes me sorry to have to tell him this: Pastor Driscoll, the last “people” I want to meet are the Avengers–even when I’m in trouble.

First off, anyone actually familiar with the concept of superheroes, anyone who’s done more than just looked at the box office results and said, “Huh, this comic book stuff seems to be popular. What’s up with that?”, knows that life among superheroes is nowhere for your real human being to be. It gets dangerous out there, what with the villains they fight and the bits of landscape they throw around like confetti.

Beyond that, superheroes are built for serials. They have personalities made to generate and sustain drama, not for cozy palling around. Did this guy see either of the Iron Man movies? Did he notice that Thor only worked as a romantic interest because he spent essentially no time with Dr. Foster? Does he not know the basic premise of the Hulk? Superheroes are not your first choice for a chat over a nice cup of tea.

Then there’s the fact that superheroes can’t solve the problems that are actually important. The world isn’t full of basic injustices because some demigod or mutant or mad scientist built a fiendishly clever contraption on the moon and pointed it at us. No matter how good a shot each is, neither Hawkeye nor Black Widow can take down complex systems and their emergent abstractions. Cap’s shield won’t block any of the isms that make real people’s lives harder. Nick Fury is not pulling together the best team of teachers or tax policy analysts or clean energy experts in the world.

In other words, the Avengers only stay appealing as long as they stay very firmly fictional. They’re a fun escape into a world where life is unrealistically simple, but that’s about it.

This, of course, is where Driscoll is on firmest ground in comparing Jesus to superheroes. I doubt he thought that far, however. After all, it seemed like such a clever idea.

Comments

  1. James Solomon says

    After watching an episode of the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars:, my 8 year old nephew asked me who Anakin Skywalker’s father was. When I responded to him by saying, “Anakin Skywalker had no father, his mother just grew pregant with him because he was prophesized to save the world from evil”; he sat for a while in deep thought and then said, “Ooooh is that where they got the idea for the baby Jesus story”. I just said, “Yep! and Harry Potter, and Superman and….”

  2. says

    If Jesus was more like Tony Stark, you might even get me to convert back to Christianity. I mean…who wouldn’t worship a drunken womanizer who accidentally blew up his own house in a pissing match?

  3. Robert B. says

    Actually, in this movie, Nick Fury did bring together the best team of clean energy experts in the world. Just sayin.

    (Of course, he had them make weapons, and then they all got mind controlled by aliens, but hey, shit happens.)

  4. says

    Oi, dammit Robert B, spoilers! Jodi and I are only seeing it this weekend.

    (Admittedly, the only surprise the film will hold are whether these “aliens” are Skrull or Atlanteans, but whatever!)

  5. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Maybe everyone who bought a ticket to The Avengers deep down really wants to meet Jesus?

    More likely, everyone who bought a ticket to Jesus deep down really wants to meet the Avengers.

    It seems that savior narratives have a universal appeal and are at least somewhat interchangeable, not that the people secretly crave one particular savior narrative.

  6. Robert B. says

    Don’t worry, Jason, I basically just spoiled the first five minutes. It’s not like I told you what happens when Iron Man [REDACTED REDACTED] and then he [REDACTED REDACTED] in the face.

  7. says

    To me, Jesus has always been a superhero. He’s Hercules without the muscles.

    However, his superpowers are most closely aligned with Ghostbusters, not with the Avengers. There is not a demon that Jesus can’t cast out.

    If you want to read hilarious demon-hunting fiction, read the “gospel” of Mark. It’s a short read — 10 minutes max. A bit repetitive though. He feeds the multitudes TWICE. And yet, even after he’s done that trick already, everyone around him is AMAZED!!!! that he could pull it off again. Why? Didn’t he take his super energy pill? Recharge his green power ring?

    BTW: There’s another “raising from the dead” in Mark that isn’t Lazarus. This time, it’s the daughter of the leader of the synagogue. Leads me to believe that “dead” didn’t have the same meaning back then as it does now.

  8. Zugswang says

    Maybe everyone who bought a ticket to The Avengers deep down really wants to meet Jesus?

    Maybe everyone who bought a ticket to the Hellboy films deep down really wants to meet Satan.

    Maybe everyone who bought a ticket to Avatar deep down really wants to be a blue-skinned cat person.

  9. pensnest says

    While I was watching the Avengers movie, I found myself wishing for the ‘aftermath’ story in which a harassed insurance company clerk is presented with claims…

    I don’t think Jesus would make a very convincing superhero. His powers are too disparate and ill defined.

  10. MichaelD says

    @pensnest

    Between his turn the other cheek and his possibly endless resurrections they’d really have to work hard to create any sense of tension.

  11. Pixelfish says

    @pensnest – there’s an anime called Trigun which follows two insurance investigators on the trail of their world’s most famous gunman. (the series starts off silly but gets into morality issues re pacifism later).

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