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Notes on the Bible and Religion

A Column Appearing in the Newspapers of Coastal Bend Publishing

After two years, I have completed fifty-two "Notes on Religion and the Bible." I will soon be turning these into a podcast and a printed collection organized along the lines of the liturgical year.

Only the last column entry of the fifty-two is available online.

03/07/2024

Superman

I grew up with the four Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve that were released between 1978 and 1987. I don’t know if I saw the fourth one, and I haven’t watched any recent Superman movies. Even so, Superman is my favorite superhero.  

 “Superman’s Song” by The Crash Test Dummies dates from 1991. My family has heard me rattle off its lyrics maybe once too often. The gist is that Superman never made any money being a hero, and he didn’t become some overlord, even though he could have easily done so. Instead, he kept on changing into his super suit in dirty old phone booths whenever danger threatened until there was nothing more to do but go on home. The song contrasts Superman with Tarzan and asks whether Superman was ever tempted to turn his back on humanity and join Tarzan in the jungle. But he never did that. Superman was Christlike, in that he took on servanthood (see, e.g., Philippians 2:7).

Superman is a pop-culture Christ-figure. I’ll focus on the 1978 Superman movie. Superman, of course, came from the heavens to save humanity. His comic book name is Kal-El, meaning Star Child. In biblical Hebrew Kal-El could be interpreted as meaning “Voice of God” or “All of God”. In swaddling clothes, baby Superman was placed in a star-shaped spacecraft. Similarly, the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 2 mentions Jesus in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, and a star signals his arrival on Earth.

There are many more similarities. Kal-El (known as Clark Kent) is 30 years old when he takes on his role as Superman (cf. Jesus in Luke 3:23). As a journalist, Clark Kent becomes what his first name signifies, a clerk (“office writer”). It also means cleric (“holy man”), and one of Superman’s heroic rescues was deemed a “miraculous saving” by a newsman. Witnesses to Superman’s marvelous acts cry out “Gee!” (originally a euphemism for “Jesus!” or “God!”) and “Holy Mackerel!” (a mock statement of sacredness). In short, both Superman and Jesus are saving, miracle men.

And far from being a master over servants, Superman identifies himself as a “friend” (cf. Jesus in John 15:15). Additionally, both Superman and Jesus are doubted. “Miracle or fraud? The answer is up to you,” a reporter states.

 

Of course, Superman could also fly through the clouds. Similarly, in Acts 1:9, Jesus is lifted up, disappearing into the clouds. Importantly, while witnesses of this marvel gazed into heaven as he went, two other men stood beside them and asked, “Why do you stand looking into heaven?” (Acts 1:10-11). Are Christians just waiting for Jesus’ return? Waiting for some Superman to do something? The story of Acts is that believers are called to be witnesses for Jesus (v. 8). 

This is my last column. I end it with a verse on Christian heroism: “Keep watch. Stand in the faith. Man up. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

And so, the world benefits from Christian heroes. Be one.

Newspaper Column
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