Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Paradox of Superman

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
Today a guest post borrowed from my friend Steven Lefebvre.  Steve writes a blog called Adventures in Emerging Young Adulthood and posts news on his band Steven Bradley and the Parishioners at

One last thing, if you're in Nashville, tomorrow night at 7 pm we'll be watching and discussing 50/50 in the Youth Room at St. Bartholomew's.

by Steven Lefebvre
There’s a scene in the movie Kill Bill where the antagonist, Bill, gives a poetically dark monologue about Superman and it’s the ending of which that has been racking my brain all day today:

Now at the end of this monologue Bill turns to the protagonist, Kiddo and tells her she was born a killer and will always be a killer, etc. etc.  That’s not the part that gets me though.  It’s what Bill doesn’t say in this monologue that has me stuck. 

Yes, Superman sees humanity as weak and cowardly, but Superman, who is not human, still chooses to save us.  Now the obvious answer is that he was raised by humans and therefore feels deeply connected to his adopted parents.  But if you read many of the Superman publications this is in fact the tension of Superman: why should the alien Superman save humanity?  In Superman novels time and time again, humanity is letting Superman down, giving their allegiances to Lex Luther or some other entity of evil that promises them safety and prosperity.  Even in the Hollywood-ized Christopher Reeves movies, Superman lives in his fortress of solitude and can never have Lois Lane as his own.  Superman has nothing to gain from us, and yet, time and time again, when humanity is in trouble Superman comes to the rescue.

Is this the Kingdom of God?  In a transactional, consumer world, where motivation is congruent with personal gain, is doing the thing that makes no sense, the place where God grows and the ways of death cease?

If we have been wired to believe that you do only what gives you the biggest return then doing good for the sake of others must seem alien or even foolish.  But yet, people still do good things.  Everyday.  Whether it's conscious in their minds or crammed away deep in their sub conscience people work against the empire of selfishness, power, personal wealth, and societal status to do good.  But even I, a 'professional' christian am constantly having to fight my desires to join the status quo and build my own empire.  After all it is sexier and being adored is quite a rush. 

But, where would Metropolis be without Superman?  What if Superman followed this so-called status quo?  What if Superman required Metropolis to pay him back, could they ever repay him?  Certainly not!  But yet we’d rather have Superman than no Superman at all.  Even if it doesn’t make any sense at all for Superman, we still want Superman.  Superman is good.  And if Superman is good why don't we do likewise?

Perhaps, we all try to do something today that doesn’t make sense.  Care for a child that isn’t yours.  Give money without taking any credit for it.  Be kind to a stranger, even if they aren’t homeless.  Perhaps, this may be a way to get out of the flow that doesn't seem to be going anywhere...


You can follow Steven on Twitter @stevenlefebvre.  You can follow me on Twitter as well @BenHoward87

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