By Scot Loyd, Contributing Writer
Jesus isn’t Superman.
As much as humanity might like to reduce Him to a figment of our collective imagination.
Jesus in His life, death and resurrection, communicated that He is so much more than a superhero: He is God.
Consider one film adaptation of Superman, Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel.”
The film was mildly entertaining, with the first hour being much better than the second, which featured extended fight sequences and a disjointed story line.
But what struck me was the effort that was made to overtly exploit Christian themes.
Of course, this is not new, the story of Superman has a long tradition of Christ comparisons.
But it seems that past adaptations were subtler, whereas at one point in this film there is a scene where Clark Kent enters a church where he is seeking guidance for his next move.
In the framing of the shot Clark Kent is in the foreground and Jesus is ensconced in stained glass behind him. Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, is seeking guidance in a church while pictured behind him is Christ seeking guidance in the garden of Gethsemane.
The scene ends with the priest telling Kent that sometimes “before you can trust, you must take a leap of faith,” while this makes a memorable line, it isn’t true.
In Christianity our trust of God isn’t based upon a “leap of faith” but it is based on the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is ample evidence to demonstrate that Christ lived, died and rose again, which has profound implications for our lives.
Since Christ is the only one in human history to demonstrate that he was God by raising himself from the dead, I have decided to listen to what he has to say about my sin and salvation.
No blind leap of faith here, just trust and faith based upon truth.
While I am happy anytime Hollywood attempts to weave gospel themes into films, it felt odd watching their over the top, in your face, effort to do so, while rarely getting it right.
In many ways all superhero movies are adaptations of the gospel, with the lead hero endowed with supernatural powers, saving humanity from evil, often sacrificing themselves to accomplish this.
But the problem with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is that they just get the message wrong.
I thought of five ways Man of Steel convoluted the message of the gospel:
1. The overarching view of mankind in the film is that; “Humanity is naturally good, and that we can rise to our potential.”
The Bible clearly teaches that we are not naturally good. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
There is no spark of goodness within in us.
We are fallen creatures, totally depraved, outside the intervention of God on our behalf we have no hope of salvation.
2. Man of Steel wants us to believe that the enemy is out there, when the Bible teaches that our greatest enemy is within.
The greatest enemy of humanity isn’t from the Phantom Zone but from the contents of our hearts.
Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 15:11 “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
The enemy within can only be defeated through the symbolic death of repentance and giving our lives to Jesus Christ, who literally died in our place and rose again to give us eternal life.
3. Progress doesn’t solve the problems of humanity.
Here the film does a decent job of communicating that with all of the technological advances of Krypton, in the end they could not save themselves.
But when the scene shifts to earth, that message seems to be forgotten.
Because what saves humanity ultimately is the advanced technology that was left on earth by early visitors from Krypton.
Scientific advances will never solve the intrinsic problems of sin and depravity.
Only Christ on the cross can do that for us.
4. Morality isn’t an adequate redeeming agent. Throughout the film the morality of Superman and the inherit goodness of humans is cited as a reason that they are able to prevail over the evil invaders from Krypton.
But our notions of right and wrong are skewed by our depravity.
Anything that is ultimately good in this world is a reflection of God’s grace, and no amount of good works on our behalf, no matter how noble is capable of measuring up to God’s standard of righteousness.
5. Unlike Superman, Jesus is not a fairy tale. Again I applaud the efforts to retail old stories in new ways.
But one inherit problem that I see with the attempt to cast Superman as a gospel allegory, is that in the minds of audiences it could communicate that somehow both Superman and Jesus are equally fictitious.
Jesus isn’t just another story made up to facilitate tradition, morality, or the American way.
Jesus is an actual historical figure, who lived, died and backed up his claim to be God through his resurrection from the dead.
This is the gospel.
By virtue of the fact that he is God, we should put our trust in him alone to save us from our sins.
Man of Steel in some respects makes a decent effort of re-tailing Christian themes.
But if the intention was to tell the gospel story in a way that truthfully tells the story of Jesus, I recommend going to the source, Christ and his Word.
Professor Loyd is the Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Director of Forensics and Debate. He writes a weekly column for the faith section of The Bison.