Sitting in the dark movie theater waiting for the post-credits scene, I struggled to put into words why the movie I had just seen was so unfulfilling. To be fair, as a summer blockbuster, superhero movie, it wasn't likely written to stir deep thoughts. It was slick, loud, funny, and the good guys won. Still, something about the experience bothered me. Like an itch in my brain I couldn't quite reach.
Movies about superheroes have been around since 1939, but it was only after the economic crisis of 2008 that they began to dominate the cinema. Interestingly, the popularity of comic books in the Great Depression mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today. I began to ponder whether the popularity of superheroes rose in relation to the perception of powerlessness in the population.
For the most part superhero movies have clear good guys and bad guys. The good guys fight for justice and the underdog (sometimes the superhero IS Underdog!). They engage their superpowers to fight for normal citizens. In the real world, people feel increasingly vulnerable. Economic unrest, the proliferation of violent crime, a global pandemic, wars and rumors of war, and record rates of loneliness combine to convince us that we are at risk and helpless to do much about it. Superhero movies give people hope.
But, is it real hope? Or at least helpful? And are we truly powerless?
First, let me be clear that I'm not hear to rag on superhero movies. They aren't the problem. And they're likely not the solution.
The Apostle Peter makes an astonishing claim in his second letter when he says, "[God's] divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness ... so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature ... (2 Peter 1:3-4 NET)
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul makes an even more astounding assertion. He reveals his prayer list for the people he's writing to and says he wants them to "understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT)
Are we powerless? Apparently not. We have everything necessary for life, including access to the very power that raised Christ from the dead. I'm not aware of any superhero with that particular superpower.
We may feel powerless, but feelings aren't always based on reality*. Christians believe reality is found in God's Word. And according to God's Word, I got the power! I don't need to be rescued by a superhero or zone out to a superhero movie to find some solace in my soul-sucking stuck-ness. I need only appropriate the great and precious promises of the most powerful Being in the universe.
"Yes, but how?" you may be asking. That's a great question. And, like any good superhero film, I'm going to leave this article open to a sequel. Stay tuned, because we'll tackle that question head-on next time. But, for now, let me leave you with the words of that great singer/songwriter, David ben Jesse.
The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them. (Psalm 19:7-11 NLT)
*While I can't go into detail here about the nature and importance of emotions, please be assured that I'm not advocating that we suppress or ignore our feelings. I'm simply stating that there are times when our feelings are based on less-than-accurate information.
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