Batman, Superheroes, & God: Our Longing to Be Healed (Part 1)
Recently I saw the official trailer for the new Avengers movie opening in May. Now, I’m a DC fan at heart, which means my heroes have always been Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League. (Yes, I was geeked at the release of the Justice League movie last year, if not somewhat disappointed.) Nevertheless, it was pretty awesome. If you missed it somehow, take a look-see below.
It got me thinking about a couple of posts that I wrote but never published five years ago about why superheroes have been such a thing in recent years. Actually, they were my first blog posts I ever wrote. It’s crazy to think about that, and it shows with how formal the writing in these posts can be. More than that, they’re the most Christian posts I’ve ever written; in that way, I guess I’m a little less nervous about sharing that side of myself here in this blog.
I haven’t changed any of the writing since creating them five and a half years ago. I hope they’re meaningful to you as they are to me to finally publish.
Confession time: I’m a Batman geek and have been for many years. So, I was eagerly looking forward to the release of the final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, which of course opened yesterday nationwide. The Dark Knight Rises is but the latest of a bevy of superhero movies in recent years, most of them from the Marvel universe (e.g., the Iron Man films, Thor, and The Avengers). Our fascination, however, with superheroes is prevalent throughout recorded history, and for good reason. Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki in Thor and The Avengers, explains:
[S]uperhero films offer a shared, faithless, modern mythology, through which these truths can be explored. In our increasingly secular society, with so many disparate gods and different faiths, superhero films present a unique canvas upon which our shared hopes, dreams and apocalyptic nightmares can be projected and played out. Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us of the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. It’s the everyday stuff of every man’s [and woman’s] life.
In light of Tom’s perspective, it is far from coincidental that the spate of superhero films in the last few years has coincided with the worst economic crisis we have experienced in decades. Many have groaned under the burden of financial hardship, which only exacerbates the injustice that pervades our world.
Tragically, the nation was reminded that ours is so often a heartbreaking reality on Friday morning as we learned of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. It is precisely wrongs such as this terrible tragedy that we yearn to see cease, longings which we express and fulfill as we watch Batman pummel villains and save the day.
But what does Batman have to do with our propensity to explore our desire for “setting the world to rights,” in theologian and New Testament scholar N. T. Wright’s words? These topics will have to wait for Part Two.