I went and saw the new movie “Man of Steel” in theaters today. (NOTE: I may have spoilers in here so read at your own risk). Now I am a big superhero movie geek, so I am not entirely unbiased when it comes to movies like this one, but I must admit, it was really good. But even though I am a sucker for unabashed hero vs. villain throwdowns and epic explosions, I have to say, on the heels of Ms. Gwen’s talk on Saturday, this might be one of the first superhero movies that has made me think about what it really means to be a superhero. As Superman is THE superhero, he’s probably the best example to examine.
So let’s take a look the character of this movie’s incarnation of the preeminent man in blue spandex, Clark Kent. Now Clark, our Superman is an alien who has pretty much been endowed with godlike powers. He can fly into the stars, crush steel with his bare hands, shoot laserbeams out of his eyeballs, do pretty much anything. But unlike other great superheroes that have graced the box offices of America, Superman has a singular quality that makes him different. He has another ability, that many would probably not notice on first examination, what I call Super-Humility.
Take a look at any one of Superman’s actions in “Man of Steel”; all are infused with an impossible sense of modesty that is just astounding. Superman is pretty much a god but he never loses his temper and never fights back when a puny earthling slights him or insults him. There’s a scene in the movie where Clark Kent is a kid and a schoolyard bully is pushing him down on a chain-link fence and punching him. Now Clark can easily end it; he could destroy this thug with his pinky but instead he turns the other cheek and allows the kid to keep taunting him. Somehow, Superman is able to selflessly rise above all the hatred and fear thrown at him because he only wants to help people.
It doesn’t even end at Super-Humility either, Superman is also completely under authority, despite the fact that he is in all respects, completely above everyone else in everything. There’s another scene in the movie where Superman is about to confront the villain to save the world and he has a plan to stop the evil machines that are about to destroy Earth. But Superman doesn’t just take control and do it, after explaining his plan to the army general, he then asks the man’s permission to go ahead with it. To reiterate, Superman did not need the general’s permission, but he asked him first anyway because he respected the man’s authority.
Probably the most shocking example of Superman’s respect for authority is when he is younger and his adoptive father charges him not to reveal his powers because he doesn’t think the world is ready. Then a tornado is coming and his father goes back into it to rescue people and is about to be killed. Clark is about to go back and save him, which would reveal his powers, but his father looks back and tells him not to. Clark loves his father and you can see the anguish on his face but he obeys his dad and doesn’t save him. What other superhero would trust like that or obey like that.
What other person would obey their authority even when it lead to somebody’s death. Then I realized as we were driving home, Jesus did that. Jesus had godlike power and turned the other cheek. Jesus obeyed his father even when it lead to death on a cross. The Krytonians kept on saying how it was Superman’s responsibility to be an ideal that the people of Earth could look up to and I realized that Jesus was that to us. What made Superman a hero is what make the characteristics of Christ christlike: Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Thankfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. Ms. Gwen’s talk suddenly took on more dimensions for me. Like she said, we are superheroes because we have those characteristics that Christ had, that superhuman ability to love even when we are confronted with hate. We have superpowers. Being in God’s spirit makes us superheroes able to fight against evil for His glory, just like Ms. Gwen said. It’s just so cool.