The Problem with Superman: He’s so Predictable that He’s Boring

Jesus Christ, Superman

Jesus Christ, Superman

That’s right.  In spite of what you might think, it’s Superman who is boring while Clark Kent is the more interesting character. (IMHO)

Consider;  there is never any doubt that Superman will come out on top. Nothing can hurt him,  there is no challenge he cannot best, no enemy more powerful.  For all intents and purposes he is a god. At least on the scale of  Greek, Roman and Norse mythology.  As a child I found him fascinating but it wasn’t long before I lost interest.  What’s the point? – he can’t be beat.  The other more ‘mortal’ superheroes, with all their tragic flaws,  were much more intriguing.  In some way I could relate to them better than I ever could with Superman the ‘Perfect’. Even his alter ego, Clark, became a bit tiresome.  He rarely if ever demonstrated any really human failings. (I know that this all changed recently but I imagine that is just DC Comics trying to recapture market share).

Apparently we humans need heroes to worship. Too often these heroes need to be elevated to a plain far above us, with characteristics and powers we could never hope to attain.  It is the typical human paradigm. We not only see it with purely fictional mythology but it shapes our mythological yet historical  heroes like Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and, yes, Jesus of Nazareth.

Have we made Jesus into an unbelievable superhero?  What does it mean to be both man and God? The theological term that is used to describe the idea of Jesus being  both man and God  is ‘hypostasis’:

A theological term used with reference to the Incarnation to express the revealed truth that in Christ one person subsists in two natures, the Divine and the human. (The Catholic Encyclopedia)

But what does that really mean? For myself,  it means that some how, and in some way, Jesus embodied and presented  the personal characteristics of God. The Gospels say that he was able to tap into God’s holy spirit and perform miraculous signs and wonders. Our greatest enemy -death – could not defeat him. But as a man, a human being, was he privileged to have all the infinite powers of God?

Was he omniscient? Did he know what everyone was thinking, not only in Galilee but everywhere in the world? Could he foretell the future? Would he have been able to write out Einstein’s theory of relativity in the sand? As an infant in the manger did he possess all the knowledge that existed and was yet to be?

Was he omnipotent? Could he have snapped his fingers and had Pilate or Caiaphas burst into flames? Could he have called down armies of angels to destroy the Romans? Could he have turned clay pigeons into flesh and feathers and watched them fly away?

Was he omnipresent? Was he able to visit the Native North American tribes while dining with friends in Jerusalem? Was he gazing upon the Martian Mons Olympus  or considering the Challenger Deep while also hanging upon the cross?

Quite a few people believe this to be the case; that Jesus was a man but he was also God, at all times throughout his life. That he must have been holding himself in check, reigning in his divinity, in order to fulfill God’s (and consequently, his own) plan to restore order to the universe.

But isn’t that just play acting? Just putting on a show? When I think of  Jesus hanging on the cross it in some way breaks my heart;  to imagine how he suffered, physically, mentally and spiritually – somehow making this sacrifice for me personally. If, instead of  a human Jesus, I see some sort of good intentioned impostor, a divine Clark Kent who is really Superman, impervious to all that the world can throw at him while planning his own death….well then just hand me the remote control, please. I see no real drama in this.

This amounts to  just another show about an unbelievable hero who is so superhuman, so  out of touch with real human joy, pain and suffering that it is impossible for me to relate to him.  This dramatization of Jesus does not connect – nothing clicks – he is just another god along the lines of Mars, Thor, Hercules and Superman. The message is, once again, that strength trumps weakness. Something I get enough of every day. Hardly the Good News.

Zzzzz.

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  1. #1 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on March 26, 2009 - 11:00 pm

    Ka-El

    god

    Messianic Power

    The pastor of the church we attend pointed this stuff out–the irony is that the creators, who were Jews, came up with the idea from the Uberman–or
    You-Know-Who’s Arian vision.

    • #2 by Christian Beyer on March 27, 2009 - 1:44 pm

      Cool. I never heard this, but it sure makes sense. Sort of.

    • #3 by zodiac d on May 8, 2009 - 1:28 pm

      uh, no dude. the uberman is not the creation of “you-know-who” unless you mean nietzsche. one of the creators was jewish, the other was not. originally, superman was a villain, modeled after the uberman to an extent. however, this character was not successful he was re-designed to be a hero in the tradition of hercules or samson. lex luthor, the main villain, still ratains uberman-like tendencies.

      • #4 by Christian Beyer on May 8, 2009 - 1:33 pm

        I think Bruce meant Uberman OR you-know-who’s-aryan-vision, not that they were the same thing.

        Now this Superman as villain – tell me more. I am unfamiliar with it (except for one of the later manifestations).

  2. #5 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on March 26, 2009 - 11:01 pm

    Kalel?

  3. #6 by Alan on March 30, 2009 - 2:01 pm

    This is something I have been thinking about lately too — or at least along similar lines. I too tend to think of Jesus as being “more human.” It is a mystery I don’t understand but he was fully human AND fully divine. The scandal of the cross is that Jesus did indeed suffer and die… we shouldn’t rush to clean that up too fast because it is an important part of the story. Without the cross (and the messy death) there is no resurrection. But I believe he did raise from the dead and in that single act, he overturned what had long stood as a symbol of imperial dominance and fear into a symbol of hope and promise that even death can be overcome and a reminder that God and not Caesar was the true power in the Universe.

    I think the problem is that we’ve bought into a theology that thinks of Jesus as “action hero” riding in on a white horse and wearing a white robe and engaging in a battle with the Enemy (who is usually pictured in black so we can tell who is on what side like an old Western movie or something) and the thinking is that a big huge battle is needed before their can be peace. (Brian McLaren suggests in “Everything Must Change” that this view may come about as we grossly misinterpret the book of Revelation, failing to appreciate the context in which that book was written — Jewish apocalyptic literature.)

    But then if that “action hero Jesus” view is true, as McLaren discusses, it’s as if the gentle and peaceful first coming of Jesus was just the “boring” secret identity (the clumsy, awkward Clark Kent in geeky glasses looking rather lame and pathetic at times) and Jesus is just “holding back” until the second coming to show his full “Superman” identity. When the time is right, he will rush in and save the day… And you can be sure when he does come again, he won’t make the same “mistake” twice; this time he’s going to kick some serious ass on his Enemies so you better be on his side or risk eternal punishment in hell.

    I’m starting to think it’s much more likely that any second coming would be more like the first one. It would be “revolutionary” but not in the way we’ve come to understand it… a “revolution of hope” as opposed to a revolution of violence… perhaps its ongoing as we who follow him begin to make “God’s dream” real in our own place and time.

  4. #7 by Christian Beyer on March 30, 2009 - 2:52 pm

    Thanks, Alan. Good to hear from, as always.

    My sentiments exactly. I like how you put that ‘he won’t make the same mistake twice’ – that really does seem to sum up what all the ‘Endtimers’ are saying. And of course, then, why be concerned about world peace, social justice and ecology if we are just operating on borrowed time. The idea that the apocalypse is around the corner helps to fuel in-your-face zealotry.

  5. #8 by tim on June 14, 2012 - 9:11 am

    how did this go from superman to a rant on jesus?

  6. #9 by Christian Beyer on June 14, 2012 - 10:00 am

    Eh, I wouldn’t call it a rant – I have ranted before and this isn’t one of those times. But, if I am ranting against anything it is not Jesus, but the mythologizing of Jesus. The Christian “Hercules”, born of both god and woman.

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