Sunday, March 5, 2017

Super Heroes and Humanity

By Stuart McAllister and originally published at rzim.org
Nothing quite grips us as much as a good novel or movie where some really sinister characters are finally confronted by a brave hero or heroine, who then rises up to face down tyranny, resist oppression, fight the bad guys, and establish justice.
During the 60s and 70s there was still enough residual optimism around that sci-fi movies brimmed with optimism about humanity and our future. We were explorers in search of brave new worlds. We were ambassadors seeking out strange new civilizations. We were friends seeking the harmony of all in a shared, friendly Galaxy. Yet, the writers needed to add adventure and flavor, so various enemies were encountered and often reasoned with into an eventual accommodation.
The mood shifted however. We believed we were more informed, less naïve, less gullible, and less willing and able to embrace ideals. They all seemed strangely utopian, inauthentic, and a denial of what life is really like. Enter sci-fi 2.0, the upgrade.
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The writing is now more realistic, gritty, and dark, and the sheer hardships to be faced are more front and center. Our heroes are more human. Their flaws, their fears, and their unique temperaments are very much in vogue. Yet, they still have a mission, by and large, and that mission is to “save” us. Ironic, isn’t it? We see the continuous recycling of the theme of redemption or the struggle with good and evil, despite our antipathy to such things. It looks like an ingrained quest for some kind of answer, some kind of salvation, some hope that there is a better life, somewhere or some way.
I wonder if we are able to stop and think of Jesus in terms of the heroic. We hear that “he emptied himself” and “took on the form of a bond-servant.” Not only did he accept being made in the likeness of men, but “he humbled himself” even to the point of “death on a cross.”(1) As Dorothy Sayers put so well, the drama is the doctrine. In this story, we see a universe that descends into the grip of an evil power, humanity enslaved and targeted for death and misery, and the creeping control of dark passion as the powers invade, infect, subvert, and seek control.
We are not left to the whims of Han Solo, the skills of James T. Kirk, the powers of the Dark Knight, or the courage of John Connor for help or assistance. But we are confronted by the “Word became flesh,” who in his amazing condescension dwelt among us and whose qualities are such that he is “full of grace and truth.”(2) Grace and truth may not seem like the necessary weapons or equipment needed to take on an enemy of such power, malevolence, or hate. But they are exactly what is needed indeed!
The truth is vital, in that, here the true nature of the story is revealed. This is a God-ordered and God-ordained world. It is God’s good creation. It is, nonetheless, also corrupted, damaged, and occupied. However, and this is a big however, the grace of God appears.(3) What a great phrase. He did not appear as a revolutionary, as an idealist, as a highly skilled Ninja, or as some kind of weapons specialist! He appeared as human, and in his mission, he came as a savior, the only rescuer. These redemptive actions, completed by the human Christ, have on-going impact and eternal consequences. Jesus is not an ideal or an icon or a mere image. He is the risen Christ, the Messiah, the human hope of the ages.
Now, all of life is his story. He knows the plot, the players, the parts, the sequence, and when the final act will come with all that this entails. The end will be a good end because it will be his ending. The Batman, Captain Kirk, and all the other miniature heroes offer nothing in comparison. With Peter of old, I want ask: To whom else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Stuart McAllister is global support specialist at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Philippians 2:7-8.
(2) John 1:16-18.
(3) Titus 2:11-14.