Last weekend I took one of my grandsons to the movies to see the latest block-buster hit Avengers: Infinity Wars. I am told it had the biggest opening of any movie ever and that it is approaching two billion dollars in ticket sales. The movie features seemingly every one of the Marvel Comic book Superheroes and many villains.
The movie reminded me of an encounter that took place at a funeral service I presided at a few years ago. It was during the ‘stand at your seat and share a remembrance about the deceased time,’ that a muscular, articulate, young man in his thirties said the most baffling thing I have ever heard. He stated proudly that he was a follower of the Norse God Thor, popularized by Marvel comics and the principle protagonist in the latest Avenger film. He shared that he believed that the deceased, who he claimed was also a disciple of Thor, had now taken up residence in the glorious realm of Valhalla, the mythical afterlife in Norse culture.
I was stunned at the words, “A follower of Thor.” Later I got to thinking, what is it about superheroes that makes them so wildly popular in our culture, popular enough to inspire hero worship? I believe the trend towards a fascination with superheroes is a way that our culture addresses our deep need of a supernatural savior.
There is no question that this current generation is enamored with superheroes who are able to defy gravity and other human constraints. Many wish that they could engage with one who has supernatural powers and acts with completely benevolent motives. There are many people who dress up like and attend conventions paying homage to their favorite superhero. They wish there were indeed individuals who could fly, penetrate walls and hold up falling towers, fans hope that they could connect with someone who could zoom around the world preventing crimes and disasters. People long for a relationship with someone who is all knowing, omnipresent and all powerful, who can keep them safe from evil’s grasp. The adulation this generation has for comic book superheroes truly displays a craving for justice, healing, protection, righteousness and ultimately, salvation.
Personally, I have been led to seek the one true God’s promises of the afterlife in the pages of scriptures and not in a comic book or on a theater screen. Through my seeking I have experienced the Holy Spirit sent by God and believe He is the only one who can satisfy the hole we all have in our souls.
Eyewitness accounts affirm that a real life Jesus Christ healed the crippled, cleansed those with leprosy, walked on water and calmed a tempest in the sea with just the command of His voice. The Bible tells us that God gave Christ the ability to read the thoughts of others, command demons to obey Him, be transported across time and space and miraculously increase five loaves of bread and two fish to feed over 5,000 people with leftovers to boot.
After the memorial service I sought out this disciple of Thor but he was nowhere to be found. One thing I know for sure is that during my message I shared the good news about my superhero. The people gathered listened to me speak about a man who lived a perfect, sinless life who went willingly to the cross to take our sins upon him. They heard me recount his three day supernatural journey to the depths of the land of the dead and then be resurrected to new life. Those who had ears to hear witnessed me marvel at the promise that those who choose to follow this Jesus will also be raised up to meet him in the clouds when he comes again and will return with him to the heavenly home he has prepared for us. Now that is a hero worth following.