10 lessons learned from superhero movies

November 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

One of my fondest memories as a child was the night the very first X-Men movie came out. I was only thirteen at the time, but like many boys that age I loved superheroes. The X-Men in particular were my favorite; a group of rag-tag misfits who protected the world with amazing powers. My parents had always been careful about what I was allowed to watch, so it came as a complete surprise when my Dad suggested the two of us go see it opening night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that mediocre movie would go on to shape my life in some surprising ways.

Fast-forward a couple years, and superhero films have now become a mainstay of today’s media. For the most part they’re still campy, action-filled, thrill-rides, but like that first X-Men movie, they can be important in their own way. This is especially true for Christian families with young children. Aside from being a great way families can bond, here are ten lessons learned from Superhero movies.

What about you? Do you see spiritual lessons in superhero films? Be sure to check out CrosswalkMovies.com for our reviews of this month’s superhero entries – Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok.

1. Real Courage Demonstrates Compassion

In Captain America there’s a scene where Steve Rodgers sits down with a friendly scientist and asks why he was chosen to become Captain America. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, in fact he came in last for almost every test. The doctor explains that strength and bravery are not the same thing. A strong man can become a bully, but a brave man remembers compassion. It’s a lesson many people have sadly forgotten.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality”. This life is filled with battlefields. Sometimes courage means protecting others from violence and cruelty, but other times, it’s daring to reach out with a compassionate hand

2. Your Actions Can Inspire Others

Everybody knows the origin of Batman. After witnessing the murder of his parents at a young age, billionaire Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl to battle crime under the cover of night. What few remember is how Batman wanted more than to just beat up criminals, he wanted to become a symbol which would inspire others. Furthermore, at the end of The Dark Knight, we see he succeded. When the Joker tries to turn the people of Gotham against themselves, they choose to save one another instead.

Our actions, big or small, can have a profound effect on those around us. Simply being a part of someone’s life can lead them to places they would never have thought to go. This is especially true for Christians, who are encouraged to live out the Gospel of Christ alongside our friends and neighbors. When you act in such a way that honors the Great Commission, others will takes notice.

3. We Can Overcome Prejudice

As mutants, the X-Men live in a world which fears and despises them. Of all the dangerous villains they’ve encountered throughout the years its clear their greatest enemy is a creeping prejudice hiding within the hearts of mankind. It would be simple for the X-Men to lash out with their powers in the face of such bigotry and discrimination, but the students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters have chosen a different path instead. These heroes believe we can overcome our differences by striving to understand each other, and they fight to protect both mutant and human alike.

We exist in a combative and polarizing age. Fear often splits us down the middle, and even among believers there is an intense suspicion of anyone who doesn’t share our values. When surrounded by such overwhelming hostility it’s tempting to close ranks and view everyone outside as “the enemy”, but that is not how God commanded us to live. Rather, we are told to love our neighbors and meet adversity with courage. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” and it is through this power we overcome hatred.

4. Women Can Be Strong Too

Comic book movies are typically seen as a male pastime, but the Defenders of Justice have more than a few women within their ranks. In fact, while some areas of modern media are still laboring to bring us positive depictions of women, superhero movies have become trailblazers in gender equality. Where would The Avengers be without Black Widow? Or the Justice League without Wonder Woman? More than once it’s been a superheroine who swoops in and saves the day.

Characters like these show girls everywhere that they can be strong too. They can be smart, and driven, and passionate about helping others. For Christians, superheroines serve as terrific parallels to Biblical figures like Deborah (Judges 4), Esther (Esther 1), or Rizpah (2 Samuel 21), who demonstrated great courage and faith while under fire. Whatever their talents may be, women everywhere have the potential to be legendary.

5. Don’t Be Defined By What You Were

More than a few superheroes began their journey on the wrong side of the tracks. In Guardians of the Galaxy, audiences got to watch as a group of ne’er-do-wells discovered the hero inside each of them. Sure, they’d all made mistakes and were a little rough around the edges, but when the galaxy needed heroes, they stepped up and delivered. By the end of the film, their past crimes had been whipped away and they were free to start their lives anew. That sounds an awful lot like grace if you ask me.

In a way, we’re all a bit like the Guardians; broken, hurt, and struggling to make up for our past failures. Yet the cross stands as constant reminder that we aren’t defined by our past. As the Bible teaches, once we have accepted Christ we are a new creation, “The old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who knew you’d find that in a movie about a talking raccoon

6. We Are Stronger Together

What’s better than a lone superhero? A whole team of superheroes, that’s what! Individually the members of the Justice League are all very impressive. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, Aquaman is King of the seas, The Flash is the fastest man alive, etc. But when united together, they become a part of something far greater than themselves. The Justice League has accomplished feats no single hero could reach on their own. By combining their gifts and abilities, they have learned to build each other up while standing strong against the forces of chaos.

It may sound cheesy, but the Church is supposed to operate a lot like the Justice League. It’s made up of Christians with different spiritual gifts and abilities, called together for the purpose of implementing Christ’s justice and grace on Earth. Alone, we can only achieve so much, but together, we can do the impossible! The Bible encourages believers to, “…agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). For together we greater than the sum of our parts.

7. You Don’t Need to Be Great to Be Good

In the grand pantheon of Marvel heroes, the Defenders are what you’d call “low-stakes players”. They don’t fight galactic tyrants or interdimensional beings, they stop muggers and keep neighborhoods safe from crime. This may seem trivial when compared to the likes of Thor or Iron Man, but just because the Defenders operate on a smaller scale doesn’t make their actions any less meaningful. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have all rescued innocent lives from danger. They may never reach the heights of an Avenger, but these heroes understand you don’t need to be great to be good.

Some Christians look at their life and wonder if they’re really doing enough to serve God. If you’re not digging wells in Africa, or building houses for the homeless, can you even call yourself a follower of Christ? In reality, most of us will never achieve this level of spiritual commitment, and that’s okay. Small acts of faith can still play a significant role in the Kingdom of Heaven. Volunteering for Sunday school, helping a neighbor in need, treating others with kindness and grace, all of this can point others toward God. Always remember, you don’t need to be great to be good.

8. There is Value in Our Differences

Aquaman has always been an odd character, even in a universe filled with colorful heroes. Unlike the other members of the Justice League his powers work best underwater. His Atlantean heritage gives him a different perspective of surface life than his companions, and experience has taught him what it means to be an outsider. Yet nobody else can do what he can, and that’s what makes Aquaman so valuable. His unique gifts have become a vital part of the team.

The Bible teaches us that we are all part of the body of Christ and we all possess certain gifts.

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:8-9

Every gift is different, as is every person, and that’s a good thing. There is value in our diversity because it allows us to learn from each other and see this life through many eyes. Without these precious differences, the body of Christ would be paralyzed.

9. It’s Not about You

Dr. Stephen Strange begins his journey as a brilliant but self-centered surgeon, until a freak accident leaves him without the use of his hands. Desperate to reclaim his former glory, Strange seeks out the enigmatic figure known as the Ancient One in hopes of receiving healing. Instead, the Ancient One begins instructing Strange in the mystic arts. Though Strange excels in his training, he soon reverts back to his old, narcissistic habits. This eventually leads the Ancient One to confront Strange with a startling message, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all; it’s not about you.”

The first and simplest lesson we learn as believers is that it’s not about us, it’s about God. So many people come to Christ looking for healing, direction, or comfort, only to discover the plans of God are radically different from the plans of man. Like Strange, it’s tempting to turn our focus inward and think only of ourselves, but God commands us to put away selfish desires. As Jesus once said long ago, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

10. The Power of Self-Sacrifice

Sacrifice has always been a running theme in comic book films, a common trope being the lone hero who willingly puts their life in danger to protect others. Look at Man of Steel, where Superman sacrifices his freedom to protect the people he loves. Look at Thor, where the humbled hero shields his friends despite being powerless. In the same way, Christians are called to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24), sacrificing our dreams, our reputations, maybe even our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That being said, these films also demonstrate that self-sacrifice is not the same for everyone.

For some, it means standing up for what you believe regardless of the cost. For others, it means refusing to succumb to your inner darkness. In a few cases it even means admitting when you were wrong and seeking forgivness. What matters is that all selfish motives are left behind. As Corrie Ten Boom once sagely stated, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

– cross walk

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