I’ll be honest, I’m kind of into movies. Not only that I’m seriously into comic book movies. You probably have to be to design and build a guitar based on ‘Captain America’.
Anyway, why are movies like wonder woman, dawn of justice, guardians of the galaxy, marvel’s avengers and so on making so much money? This question matters because the cash they make implies a wide audience. There was once a time that comic books were the realm of teenage/young adult males. Not anymore they’re not. I mean sure, the teenage blokes are still there, but so are the older ones and it’s much the same story for the ladies.
I’m really struggling to pick out the dominant age/gender these days, because everyone is there. The geeks are indeed taking over the world. Why?
1.Everyone feels dis-empowered
Back in the day, people read comic books about batman beating up badies in a back alley principally because they’re still nursing their wedgie rash from that day’s recess. It was an escape for the dis-empowered, the refuge for the victim. But it was kind of all for the nerds and they were kind of a niche market.
But as I’ve just pointed out, Comic books are no longer for a niche market, which means one of two things, either they are no longer a fantasy (I highly doubt that) or, everyone feels like a victim. It seems both the bully and the bullied have the one thing in common, they are both dis-empowered somewhere.
When I speak to kids at school, many times it is about playground/bully issues. Once they have finished their account of whatever incident, I ask them this question: “do you know what he most powerful thing you can say to a bully is?” I give them a few guesses and then respond: “It is: ‘are you ok?'” You should see their face when I say this.
However, some kids take the advice, and take their bullies completely off guard by genuinely asking them this question. Only to find out that often the ‘bully’ is struggling with the same home-life or issues that they are. Hey presto a new connection and hence friendship is formed. All I’m doing of course is sneaking Jesus’ advice to ‘love you’re enemies’ under the door of their world view.
Jesus’ advice works in real time, because when we apply it often enough and long enough, we begin to see the truth: both the victim and the villain are simply waiting for the hero to save them. No society has ever had more tools at it’s disposal, and yet no society has expended so much money every year on watching stories centred around the idea of salvation.
Think about that.
2. The Pantheon is real……ish.
Make no mistake, the moment you have a salvation story, you are talking about God, or gods. Why else do think Thor is in the avengers? The problem is that by and large, we only want to be saved by the person who shares our values. Can you imagine a Captain America fan in North Korea?
In the gospel of Luke, that last thing Jesus does before he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, is tell a version of the parable of the talents. Amidst this Parable in verse 14 he says something extremely interesting:
Luke 19:14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.
They want to choose their own king. Their own Lord. Their own Savior. It occurred to me recently that since the fall, we naturally want to choose our king because we want to choose our values. And we want to do that because we want to feel justified without bothering with accountability. That’s Paul essentially highlights in Romans that the worst thing God can do for people is give them what they want.
This is why human history is the history of pantheons. (Multi-gods.) Why? Because pantheons give you choice. Let’s say you are a violent type of person; you can therefore choose to worship the god of War. If you do that, there’s a whole raft of things that you can feel justified in doing because your god is by very nature violent. Now today it’s precisely the same, of course the names have changed but the idols remain the same. Imagine you worship the god of progress. If you do, you will have zero conscience issues in destroying a living embryo for the sake of research.
Coat it in all scientific language all you like, but at the end of the day your ethics extend from your worship. This is also why Christians appealing to people’s consciences are wasting their time, their conscience is settled because and only because, it has been shaped by that person’s idol.
You want to see what the new pantheon is? would you like to know the address of the modern Olympia? That’s easy: Hollywood. Marvel Studios. DC studios. You get the idea.
Christians’ prophetic task is reveal to people the pantheon, (and the problem with it). The problem is obvious, in fact you can see it in comic books, the gods were always at war. Of course they are! They represent different worldviews.
Now today, in spite of all the press about tolerance we live in the most divided age in social history. (Thanks ABC radio philosophy segment!) Why? Because the humanity is bowing down to the pantheon en-masse (that hasn’t changed) but was has changed is that in the midst of doing it, Modernism has convinced people that the pantheon problem doesn’t exist, (wait for the irony) all whilst creating the most detailed and developed mythology in human history that drives a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry.
Paganism cannot survive without a pantheon to worship. Heroes are just gods in a cape.
Know your comic books = know the pantheon = understand western late-modernism = address it with the gospel.