Superman is back. Not the superhero-he either never existed or never left, depending on your point of view-but his movie franchise, which has returned with a vengeance. Man of Steel took in $113.1 million this past weekend, the highest debut in history for an opening in June. Warner Bros. has already announced that it will make a sequel.
The film is not only making Superman part of pop culture again—it is also making him into a tool for teaching faith. Warner Bros. invited pastors to early screenings, created Father’s Day discussion guides, and produced special film trailers to be used during worship services.
The Christological themes of the movie are obvious. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that Superman was sent by a benevolent father to Earth so that he might serve its people and become a bridge between humans and his own race. At one point his earthly father tells him, “Somewhere out there you have another father and he sent you here for a reason.”
His home town is named Smallville; Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth was so tiny that it was not mentioned once in the Old Testament. His human father dies when he is young, leaving him to grow up with his mother. He lives in obscurity for 33 years before exploding on the scene to fight an enemy bent on global domination and destruction. The world doesn’t understand him; the authorities arrest him and try to control him. But he ultimately does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
When I saw the movie, I knew that pastors across the country would be using it in their sermons and worship services. While some reject such engagement with media and society, more evangelicals seem to be finding cultural ways to bridge the gap between God’s word and our world. Tom Krattenmaker’s column in USA Today says it well: “It’s better to engage the wider culture than hunker down behind a wall of insularity. After all, you can’t learn from, or influence, that which you shun.”
Like Superman, our Savior chose to enter a fallen world so that he might redeem it. Now he wants to use us to do the same.