Like all the Superman fans out there I eagerly anticipated the release of the newest Superman movie titled - Man of Steel. I went to see it in the theater with another Superman fan, who I must admit is by far a more avid fan than I.
With the release of such a highly anticipated movie there came the usual comparisons, critiques and varied responses to what was seen on the big screen. One comparison that made quite a bit of press was the subtle at times and blatant at times allusions to Jesus made throughout the film. Superman is sitting in a chapel talking to a priest at one point with a stained glass window of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane behind him, there is also a scene near the end of the movie where Superman cries out in anguish and up the stairs behind him in the background of the shot there is a window with pieces of glass broken out in the shape of a cross.
While there are undoubtedly parallels between the Man of Steel and the Son of Man, for example his being sent by a Father to earth to help humanity, as well as his blood carrying his people's life (see movie for more on this), there is one really big glaring difference between Superman and Jesus. And it is one that our culture easily overlooks. The difference is Jesus didn't use violence to save others, he allowed violence to be done to him to save others. Jesus never practiced nor condoned violence. Where Jesus taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and forgive and love your enemies, Superman simply uses his laser beam eyes, and super strength to smash bad guys to dust. While I love a good action movie, I must protest at the comparison that somehow the Man of Steel is one and the same as Jesus, or that the parallels are strong enough to overlook this major contrast.
There are of course the themes of self-sacrifice, and service and caring for humanity that run through the storyline of Superman; however, he is an alien, not the God-man sent to save us by way of dying.
I believe our culture overlooks this difference to our detriment. We sanction violence and even teach our children to thirst for it by way of movies, video games and the like. I am not against watching movies with violence in them, but I take issue when we blindly allow the viewing of violence in film and other media to wash away one of the most powerful distinctives of Jesus Christ - his total avoidance of violence toward another being. This difference may be small in the eyes of American culture, but it is big in the eyes of one who is trying to follow the Jesus Way, and while reading texts like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7 we cannot overlook Jesus' radical call to fight hatred with love. If we fight fire with fire, the whole world burns. The Man of Steel is cool but he is not Jesus.