C.S. Lewis on Superman and being “Christ-ey”

I will only quote Lewis towards the end, so bear with me.

As I read through the negative reviews on Man of Steel from the “Christian Art Realm”, I’m left scratching my head. I wonder two things; one, have any of these folks ever read a Superman comic book and two, what’s with barely disguised hatred of super hero movies?

Allow me to explain my questions.

Arty Christian reviewers are  bashing the obvious Christ analogies in the movie. In doing so, they critique that which they don’t understand. Superman from his original inception has always been a bit “Christ-ey”. If not “Christ-ey”, then certainly grounded in Judeo-Christian in influence. The original creators were two Jewish kids from Cleveland.

Superman has gone through numerous writers and incarnations through out his history. Many of them have chosen to play up the “Christ-ey” element in their version of Superman. I’ll grant that Nolan and Snyder over do it in Man of Steel, but they are still well within the Superman mythos. When I hear Christian reviewers going off on Man of Steel for putting in the “Christey” element, it just shows their ignorance of the comic’s history. It makes me cringe.

Have marketing people taken advantage of this element? Sure, but that is beside the point. Superman was never intended to be Jesus proper, but rather more “Christ-ey”.

Lewis himself realized this about all his pagan gods and it is one of the points that led him to Christ. All his favorites were a bit “Christ-ey” and that is what drew him to the real Lord. The complaint seems more than overstated. Its just plain wrong.

And, if we know our our Old Testament, we know that “Christ-ey” types are all over it. It’s called “Covenant Theology”. Moses, David, Gideon, Solomon, and Father Abraham are all considered to be “Christ types”. Are they perfect Christ types? Not at all. But, again, that misses the point. They are “shadows” of the light to come.

Further, the attitude from Christian Art Reviewers seems to demonstrate a weird, deep seeded hatred of comic books and superheros. One reviewer called super heroes “inherently silly” and not worth serious discussion. Some critiques of Man of Steel revolve around the supposed silliness of a “man shooting fire out of his eyes”.

Because, you know, the beasts surrounding the throne of God aren’t weird at all.

I really am mystified by this attitude. If folks would like to explain it to me, I’m all ears.

Arty Christian types are committing the mistake that C.S. Lewis addresses in his essay, “On Science Fiction”.

“Many reviews are useless because, while purporting to condemn the book, they only reveal the reviewer’s dislike of the kind to which it belongs. Let bad tragedies be censured by those who love tragedy, and bad detective stories by those who love the detective story. Otherwise we shall find epics blamed for not being novels, farces for not being high comedies, novels by James for lacking the swift action of Smollett.”

Here is the thing. I would NEVER say everyone must enjoy comics or superheros. They aren’t for everyone. What I want to see is less of a dismissive and snotty attitude when it comes to the comic realm. I want to see serious engagement and serious discussion. I want to see less ignorance pretending to be knowledge.

As Lewis said it best in the same essay, ““Who wants to hear a particular claret abused by a fanatical teetotaler?”

This is an invitation to an open and honest invitation to discuss this issue. Even if you disagree, I want to hear your opinion. No comments will be erased or moderated as long as they are respectful.

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About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015


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