Some prefer Superman because he’s so perfect. He’s from another world and tells no lies and has super human strength and powers, and yet he chose to be one of us, and to protect and serve us. Others prefer Batman because he’s flawed but excellent. He’s relatable; he’s one of us, and yet he inspires us to be more than we are and helps us believe that it’s possible. In a way, we need them both because they are both part of the Christian story. Superman is in many ways the story of Jesus, who, though God became a man and lived among us to save us out of His great love for us. Batman is our story, the story of man who, though flawed and complex can set aside his darker nature and become better, living his life for a greater purpose in service to his fellow man. But, as we know in real life, when man first meets God, it often doesn’t go well. This movie is largely that story, in superhero terms.
Batman (or Bruce Wayne, if you prefer), represents the prevalent feelings towards authority in our modern times—distrust (and hostility, rebellion, jealousy…to name a few). He works outside the law to bring about justice (because he doesn’t just the system to accomplish it). The irony of this is that he’s going after people who break the law, as if all others should be held to its standard but himself (also a sign of our times). The only thing he truly trusts in is himself (although he trusts Alfred with his secrets, when the two clash in opinions, we see that he doesn’t trust Alfred’s judgment as he does his own).
You can imagine, given these few small details about Batman, how he might feel when another vigilante shows up on the scene, only this time, it’s one with more power than himself. He doesn’t trust anything more powerful than himself, and here comes another “man” who is taking his place as savior of the city, and who is getting a lot more press, and who is a lot more powerful. Batman was peeved, threatened, maybe even jealous, and he certainly didn’t trust Superman’s good will. (Because no one could do what he was doing with altruistic intent, except for himself, right?!)
Ironically, Superman had his own questions about Batman, but perhaps those were slightly more justified. Batman’s methods were more questionable, darker and definitely more outside the law than Superman’s, after all. And Superman wasn’t feeling threatened or competitive with Batman, only a concern about Batman’s methods. He seemed more willing to assume the best in Batman, but he still had his concerns about anyone, other than himself, working outside the law.
Let’s also through Lex into the mix. Lex was a truly bad guy, through and through. He too had deep mistrust for the powers of both Batman and Superman. (Superman more than Batman as his powers were greater and he seemed less corruptible.) Again, the irony of this is that the people who most distrusted and even hated the Superman (consistently referred to as a god in this movie), were the ones who themselves were most powerful (whether they used their power for good or for evil). To the common man, who himself felt powerless and saw his need, Superman was a savior, a sign of hope! But to those who didn’t see their need for a savior, they were deeply mistrustful, sometimes jealous, sometimes competitive and resentful and even hateful towards him. Not so different from our world today, is it?
One of Batman’s reasons for hating Superman was that he blamed superman for causing pain and suffering in the world. He saw the fight between Superman and General Zod and saw how much collateral damage was there, and he blamed Superman for that. Nevermind that it was General Zod who picked the fight and wanted to harm earth. Nevermind that Superman was risking his life to save the earth. (This reminded me of The Incredibles when the superheroes all get blamed for trying to help people. No good deed goes unpunished, right?) You might think that he of all people would understand, being in similar situations himself. Or perhaps he thought he could do it better. Or maybe it was just his deep seeded distrust of authority figures or his need for someone to blame for the pain he felt. Whatever the reason, not only did he not trust Superman, but he set out to stop Superman. He opposed him.
Batman (I think it was Batman?!) makes a comment, “The world has been so caught up in what Superman can do, no one has thought to ask what he should do.” That’s actually a great statement. Just because we have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. The thought could have been equally applied to Batman, of course. The question, however, is who is to say what Superman should or should not do? In regards to Batman it’s perhaps easier. He’s a human and should act within the laws of man (provided, of course, they don’t violate the laws of God…except he doesn’t believe in the Bible).
Superman is different. Superman is god. He’s not man. He can do things man cannot. He’s not from earth and doesn’t have to abide by earth’s laws, not the laws of gravity or physics, neither the laws of politics and governments. And yet, he has submitted himself to man as a citizen and a protector. So where does that put him? Should he be ruled by man when he is more than man? I suggest no. I suggest that he did as God has done—he humbled himself to man to love and serve him, but that he is not controlled by them. He submits for their good, but also acts for their good, even when it that means he must act against them. Sometimes doing something against someone is doing something for them. God does not force himself on us, but neither is He controlled by us. He serves and protects us but He doesn’t not answer to us. Superman did the same and we see that perhaps most powerfully when he had to confront Batman.
Batman wanted to kill Superman. Superman wanted to recruit Batman to help him. It took a while and a lot of struggling, a lot of fighting. (Think of Jacob wrestling with God all night.) Superman didn’t want to hurt Batman, but he had to in order to make him see the truth. If only Batman had been less suspicious of Superman’s power and his goodness… In the end, of course, he yields. He gives up his hate and aggression towards Superman and joins his team. Why? Largely because he began to realize they had a common enemy—Lex and his creation. Nothing unites people on a team like having an enemy (that’s not each other). That enemy ended up being bigger and more powerful than Batman could handle and he realized that he and Superman needed to work together.
This is the same way many of us finally give our lives to God—we realize that we need Him, that we have an enemy that is bigger than we can handle alone. We may not yet truly love Him, may not even yet fully trust Him (though for some those things come first), but we finally see that He isn’t the enemy, rather, He wants to help us fight the enemy, and we need the help.
Questions for Discussion:
- Would you say that towards authority you have a feeling of trust or a sense of caution (or maybe strong distrust)? Why?
- Would you say this movie accurately demonstrates the general feelings of our world towards people and systems of power / money / authority? Why or why not? What other movies share this sentiment?
- Do you think our distrust of “the man” parallels our feelings about God? How is God the same and/or different from other authority figures?
- Do you tend to think you should be trusted with power and/or to do things outside the law, while others should not (like Batman did)?
- How do you feel about God? Is He a savior to be lauded, or an authority figure with too much power (that you should be suspicious of)?
- If you found that you and God had the same enemy and that you needed God’s help to fight him, would it make it easier for you to trust God?