I have held belief, for a few years now, that Man of Steel is the one of the best faith-based films of all time. The connection between faith and Superman has been there from the beginning, Superman’s very origins mirror the origin of Moses in The Book of Exodus. None of the various iterations of Superman have quite as firm a grip on faith and direct parallels to figures of faith than the Superman depicted in the DCEU. This article is the first in a series exploring the themes of faith and, more specifically, the Biblical parallels that exist in this version of the Superman mythos.
Sent from Heaven:
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.- John 6:38 NIV
“But somewhere out there, you have another father too, who gave you another name. And he sent you here for a reason, Clark, and even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”- Johnathan Kent
Superman comes from the planet Krypton. And while Krypton is certainly not heaven, it IS another world filled with beings of substantially more power than humans. Even though Superman is not perfect, he is so dominant over man in terms of sheer ability that it is daunting to the point of omnipotent. Indeed, Superman’s own father, Jor-El claims that his son ‘will be a god to them.’ In Man of Steel, Superman strives to discover and understand his reason for being on Earth. He specifically wants to know why his parents sent him. Superman, like Jesus, came from the heavens and was sent by his father for a purpose. Although Jesus knows that purpose from a young age, Clark Kent has no idea of his reason for being on Earth until he encounters a hologram of his father.
Hope of Nations:
In his name the nations will put their hope.- Matthew 12:21
“The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.”- Jor-El
Jesus and Superman are both symbols of hope. Jesus symbolizes the hope that man, with God, can triumph over sin. Superman represents nothing as crucial or so spiritual as that, he is a symbol of a more worldly hope. Hope that Earth can escape the horrific fate of Krypton if each person chooses to be a force good. Superman is literally a force for good. Like with Jesus, however, not everyone sees him that way.
Leading to Redemption:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:21
“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive for. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun.”- Jor-El
The fathers of Jesus and Superman intended for their sons to be followed by humanity. Jor-El set Superman up as an example for humanity to strive for in much the same way God sets Jesus up as the example for humanity. Neither Jor-El nor God expected humanity to get there without stumbling however. Jor-El thought Kal-El could be a redeeming factor for humanity- a factor what would prevent humanity from repeating Krypton’s sins. In this way, Jesus and Superman are quite apart. Jesus is sent to redeem humanity, but is sent to keep humanity from repeating its own mistakes.
Surrendered to Man:
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obediant- even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:8
“I’m surrendering to mankind.” Kal-El/Clark Kent
When Superman surrenders to a frightened mankind under threat from General Zod, it is voluntarily. Mankind does not have the power to incarcerate Superman, much less turn him over to the Kryptonian General. This is a parallel to Jesus in a profound way. Just as Superman’s surrender is a voluntary one, so is Jesus’. Mankind cannot imprison, incarcerate, or turn God over to trial without his consent. Yet in their humility both Jesus Christ and Superman subject themselves to the will of man in order to save them. This truly is a message of hope undeserved, of mercy needed.
Well, there you have it. This is just a taste of the Biblical references and undercurrents in the DCEU. Next time, we will explore how Superman, like Jesus, was put on trial- not for his sins, but for and because of the sins of mankind.