Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Secret Origins, Pt. 1

Monday I covered one of the most common hero archetypes: the accidental hero. Though talented in some area, they are empowered in another after a terrible tragedy or loss to be the force for good they are meant to be. They had no intention of being a hero, they just ended up with the job.

Superman is not an accidental hero. Neither is Batman.

Spider-Man is, however. He was a geek who got bitten by a radioactive spider and then could take on the toughest guys you'd imagine and win. He is nowhere as powerful as Superman, but with a little help from some Red Sun radiation, he did give the son of Krypton a good pounding once upon a time. It was all a mistake, of course, and later they teamed up to defeat Lex Luthor and Doc Octopus (Superman vs. Spider-man)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Accidental heroes. Power that was given without the receivers consent, plan or desire. It could be argued that Superman does fit this category, since dear old Dad Jor-El sent him to Earth. But there never was a time when Kal-el was not empowered and different from us, at least to some extent. When you can be run over by a tractor at age 8 and get up unharmed, you pretty much've figured out the bullies in school are not going to be a real threat.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Kal-El and Bruce Wayne are sons of nobility. I have never read any writer who emphasizes this aspect of their genetics (probably for fear of elitist prejudice), but the fact is Dr. Wayne and Chief Scientist Jor-El must have produced some pretty good looking, sharp-minded boys, no matter how humbly they were raised, whether by the Kents or dear old Alfred Pennyworth.

Not so with dear Peter. He's a kid from Queens. In fact, at first when he gets his powers he gets downright cocky and wants to use them to make some money. But it doesn't last long. In fact, he indirectly causes the death of his uncle by his inaction.

That clarifies his mission for him. Gets him on the right track. He's a hero from then on.

I've been thinking about some people I know that call themselves children of God. Some believe that they are sons of God by birth. Some believe that they are sons and daughters of Him because they have special rites or religious practices. I can see why they think that. They want to be part of the process of being good. But the fact is, they lack real power. They themselves have not been changed by God.

That process is by invitation only. God invites and when we answer, He changes us. He makes us truthful, loving, and powerful in His way. They are empowered (i.e. made powerful enough to change their world) by Him. He invites many to go through this, but few do it.

I guess they are scared. I was. But, like Peter Parker, one day I was transformed by a power greater than myself. I was terrified at first. Then I got it. He wasn't asking me to be better, but to surrender to His plan for my life.

He wanted me to be a hero for him, but all I wanted was to make some moolah. And I do not necessarily mean cash, if you know what I mean. *sigh*

Jesus told a parable about how hard it is for God to get people to become REAL heroes - to become part of the life-changing family of God. Look at the way the invitation is rejected by all the "normal" people UNTIL the Master says "Fine. I'll get the damaged and crippled, the scoundrels and homeless, highwaymen and low-lifes to come and party with me!"

Luke 14:15-24
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God!"
Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'
"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'
"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "

Now I want to use this passage in a strange way, but you can still see it.

Let us suppose the wedding banquet is a very active participant party. It is a metaphor for getting together with God and having an exciting time, and it is 'Invitation Only'. Black tie. You have to imagine that it cost a lot to get put together.

Directly Jesus is informing this guy who says it sure will be cool to party in heaven, "Yeah," says Jesus. "But we keep inviting people, and they don't come. They are 'too busy'."

So Jesus lets these intelligent men in on a little secret: God ain't gonna wring His hands over the people who refuse to show up. He'll just get more guests. As He rather directly told Moses in Exodus, He could MAKE a whole new people from just him. He doesn't need the Israelites at ALL.

When God is rejected by the competent, He goes and grabs the incompetent. Then He grabs the truly lost and wicked. The people you and I do not ever think will work.

Of the three heroes above, do you know who's the most heroic, IMHO? Spider-Man. He has the rougher start, with no money nor invulnerability, so he has to work the hardest to be a hero. He had to repent of his selfishness. He has to fill-in for the uncle who died. He struggles just to get his uniform washed -or at least he did when I grew up with him in the 70's.

God calls and invites, but few answer. It is a fact. So you know what God does?

He grabs those who will truly appreciate the gift of salvation. Who do not think it is all about them and their goals. Its about Jesus. Uncouth, loud, obnoxious at times, they tell everyone how GOOD God was to them. How Jesus is Lord and men should repent. Strangely, it works. People do change and come to Jesus.

They got their powers by "accident": one day, they just opened a Bible, listened to a sermon on TV or found a tract telling them the way to salvation. Totally unplanned by them.

But you and I know better. They were invited - rather strongly, I think - from the King of the Universe to come to His feast. To party with Him. To share delicious mouth-watering spiritual food with all their buds.
You can take a bite of God's banquet the day Jesus takes a bite of you. (You know what I mean.)



Resilient Hawk said...

I'm not sure I agree with one point. Bruce Wayne's wealthy upbringing remains a constant throughout the series. Partly, and most obviously, Wayne Manor, and the great wealth he has which allows him the ability to afford the James Bond-esque tools of living on a batwing (sans prayer). Also, his playboy image -- both as a persona to hide his alter-ego, and his lifestyle in general. Less obvious, but a very interesting dynamic is that he constantly chooses to life dangerously despite his ability to live lavishly. When he decided to fight crime, he himself, in many ways, became a thug, albeit a sophisticated one.

That's what makes the Joker so compelling; he is an antiBatman. He too is a sophisticated thug, but entirely mocking the decorum of Bruce Wayne. If the Joker has an alter-ego (unless he lives his entire life in a purple suit and make-up), what would he look like?

Wayne's economic strata defines Batman. Without it, Batman is just Chuck Norris. No car, no belt, no bullet-proof anything. Still tough, but without the intimidation quotient at a 100, and no tools nor protection, and no access to the world sought by criminals. The perfect insider.

rolandmann said...

Spider-Man vs. Superman! I loved that book! I bought it when it was released...and still own it. Nicely said, sir!

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