Speculative fiction of any stripe more often than not, includes heroes or superheroes. It’s part of the trope of the imaginative worlds speculative authors create. For the Christian author, these heroic characters point to God or to Jesus Christ in some way or another.
For example, in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Aslan is the author’s answer to “What would God look like in this world?” In other stories such as Superman or Captain America, fans and readers or viewers who are Christian, if not the creators of the narrative, see the Savior depicted by the fictitious savior who does a sacrificial act to rescue those in danger.
Recently in a guest article here at Spec Faith Audie Thacker considered the nature of heroism in her review of My Hero Academia, a superhero manga series written and illustrated by Kōhei Horikoshi. In discussing what a hero actually is, she concludes
In the grand story of the world’s history, a story that paints in blindingly bold colors the realities of original sin and man’s fallenness, Jesus is the only hero.
So I wonder, what do most speculative stories today tell us about superheroes or heroes?
In part I think the love of speculative fiction grows from the need in the heart of each one of us for a person stronger, better, more capable, committed, willing to put his life on the line for others. We long for rescue—for ourselves, for our community, for the world. We love the idea that Someone will bring justice when we see no hope, when we are convinced that the bad guys will win, when we see devastation wrecking havoc in the face of our helplessness.
But is that all today’s speculative stories are telling us?One kind of story tells us we all have secret powers that we can uncover by looking within. In other words, despite appearances, we actually are the superheroes of our own stories.
Another kind of story tells us that whichever of the superheroes we need at the moment or turn to in our desperation, is the superhero that will save us. If we need the Hulk, then he will save us. If we need Thor, then he’ll come to the rescue. If we need an entire organization, then S.H.E.I.L.D. will band together to protect us from the forces that aim for our destruction. In other words, there is no one hero that will point to God. If anything, this type of story may suggest that there are many gods and any one of them can be our way to salvation.
Recently I was reminded of a verse in Scripture that I as a fantasy fan find particularly meaningful, though clearly it was not meant as fantasy at all. It’s real and in the original context is powerful and comforting. It points to a hero.
The verse I’m referring to is Zephaniah 3:17:
“The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Imagine! A Victorious Warrior! And He doesn’t stop with the rescue. He exults and loves and rejoices over those He’s saved. He’s involved, in a relationship kind of way.
What I think is especially powerful is that Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, we are to seek His kingdom—the kingdom of the Victorious Warrior—and His righteousness, as our primary goals.
I have to ask myself at this turn of the new year, what will seeking the kingdom and righteousness of this Victorious Warrior, this One and only real Superhero, look like?