It was easy to set up my "queue" of movies to come to my door...a little too easy, really. Because I have a 3-year-old he-man child obsessed with Buzz Lightyear and all things remotely like him, I decided that our debut Netflix flick would be Superman, the original 1978 version. (It did require some remote control finesse during the disturbing earthquake scene. I reserve the right to censor while I am still able.)
Just for fun, I'm including the song here. Go ahead and click on it. You can listen to it while you read the rest of this post.
Watching the movie as an adult was a different experience than watching it as a kid. Maybe I ponder the deeper meanings of things more these days, or maybe they were just too deep for me to understand back then. But this time around, it was clear to me that the story of Superman contains some undeniable biblical parallels. Not perfect ones, of course, but parallels that were too interesting for me to ignore without sharing them. So without going into too much detail here (I hope), allow me to make four quick observations about it:
1) The father sends his only son as a baby.
Superman's father, Jor-el, sends him to planet Earth as a baby, Moses-in-the-bullrushes style, in his own little spaceship to protect him from the destruction of planet Krypton. Earth is a "primitive" planet, and Superman's mother worries that her son will feel isolated and alone there because of his great powers. As he places the baby in the ship, Jor-el (played by Marlon Brando) says in his deep, baritone voice, "He will never be alone. All that I have, all that I've learned, everything I feel, all this and more, I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father, the son."
1 John 4:14 says of Jesus, "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."
Clark Kent grows up as a farm boy in Smallville, Kansas knowing that he is different, just as his birth mother fretted. His earthly parents are named Martha and Jonathan (dare I compare the M and J names to Mary and Joseph?) Jonathan tells him that he is meant for greater things, and Clark ponders the purpose of his life alone in the cornfields. Finally, the day comes when he tells Martha after Jonathan's death, "I have to go." And then the miracles begin...saving Lois Lane, preventing accidents, thwarting bad guys. Jesus began his earthly ministry at a definitive point in time, after spending years growing up as a humble carpenter's son.
3) The son retreats to commune with the father.
Through Kryptonian technology that the audience just has to accept, Superman often visits the "Fortress of Solitude" to speak with Jor-el (or, at least, to speak with a large, transparent hologram head that does not seem to creep him out in the slightest.) He tells his father of his struggles, asks him for help, and receives advice there. In the gospels, Jesus often retreated from the crowds and found solitary places to pray to the Father.
4) The son is the light and the way.
Jor-el tells his son about the people of earth, "They can be a great people if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all - their capacity for growth - I have sent them you, my only son."
John 1:9 "The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world."
John 14: 6 "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' "
In real life, there was never a flying man in red boots who swooped in to help people in their times of need. Instead, we were given the real super-man...the humble carpenter from Nazareth, the one who came from above to give his life as a ransom for many, the Son of God who lives to intercede for them. He came, not just because the Father thought we had a capacity for growth, as Superman's father said of the people of earth, but because of God's deep love for the people he had made who needed a Savior.
That night, as I tucked my he-man child into bed, he drowsily prayed, "Thank you God for the mailman, who brought me the Superman movie today."
Thank you God for sending your super-man...to us.