DC Comics, the producers of Superman and Batman comic books, are soon introducing to the world their latest “superhero”: Jesus Christ. However, this version of Jesus is not so super. As DC author Mark Russell describes it, this Jesus is sent back to earth by God to learn from another superhero (“Sun Man”) how to be a Messiah.
Supposedly God was upset that Jesus got himself crucified, so he’s been locked up in heaven for the past 2,000 years. God is finally letting him return to earth and take lessons from his mentor “Sun Man.” Along the way, this Jesus is shocked to find out how the religion he founded has been twisted by his erstwhile followers, so he has returned to set the record straight. (It has taken us 2000 years, but apparently Mark Russell is going to finally give us the straight story from God.)
Of course, many Christians are offended by this obvious blasphemous attack against the Christian faith. Others just yawn and think that this is merely another attempt to grab attention and readership. (Side note: I wonder when DC Comics is going to do a similar comic on Muhammed. Will it show him peacefully correcting all the murderous jihadists who supposedly have “hijacked” Islam? But I digress…)
And then there are others (like me) who wonder if there is anything in this blasphemous story that Christians can use for the glory of God. After all, don’t get mad… get productive.
I was very curious about the background of Mark Russell. It turns out that he was raised in an evangelical Christian home, regularly attended church, and went to Christian schools. However, his comment about Christians in evangelical churches wearing Jesus like a mascot tells me that at some point in his young life he was turned off to the Christian faith. What turned him off? We’re not told about everything that drove him away, but one thing certainly added to it: the cheap way so many Christians approach the worship and service of a holy God.
As a Christian and a pastor I take seriously the Apostle Paul’s warnings concerning false gospels (Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15). Those who mock Christ and think He is some kind of bumbling fool who’s messed up an assignment from God are lost and facing an eternity without a Savior. However, I think there are some good things we can harvest from this story and use it for the glory of God.
1. Our culture cannot get away from Jesus.
Again, notice that our entertainment and news media is fascinated with Jesus. Buddha or Muhammed never make the cover of Time or Newsweek, but Jesus does every year! You never see Hollywood making a movie about Buddha or Muhammed, but there are scores of films — both good and bad — about Jesus.
I think part of this craving for information about Jesus comes from our natural desire for some kind of superhero. We see this in ancient literature. Whether it is Achilles or Aeneas or Balder or Beowulf, cultures have envisioned a super-powerful hero who is larger than life.
The Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis admitted that this desire in other cultures is finally satisfied in Jesus Christ — the “myth became fact” as he put it. In other words, the other cultures of the world wanted some kind of superhero, but in some way they were all pointing to the ultimate historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth who fulfills our desires and even surpasses them.
Even in our modern world, Hollywood and the media just cannot ignore Him. We have “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Godspell,” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.” They all distort the truth, but they all bear witness to the fact that people are fascinated with Jesus in a way that they are not fascinated with other “religious figures.” Jesus invites our investigation and fascination; other notable religious figures are simply two-dimensional or repugnant.
2. Mark Russell has a point.
We should address this in our churches. Is Jesus more like a mascot who makes us feel good, or do we worship Him as the King and kings and Lord of lords that He is? Do modern American Christians treat Jesus more like a pop star or superhero?
I think we see the shallowness of American Christianity by the consumeristic mindset. We look for churches that “offer” us the best “bargain.” For many, the issue is not where is a congregation that loves one another and teaches truth, but rather which church has the coolest band, and the nicest nursery and youth group where I can dump my kids for an hour or more? Sermons make us feel good, but do they convict us and actually teach us the Word of God?
In my part of the country, the “church” with the largest congregation on Sunday morning is Wal-Mart or the grocery store. Why is that? Why is it that so many people simply do not see worship and fellowship and Christian service as important? Is it because they see Christians who do not take their Lord very seriously?
The theology of some churches has also warped into a man-centered dose of dogma every Sunday. This is most clearly seen in the “prosperity gospel” churches that teach that God exists to grant us our every wish, so long as we say the right words or incantation. This false gospel turns God into Santa Claus or a vending machine: “declare” the right promises and out pops a blessing! No suffering, no patience, no trials or tears required. God is our cosmic bell-hop.
3. We must rededicate ourselves to the gospel.
We can learn a lesson from Mark Russell’s apostasy and recommit ourselves to an authentic God-centered faith. Instead of getting angry at a man who has actually pointed out some glaring deficiencies in our own faith, why not take his criticism and use it to commit ourselves in walking out the ancient faith that has been once and for all delivered to the saints?
Kids can see through the hypocrisy of an entertainment-based (or on the other end of the spectrum, a legalistically-based) Christian faith. When they grow up, they might just become like Mark and mock the faith. Instead of being obsessed with entertainment or comfort or numbers or real estate or how many “likes” we get on Facebook, let’s be obsessed with loving a holy gracious God and loving our neighbor.
4. This gives us an opportunity.
Thanks to the fake Jesus of DC Comics, we have the opportunity to present the real Jesus of the Bible. Read the power and mercy of Jesus in the four Gospels.
He is Almighty God in sinless human flesh, born of the virgin Mary, who lived among us and loved rebellious mankind. Because of His great love for us, He died for the sins of mankind and physically rose from the dead. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
Jesus is not some befuddled demi-god who doesn’t quite get his assignments right, but rather the Second Person of the Triune God who secures a perfect salvation for all who repent and believe in Him. In Christ is complete forgiveness, redemption, eternal life, an abundant life, and a home in heaven with Him forever. No one loved like He did, no one forgave like He did, no one changed people’s lives like He did, and no one can compare to Him … even today.
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