Faith & Fandom
Batman V Superman: Man VS God
So it's Good Friday 2016. Batman V Superman came out last night and I've watched it twice in 24 hours. I know it hasn't received the critical reception that the studio would have hoped for, but a lot of fans have really enjoyed it. It has a rotten ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, yet a score of over 75% from actual viewers. However you feel about it, there's still some things we can learn from it. So here we go.
One of the overwhelming themes of this movie was the repetitive concept of Man Vs god (little g), but I think it strongly echoes our world's struggle with Man Vs God (big fat omnipotent G). In the film it pretty much seems like most of the characters have a problem with Supes. True, he has a statue and plenty of people praise his name, but there is just a lot of public disdain and skepticism for the Man of Steel, and it just seems to continually grow. Easily the same thing can be said for God, and this has been a continued pattern for years on end with no real change in sight. So for now we are going to take a look at 3 of the Man VS God cases the movie gave us to explore.
1. Batman Vs Superman- Man Vs Fear of God.
We obviously know that Batman has beef with Superman; it's the title of the movie for crying out loud. I think Batman's problem bottom line resides in
fear. Yes, he had some righteous indignation towards Superman for the devastation, destruction, and death that took place in Metropolis, but I think the bigger issue is that Batman is afraid of something bigger than himself. In the new DC Cinematic Universe, Batman has been fighting crime for over 20 years. This means he's faced almost every type of criminal possible and defeated hundreds of foes and lived. He has been self reliant (although the foreshadowing is pointing us towards the betrayal of an old ally) and he has fought the evil in the world head on and hand to hand for decades. Now all of a sudden there is this force in the world that is bigger than him, more powerful than him, and one he can't punch or shoot his way through. That instills fear in Batman, no matter how much he might want to deny it. So Batman does the only thing he can do to the things that bring him fear. He fights back.
"He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty." - Batman
Just like with Superman, often times the concept of God causes fear in men, and not the kind of fear that is the beginning of wisdom, but the kind of fear that causes man to be irrational and defensive. Although sometimes Batman is portrayed as a demon, oftentimes our reaction to God's presence is the same as the actual demons reaction to Jesus. "When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" (Luke 8:28). We feel like just because there is this powerful force beyond our control or understanding, that it is attacking us. Sometimes we just feel that fear, or like Batman, when we feel it we fight back. Let's be real though, fighting against God has never gotten any of us very far.
“Woe to the one who argues with his Maker—one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, ‘What are you making?’ Or does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?"- Isaiah 45:9
Seriously, woe to us when we try to fight God. Batman may have been sorta kinda triumphant in their battle, but it was only because Superman was trying to give him mercy. The same goes for us. When we fight God, the only thing keeping us from being destroyed is the fact that God is merciful. So whenever the presence of God brings you fear, or anger, realize that it's His mercy that is even allowing us to freely feel those things and fight Him. When we come to understand who He truly is, that fear can actually turn into fear that is manifested in reverence, respect, and obedience instead of panic and rage. I know this is a Batman chapter, but this Star Wars quote just really sums it up. "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda"
2. Luthor Vs Superman - Man Vs Bitterness Towards God.
Luthor was definitely against Superman, but his was different than fear. His was seated in bitterness. He had a deep rooted bitterness towards any "God" figure and Superman was the closest thing he could take his rage out on. In his stereotypical super villain monologue he boldly proclaimed; "What we call God depends upon our tribe. God is tribal. God takes sides. No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy's fists and abominations. I figured out way back, if God is all powerful, He cannot be all good. If He is all good, He cannot be all powerful. And neither could you be. They need to see the fraud you are, with their eyes and the blood on your hands, and tonight they will...and now God bends to my will. The cameras are waiting at your ship for the world to see the holes in the holy. The almighty comes clean about how dirty he is when it counts." Lex truly was taking out all of his bitterness towards God out on Superman.
Sadly, in the real world, plenty of people feel that same bitterness towards God, they just don't have a Kryptonian scapegoat to pin it on. They still find scapegoats though, like churches, believers, pastors, missionaries, musicians, friends, and even themselves. That's the problem when your fight is bitterness against God, just like God Himself, it touches everything. It taints everything, and makes it hard to even enjoy life. It's understandable. When tragedy happens, when things get brutal in life, many of us either turn closer to God or further away. I've seen friends become bitter over deaths, finances, opportunities, or even from their own intellect. It's not just a contemporary problem though. People have been getting bitter with God since recorded history. Pharaoh was pretty notorious for that. "But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said." Exodus 8:15, "But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go" (Exodus 8:32). God asked Pharaoh to listen, yet he fought. God pushed back and Pharaoh became bitter. His bitterness and opposition to God cost the lives of thousands. Granted, he actually was receiving direct opposition from God, and God wasn’t exactly using the kid gloves, but he was still letting his bitterness place him in a fight he couldn't possibly win.
At times, we become bitter at God not because He is against us or opposing us, but because He is leading us, guiding us, and giving us commands by which to
live. Plainly, some people just don't like to be told what to do, be given rules, or told there is a right way or a wrong way, and a God that gives instructions and commandments, and says what is right or wrong is bound to cause bitterness in our sinful hearts. The nation of Israel is a prime example. "“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry." Zechariah 7:9-12.
These commands God gave here weren't even painful, they were just general instruction and guiding in life for His people. Still, they responded in bitterness towards a God who would dare tell them what to do.
Sometimes though we find people bitter with God not over calamity, or instruction, but simply because of mercy. Some us can't stand the idea of other people not being punished. We definitely don't want to be punished ourselves, but if people in our mind deserved to be punished, we get bitter with God when they aren't. It's crazy to think we would become bitter over God being merciful, but we do so often. Even one of God's prophets struggled with this in a
huge way. Yes, Jonah was a prophet (Ooh! Ooh! Sorry! VeggieTales joke...couldn't let it go) delivering God's messages and instructions but his story ends terribly. In Jonah 4, God has just granted mercy to an entire nation who, up until that point, had been desperately wicked. So when God forgives them in their repentance, Jonah has a full blown emo bitter hissy fit. "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3. When we can think of any person that we wouldn't want to receive grace, mercy, or forgiveness, we are automatically against God, and our bitterness is going to put us on the losing end of that battle.
3. The People Vs Superman: Man Vs Control of God
One of the other influential tones of the film is that everyone was divided over how we could or couldn't control Superman. From the Senate to world leaders and of course the media, everyone was in debate over how we should regulate this powerful presence in our world. Because in actuality, much like how Batman felt, the people needed to know that Superman could be under control. They needed to know that he would be accountable, or more realistically subservient. As one of the reporters stated in the film, we want to take this savior figure and "make him abide by our rules." The government wanted to have hearings about Superman's behavior and actions, nations wanted him held accountable for damage, even damage he didn’t cause. They were okay knowing there was this super powerful force out there, as long as they had power over it. Whenever they didn't, they rioted, vandalized, and protested, and we do the same thing with God. We are comfortable with God as long as we feel He fits neatly in the box we desire Him to be in. But to give Him free reign over our lives, that is a frightening thing, and something many of us fight against. When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert and tried to convince Jesus to make God fit into His own box, this is what happened, "Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" - Matthew 4:7. Even more so in John 5:30 "I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." Jesus shows us that God is the one that is in control and that any time we try to keep that control in our own lives, we are going to regret it. The government can never regulate Superman, but they will try. We can never regulate God, but that won't stop us either. Please
understand, it is our place to submit to God, not his place to submit to ours.
Picking a fight with Superman was probably not Batman or Luthor's brightest idea ever. They both came out of their conflict changed. Batman got a new respect and sense of humility in terms of the last son of Krypton, and Luthor...well he's crazy, but at least he's in jail. When we fight with God, it changes us. Sometimes it's a learning experience and draws us closer to Him and His will, and if that’s the case then it's not a complete loss. Lex may have described Bats fighting Supes as the greatest gladiator match of all time, but in reality us fighting through our struggles, faith, and understanding of God will be one of the greatest fights we will even endure. I've always been challenged by the similar story in scripture of Jacob.
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” - Genesis 32:24-30. This too was a "Man Vs God" situation, but in a much different sense.
Jacob didn't fight out of fear, bitterness, or manipulation, but he fought with God to know him, to be blessed by Him; even when he had the chance to walk away from the whole ordeal, he kept fighting. So many of us won't fight for our faith. We won't fight to know God more. We won't fight to have a deeper understanding or relationship with Him. We won't even make the effort. But Jacob, he just wouldn't give in. There is a training montage in the movie where Batman knows he is about to go fight Supes, and he does all these relentless exercises, stuff I think I would be hospitalized for if I attempted them. I thought to myself, "If this guy has all this armor and kryptonite, why is he training so hard for the fight?" The answer is simple. He knew going into that battle that he was not going to give up until he had brought down Superman. Whatever took place, there wasn't a back door for him or an option to relent. We need to take the attitude that Bruce and Jacob had, we need to go at God. We need to be prepared for the hardship. We need to be ready for the struggle and the battle. We need to be ready that when we, we encounter God won't give up until we know Him more and are changed by His presence in our life, because that is the only time we will go up against God and win.