We live in an age of superheroes. Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debuted in 2008, movies about costumed adventurers have dominated pop culture, making household names of obscure characters like Rocket Racoon and Spider-Ham.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of these movies. We can find it in the best scene of the first superhero blockbuster, 1978’s “Superman: The Movie.” A helicopter accident leaves reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) dangling off the side of a skyscraper. She loses her grip and plummets toward the pavement, but Superman (Christopher Reeve) swoops in and catches her mid-air. “Easy, miss, I’ve got you,” he says with reassuring calm. But Lois isn’t so easily put at ease. “You’ve got me?” she shouts; “Who’s got you?”
That little moment captures so much of what we love about superhero movies: the fantasy that some inexplicable power will rescue us from certain calamity, that miracles arrive in colorful spandex.
That scene also demonstrates why Christians are among the biggest superhero fans. Christianity is, as the great theologian Howard Thurman wrote, the religion of those “with their backs against the wall.” Again and again, the Bible teaches that God comforts those who mourn, that all things work for the good of those who love God, no matter how powerful the wicked may seem, no matter how dire the situation may appear. The Bible promises that God “regards the lowly” over the haughty, that God loves justice.
But is the justice God loves the same as the justice Superman and the Avengers mete out against wicked businessman Lex Luthor or universe-destroying Thanos? Is beating up bad guys the same as doing good?