There’s this quote by Documentary Filmmaker Vikram Gandhi, on Superman: –
“We as a Population on this planet have been looking for a savior. 90% of people believe in a higher power and every religion believes in some sort of messianic figure. And when this savior character comes to Earth, we want him to abide by our rules? We have to understand that this is a paradigm shift.”
These lines encapsulate the point of this article; to see the parallels between Superman and God. Is he really a messiah??? Does he have parallels to God??? Are we thinking too much of him??? These are some questions that we can answer once we look into the journey of Superman; we will see that his life does resemble to that led by JESUS CHRIST himself.
For the purpose of this article, we will consider the most recent live-action version of the character who’s origin story we have seen on screen. Thus, instead of Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman (CW shows), we will consider Henry Cavill from the DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE films. Till date, he has appeared in 3 films (not including his Shazam cameo). Thus, these would be our reference points i.e. our subheads to distinguish the phases of his life.
MAN OF STEEL = THE EARLY LIFE
A New Hope
While prepping Kal-El up in his pod to Earth, his biological mother LARA-EL feared that he’ll be an outcast, a freak. However his father JOR-EL’s words were what stood out ” He’ll be a God to them”. Though Lara’s words were truer considering the events of this movie, Jor-El’s words shaped Kal-El/Clark Kent’s journey on the path of Jesus.
Just like Christ himself, Clark’s birth did not take place through the union of those human parents who he calls himself the son of. Instead, he came from a world far out of the reach of the mortal man; a world quite different from Earth. His schoolboy days are also another parallel with Jesus; people saw him as a freak. Not just the other kids but even their parents feared him. Clark could do things no other kid his age or even an adult could do
Eg. Clark single handedly lifted a bus full of kids out of the river while Christ could heal the blind.
The Outcast Years
Clark was aware of his super strength and what harm it could do if he lashed out. On the other hand Christ was the messenger of God and thus devoid of any negativity. In both cases, they “held back” and tolerated abuse at the hands of fellow men. The words of Joseph Kent summarizes the decisions and actions of Clark and Christ both
“You just have to decide what kind of man you wanna grow up to be because whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s gonna change the world!!!!”Jonnathan Kent/Pa Kent
Even if we look at his early days as Superman, the humans are distrusting of him. Another interesting point is that just like Christ accepted the HOLY SPIRIT, Superman too accepted the SUIT. This symbolizes the fact that these actions marked the next stages in both’s journey. A journey towards Godhood. Just like they rejected the ideals of Jesus, calling him a heretic, a zealot and what not, humans distrusted Superman too.
The imperial Roman army always had Jesus on their radar and thus, eventually ended up killing him. Though the US Military eventually allied with Superman after realizing he was fighting for them, they too distrusted him. Even after saving Earth, the US government remained to fear that Superman would one day go against America’s interests. They even dispatched drones to keep an eye on Superman.
Thus, the Early days of SUPERMAN & JESUS CHRIST were filled with doubt and despair. Amidst all this discrimination and bullying, they had 2 loving parents who kept them on the right track. They made them see the “the good in things”. Eventually, they both were instrumental in making the world a better place.
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE = THE SACRIFICE
If there is any piece of media that has reflected accurately how a being like Superman or Jesus would be viewed by humans, it’s this movie. We see that though there are some believers who’ve started to respect and admire Superman (evident from Vikram Gandhi’s lines mentioned in the beginning), majority of the human race still isn’t on board with him.
The personification of man’s dismay over someone more powerful than him is BATMAN. He believes that no one stays good in this world. Additionally, he believes that when that time will come for Superman, the latter will end up dooming the world. This is similar to the Roman Empire branding Jesus Christ as a troublemaker. In both cases, the governments oppose them as these beings actually benefit the people through their own actions. However these actions go against the norms set by the govt. They loosen their control over the people.
Eg. Superman is there to help everyone irrespective of national boundaries and government jurisdiction. Thus the US gov sees this as breach of international law. Jesus too brought people closer to spirituality through a non-dogmatic and non-superstitious way of prayer. The Roman Empire though, classified it as treason.
Man (humans) too in both cases either feared them. They felt a disconnect with them. Whether it’s Superman’s heat vision & super strength or the miracles & exorcisms of Jesus Christ, man saw both as a potential threat. Man saw them as someone who, if they wanted to, could burn the whole place down. Thus, we see the Jewish public stoning Christ and handing him over to the authorities for crucifixion. Superman to suffered at the hands of man when he was beaten to a pulp, bloodied and almost killed by Batman.
Man Rallies Behind Superman
Despite the initial hatred and fear, people eventually rallied behind Jesus. Such was the extent that there was a huge crowd that came to oppose his crucifixion. In fact, the Roman soldiers had a hard time locating his hiding spot as people banded together to make sure they don’t get to Jesus Christ. BvS symbolizes this too. Batman realizes that he was wrong about Superman being an uncaring alien. In fact, he was more human than he ever will be.
So, Batman allies himself with the savior against Doomsday. Doomsday could be a symbolism of the impending doom on man. A doom that is coming due to man’s selfish nature and distrust of God. Batman’s hate and humanity’s negative preoccupation with Superman shifted global attention away from Lex. Thus, this gave time to Luthor to evade the Congress and gain access to weapons and tech that he used to create Doomsday.
A literal God a.k.a Diana Prince/Wonder Woman also allied with them in the fight. Christ tolerated all that pain to save humanity and gave his life on his own free will. Superman too tolerated the effects of the Kryptonite spear and Doomsday’s stab to eventually kill the monster. He died during the process too. It was after the sacrifice that people realized the greatness of these men.
Christianity grew into a full-fledged religion and it was without the practice of sacrifices, chanting priests and indulgences. This has been reflected by the quote used in the film: “If you seek his monument, look around you”
Even the biggest skeptics like Batman were moved by the goodness in Superman. Both Superman and Jesus Christ proved that though man fights, kills and betrays the other, they can rebuild and do better. Both made people look into the good in them.
ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE = THE RESURRECTION
Man’s Realization of the Greatness of Superman
Considering that the highly compromised 2017 theatrical release was nowhere close to Director Zack Snyder’s original version; it would be safe to say that not much is known about the particulars of Superman’s character arc. Therefore, we cannot explain much here.
However, we have a general idea if we look in the context of the overarching DCEU storyline. The most prominent Christ symbolism would be The Resurrection. We saw how in BvS, the population of man gained immense respect for Superman after his sacrifice. Even his biggest skeptics developed an admiration for that being whom they once considered to be a dangerous alien. Nothing reflects man’s changed attitude towards Superman than Bruce Wayne/Batman’s dialogue
“I failed him in life…… I won’t fail him in death”
It was the threat of the unknown future and Superman’s heroics that prompted Batman to create the Justice League. An alliance to protect humanity. This echoes the sentiment of why Christ’s crucifixion had to happen in the first place. He agreed to be crucified to absolve man of his sins. He volunteered to pay the price of the sins of all humans, so that they could once again live a better life.
Resurrection of Superman
This brings us to resurrection. The League did so by drowning Clark’s dead body into the water in the Kyrptonian ship’s Genesis pod (used by Kryptonians to give life).
The Bible (Mark 1:10) says,
“Just as Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open, and the spirit descending on him like a dove”
When Clark successfully came back to life, the water and him burst open the roof of the ship and he ascended into the air.
Later on in the fight with Steppenwolf and his parademons, Superman emerged at the right time to give the much needed help to the rest of the heroes. Just like Christ appeared too at the apt time for the people. This is evident from the huge crowds of people who brought sick, demon possessed and even paralyzed men and women to him. They believed that only his touch can heal them.
We will know more once the movie releases March next year.
The Man from Kansas in hindsight, doesn’t seem to be much different from The Man from Nazareth. They both possess an inherent goodness and a selfless nature, which make them true heroes. They inspire and encourage the people to see and do good. You can trust them to be out there looking after us from all kinds of evil.