Summary: A call to stand against the "god of this world" and go into the world around us proclaiming truth and justice to all
This morning I want to talk about superheroes. Most of us are familiar with Superman. Daily Planet news reporter, mild-mannered Clark Kent would step into a phone booth, remove his glasses, change into a pair of blue leotards and shirt with a big red “S” on the front, red swim trunks, and don a red cape. When he emerged from the phone booth, amazingly no one recognized him as mild-mannered Clark Kent. Superman was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive – steam powered – and could leap tall buildings with a single bound. When a bad guy would shoot at him he would stand there and let the bullets bounce off his chest; but when the bad guy ran out of bullets and threw the gun; Superman would duck. The only thing that could slow down Superman was Kryptonite; which was his downfall. Seigel and Shuster, the creators of Superman were descendents of Jewish émigrés who had escaped early Nazi Germany. Interestingly, Superman’s Kryptonian name, Kal-El contains the Jewish suffix “El” which is Hebrew for “of GOD,” much as in the names of the angels Gabriel and Ariel.
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! ... With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of History can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!” Just reading those memorable words brings chills to me and reminds me of sitting in front of the 24 inch black and white television on Saturday mornings, intently watching the exploits of the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The masked man, a former Texas Ranger, and his trusty sidekick Tonto would ride throughout the old west fighting for truth and justice. Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels were very serious in their position as role models for the kids, and the 45% of adults, who tuned into their show. They lived by a creed to uphold those role models. Here are but a few of the points of that creed:
I believe to have a friend, a person must be one,
I believe everyone is created equal and has within themselves the power to make this a better world,
I believe GOD put the firewood there, but every person must gather and light it themselves,
I believe sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken,
I believe all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever,
I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow human being.
There were others points to the creed and there were many other superheroes, but these are sufficient to emphasize the direction we will be taking the scripture today.
Who are the superheroes in today’s culture? What are the mores they advocate and how do they influence the development of our culture? Today’s superheroes are most often depictions of some evil force with equally evil destructive powers.
From what I can see, the morality and acceptable role models of the superheroes of the by-gone era have also become things of the past. What became of that respect for decency and clean-living which permeated those stories of truth and justice for all humankind?
One of the oldest of the modern era superheroes is “Wolverine”, a mutant wolverine-human mix with three retracting claws on each hand. His catchphrase is, “I am the best at what I do, but what I do is not very nice;” a really great moral code for a role model. Wolverine is typical of the many tough anti-authority antiheroes which emerged from the American pop-culture of the late 60’s. The Lone Ranger never shot to kill; rather he would shoot to disarm the villain. The Wolverine on the other hand is more than willing to use deadly force; employing those treacherous claws to rip apart his foes.
Another superhero, recently reintroduced in the movies and soon to open a sequel, is the Ghost Rider. Johnny Blaze grew up in a daredevil circus family. His mother took the two younger children and left Johnny alone with his father. When his father died, Johnny was adopted by another circus family who erased his memory to ease the pain of losing his real parents. Johnny’s stepfather developed terminal lung-cancer and Johnny turned to the occult, where he “inadvertently” – a drop of blood from a paper cut falls on the contract sealing it – and it sells his soul, to the tempter Mephisto, in order to save his step-father’s life. Johnny’s step-father is immediately cured of lung cancer, but is killed later that day in a motorcycle stunt accident. Incidentally, Mephistopheles is the devil in the Faust legend to which Faust sold his soul. As the Ghost Rider, Johnny transforms into a flaming-headed motorcyclist who exacts vengeance upon sinners of mankind. His motorcycle is made of Hellfire, a supernatural flame which typically burns the soul and not the body. The source of this supernatural power comes from Zarathos, a demonic entity who tortures and destroys souls.