Harvest House Publishers
“Being a true American and being a fan are synonymous,” said Lulu Glaser many years ago. She was talking about baseball, but her words typify many American’s relationship to pop-culture. What we delight in as fans helps define us. It is said the word fan derives from the word fanatic, which suggests excessive devotion. Stephen Skelton is a fan. He is devoted to his hero – Superman. He is also a Christian, which means he is devoted to Jesus Christ. Sadly, when one reads Skelton’s book, The Gospel According to the World’s Greatest Superhero, it is difficult to tell which devotion is greater. While he suggests that Jesus’ story is “greater,” he actually prefers Superman when the two come to the place of inevitable conflict.
The premise of Skelton’s book is that Superman, especially in his modern comic book, television, and movie incarnations, is an amazing parallel to the life of Christ and the Gospel. The fit is so neat, he believes, that Superman is a natural lead in to believing in Jesus and should be used by Christians to point people to Him. Most of his book is a passionate attempt to connect details found in Superman stories to Christ. Sometimes the connections are rather obvious, and sometimes they are ridiculous (as when Skelton sees biblical meanings in the colors of Superman’s costume, or the Trinity in the somewhat triangular shield on Superman’s chest, or connects the prominent letter S with the bronze serpent of Moses, the death of Christ, and tells us it is a “God-inspired” image).
Make no mistake. Modern Superman stories do deliberately draw broad parallels from the Christ story. The recent movie trailer for Superman Returns explicitly uses Christian imagery of the Father sending His only Son to the earth to save it. Such things thrill Skelton because in his mind this somehow magnifies Christ. When I saw the trailer, one word came to my mind: blasphemy. If I believed Superman was a fictional representation of the real Jesus, as C. S. Lewis’ Aslan is in the Narnia stories, I would rejoice in it. Aslan has all the essential attributes of Christ. Superman lacks many of them, especially holiness. The new Superman is a product of Hollywood and he indulges in Hollywood’s favorite sins. It is at the point of exalting sin that Skelton needed to draw the line and choose his Savior over his hero. It seems he cannot bring himself to do it, or consider it.
Hollywood’s favorite sins are lust and fornication. When Superman arrived on the big screen in 1978, modern post-60’s sexual attitudes were quickly introduced through Lois Lane, whom Skelton compares to Mary Magdalene. Skelton acknowledges that “she is repeatedly associated with sex” in the first film, even challenging Superman to use his x-ray vision to look at her underwear. Lois’ immodest attitude (never criticized in the story or by Skelton) immediately makes her an unsuitable heroine for godly seekers of wholesome, God-honoring entertainment. Skelton can’t see this. He delighted in the 1980 sequel Superman II, in which the hero forsakes his super powers to have sex with Lois. Skelton calls this fornication a desire to “live a normal life with Lois,” and then dares to comment on this as “the Christ figure sacrificing himself for the love of another.” If this isn’t blasphemy, it does not exist. But Skelton isn’t done. He is excited to tell us the plot of the new Superman Returns, which takes place five years after Superman beds Lois. She is now living with a man, and she has a five-year-old child. Guess whose? Skelton writes with glee that this plot twist involving an illegitimate child is “a boon to those fans of Jesus-and-Magdalene romantic apocrypha!”
Skelton repeatedly tells us that Superman’s father represents God the Father. But when Lois loses her life, Superman, more committed to his Magdalene than his father, disobeys the father in order to turn back history and save her life. Skelton has no problem with a disobedient Messiah figure, who prizes sexual interest above all else. In fact, Skelton never seems able to criticize Hollywood for defiling his hero or the Christological imagery he values so highly.
There are many other theological errors in the book. When giving “his only son” his mission (Skelton calls it his ministry), Superman’s father (God) says of humanity: “They can be a great people, Kal-El – they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you – my only son.” So man is good, just in darkness. Is Superman a Messiah, or a Buddha?
Skelton clearly lacks biblical discernment, which is frightening because he has written numerous Bible study curricula using the pop entertainment culture. And I believe he knows better. His book is well documented and his Superman knowledge seems exhaustive, but somehow he never mentions or acknowledges John Galloway Jr.’s superior 1972 book The Gospel According to Superman. Galloway was not obsessed with finding similarities between Superman and Christ; there weren’t as many intentional ones in his day, although he mentions Jesus’ Superman attire in the play Godspell. Galloway saw Superman as primarily an expression of popular religion, and he contrasted man’s “pop God” with the real Jesus. Galloway foresaw Skelton’s error 35 years in advance when he warned of comparisons where “the real message of God is cut off, and instead the fascination is with a comparison between some character and the God of pop religion.” He says later, “Superman bears striking resemblance to the god of popular religion.” Skelton fails to interact with Galloway’s challenge in any way.
Skelton has built his work on a grand false assumption: because unbelievers use some aspects of the Bible to frame their own stories, what they create is useful as a means of supporting biblical truth. But this only causes confusion when unbelievers work humanism and sin into the mix. If we tell people (children!) that Superman is a Christ figure or “like Jesus” and Superman commits, even celebrates, one of the common sins of our age, what message have we sent? That important question is never asked by Skelton. He is too big a fan. – Wayne Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
From above, a heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth...
Sound familiar? It should -- whether you're a fan of Superman or a reader of the Bible. Author Stephen Skelton reveals how the Man of Steel actually champions the truth about the Super Man himself--Jesus. For instance, did you know: