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Our World is Saved by Super-Weakness

Have you ever been asked that weird ice-breaker question: if you could have a superpower what would it be? My answer would be super-weakness. Let me explain. I have always wondered why Superhero movies are so popular lately. To be honest I was over the fad back when the first X-Men movie came out. So I did a bit of research. Out of the many theories out there, I came to this conclusion: superheroes are a metaphor of our lives and they personify our ultimate hopes.

The hope these heroes point to is of a better life

Superman, says Jim Higgins, is actually "a metaphor for the Jewish immigrant experience" coming to North America. The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, were children of Jewish immigrants. Like Superman, they had survived the destruction of their people. They were born into new land and had to adapt to a new culture even though they were different. And like Superman they would overcome every obstacle before them. Also many of the heroes of Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber), like Spiderman, are arguably a similar metaphor. The hope these heroes point to is of a better life in a new prosperous land. Eventually these heroes lost popularity until, as a few writers argue, we needed hope. 

When Sept 11th, 2001 happened, the hope of national security and prosperity was challenged in North America. We started looking for a hero to save us from “the bad guys!” Superhero movies started to point to these heroes. Emily VanDerWerff argues that all superhero movies are now an attempt to rewrite the 9/11 story. These movies have become myths by which North America locates their hope. “They became stories about beings and organizations with nearly infinite power that would do whatever necessary to keep the homeland safe”: myths in which the good guy always wins. The hope they personify is the strength of our nation and ourselves – our genius (think Bruce Banner and Tony Stark); our wealth, weapons and technology (think Bruce Wayne and Wakanda); our spirit which never gives up (think Captain America); our goodness and innocence – (think Superman, Spiderman) which contrasts the bad guys. 

It is hard to imagine Batman pleading with a woman to wash her hands.

Now a new threat has come to us. A pandemic, not a person. A virus not a terrorist. We can’t just beat up COVID-19 and there is no obvious bad guy. Literally anyone could be smuggling the threat on their hands. What kind of hero do we need now? We need one of super-weakness. In the Bible we find a superhero akin to many we have mentioned: Samson. Samson too is a metaphor for our lives and he too personified our ultimate hopes – but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of fighting the bad guys to victory, he was ultimately captured. Instead of escaping at the last second, he dies blind and beaten. Instead of realizing his ultimate hopes of a free nation, Israel simply returns to the vicious cycle of obeying God, disobeying God – what my friend on the street calls toilet paper on a hula hoop. 

We, the reader, have the privilege to see what Samson couldn’t: his and our hope must be recalibrated. When our ultimate hope is in ourselves - our strength, our technology, our ambition – we will eventually be left crushed and overwhelmed. It is not strong enough. No wonder we tremble in the face of the pandemic. It is poking holes into our hope and exposing its vulnerability. I wonder what kind of superhero movie will be made in response. It is hard to imagine Batman pleading with a woman to wash her hands or the Hulk trying to keep people 2 meters apart. After all we are super-people too. We have rights. We are free to fly where we want. 

We need heroes who are patient – not those who rush into battle.

This is why the superpower I want is super-weakness; for this is the power of Jesus. Jesus is not a personification of our hope; he is our hope. Jesus is not only a metaphor of our lives; he is the truly human one. As such his power is not bravado, intellect or physical strength, but weakness, humility, service. He defeated the greatest supervillain, Satan, and the two greatest weapons of mass destruction, Sin and Death, through the cross not conquest. Jesus saved the world through super-weakness. 

In the midst of this pandemic, these are the heroes we need. We need heroes who are patient – not those who rush into battle. We need heroes who are disciplined and wash their hands – not those who want to get their hands dirty. My friends who are considered weak in this world show me how to be this kind of hero. My hero is my friend on the street educating his friends about physical distancing and my other friends who occupy the “Jesus Table” at the largest day shelter in Edmonton. They pray for each other, support each other, rely on Jesus - their hope. Also, my hero is my wife who is an emergency nurse just doing her job: ordinary weak heroes who rely on the cruciform-power of Jesus, our hope. Jesus is our true hero and he invites us to participate in his just salvation. As Stan Lee once said, “There is only one who is all powerful and his greatest weapon is love”.

Photo Credit Pexels

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