Looking for a Super Hero


Last night I took my son Owain and his friend to see the new film "Iron Man", but the kids were only an excuse. I have been busting to see this movie for months. OK! OK! It sums up everything that is wrong with Hollywood film-making... real artistic creativity supplanted by big names, big budgets, big bangs and CGI. But this was "Iron Man."

Now for some people their super-hero of choice is Superman... But he was of the wrong era, and wrong planet for me... And that costume was way too camp! Others prefer Batman... either in the form of the 1960's Adam West send up, or the later brooding "Dark Knight"... But again that wasn't quite me... Didn't quite get the buddy-thing going on with Robin. Then of course there is Spiderman... For my other son Ciaran, no other superhero quite matches up to the webslinger... and he isn't alone in that... Do you know that there are apparently more Spiderman pyjamas sold than any other type?

But my favourite superhero when I was a boy was Iron Man... and the reason was that the man behind him was Tony Stark... whose only "super-power" was his intellect... In fact he was physically handicapped, with a dodgy heart, which he had to support with a piece of electrical wizardry...

See, as a child I knew I was no great shakes at most physical endeavours... but I knew (with the arrogance of a child) that I was intellectually smarter than most of my peers... So Iron Man was my sort of superhero... One who was created by intellectual endeavour, rather than born or produced by a freak accident.

But anyway, back to the film... The story has been updated a little from when I was reading it back in my primary school days... Stark Industries, owned by Iron Man's alter-ego, is, as then, an arms company, but in the film it is involved in shady dealings with Afghani insurgents (unknown to our hero). Of course the film-makers are careful to avoid labelling the terrorists as Muslim, but the good-guys are unashamedly American, while the arms-trader supplying the terrorists with weapons is clearly insane and a rogue individual within a principled industry!

These attempts at putting a moral core at the heart of the film were a little embarassing, but it did remind me that most people long for a quick fix to the issues of Afghanistan and the Middle East... We're looking for a superhero to sort it all out. But not even Iron Man would be equal to sorting out the mess we have created there, thanks to the Tony and George W show...

But humanity has always looked for a superhero to sort everthing out...

At the time of Jesus, the Jews looked for a Messiah who would rally the armies of heaven to vanquish all their enemies... In Mark's Gospel, the whole story leads us tantalisingly along the path that points to Jesus being that type of Messiah... All his miracles acting as clues to his super-hero identity... But then, after asking his disciples who they think he is, he shows that he had really come to die... Or as John makes clear at the outset of his gospel, the eternally creative Word of God took on flesh to dwell with us for a time... To come alongside us...

And there are still those who are looking for a superhero God... Staring into the clouds like the disciples in Luke's account of the ascension, waiting for Jesus to come back to earth... Descending like Iron Man with his repulsor beams, ready to vanquish the forces of evil.

But how and when Jesus will return is not known... So it is up to us to carry on the job of making God's word incarnate in this hurting world. Using all our God-given powers, our physical, intellectual and spiritual gifts to make what difference we can.

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