Monday, November 14, 2016

Dr. Strange: It's Not About You!

This week I returned to Marvel Theater to re-watch Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Doctor Strange, this time with my son. I’m still mentally sorting through all the spiritual life-lessons packed into this film. Last week I wrote about Steven Strange’s lack of faith. But another aspect of this movie stood out to me as well.

Before he started wearing a donning a supernatural cape, Dr. Strange wears surgical scrubs. Blessed with a photographic memory and gifted with a set of amazingly steady hands, Strange fixes all manner of brain and spine ailments better than anyone else in the world. After an emergency procedure where Strange removes a bullet from a man’s brain and simultaneously humiliates a rival surgeon, Strange invites his one-time love interest Christine Palmer to attend one of his upcoming speaking engagements. Christine dismisses the notion, but Strange persists, "You used to love coming to those things. We had fun together." Christine replies, "No, you had fun. They weren't about us, they were about you." Strange answers, "Not only about me." Christine caps the conversation, saying, “Steven, everything is about you.”

Toward the end of the movie, Steven still struggles with this self-seeking mentality. His spiritual tutor, the Ancient One, tells Strange, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” Steven asks, “Which is?” And the Ancient One replies, “It's not about you.”

Pastor Rick Warren agrees. In the opening line of his best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Warren writes, “It’s not about you.” He continues, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”

Many of us fall into the same trap as Steven Strange. We’re me-focused. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. Self-serving. Self-involved. Me. Me. Me. Too many of us feel as though “the world revolves around me.” Scripture warns us, however, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:16 NLT). Or, in the case of Strange, pride goes before a horrific car crash in your Lamborghini.

The truth is—it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus! God wants us to stop living self-centered, self-focused lives. He wants us to stop making a big deal about ourselves and start making a big deal about Jesus! Tapping the collective shoulder of humanity, God points to Christ and proclaims, “Behold the center of it all.” Life makes so much more sense when Jesus is at the center.

In our search for satisfaction and significance in life, let’s heed the words of the Ancient One and learn the simplest most significant lesson of all: It’s not about you!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dr. Strange: Seeing is Believing

My wife and I went on an honest-to-goodness date this weekend to see Marvel’s newest movie, Doctor Strange, and it did not disappoint. In addition to being visually stunning, the movie tells a compelling story about a scientist turned sorcerer.

Just as in the comics, Dr. Steven Strange is a renowned neurosurgeon, a man of science and medicine, until a terrible car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he desperately searches for healing and hope from a mysterious group of monks in Kathmandu, Nepal. After learning that their methods are more mystical than medicinal, Strange asserts his unbelief. “I don’t believe in fairy tales,” Strange bemoans. “There is no such thing as a spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more! You're just another tiny, momentary speck in an indifferent universe. ”

Strange changes his tone, however, when a powerful sorcerer called the Ancient One forces him into the astral dimension —a spiritual realm where the soul exists apart from the body. After seeing the evidence for himself, Strange humbly drops to his knees and pleads, “Teach me.”

If anyone can relate to Doctor Strange’s “conversion” it’s Thomas. History remembers him as “doubting Thomas.” When the rest of Jesus’s followers claimed to have seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, Thomas refused to believe. “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands—and put my fingers into them—and place my hand into his side” (John 20:25 TLB).

Thomas changes his tone, however, when Jesus appeared again eight days laterl. Turning to Thomas, Jesus invites, “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27 TLB). After seeing the evidence for himself, Thomas humbly drops to his knees and confesses, “My Lord and my God!”

Many of us can relate to Thomas and Steven’s skepticism. Materialists like Strange, believe there is nothing more to the universe than matter—nothing supernatural, nothing spiritual, and certainly no God. They are either unable or unwilling to believe in anything they cannot see. In his infinite grace, Jesus continues to provide the evidence we need.

Christian apologists like Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. John Lennox and others have aptly demonstrated how cosmology, physics, morality, and the resurrection of Christ, provide powerful evidence for the existence of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. Countless skeptics have become believers after seeing the evidence for themselves.

After offering Thomas the evidence he so desperately needed, though, Jesus offers a bit of wisdom: “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29 NLT). In other words, while there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical or seeking evidence, we don’t always have to see to believe. People often say, “seeing is believing.” But in God’s economy there is a peace and blessedness that comes from having an open mind and a heart of faith. Jesus’s words to Thomas may as well be his words to you and me: “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

Monday, October 31, 2016

Supergirl: Powers & Prejudice

Supergirl is quickly becoming my favorite television show. In the first two episodes following her move from CBS to the CW, Supergirl introduced a warm, charming, and inspiring version of the Man of Steel that far outshines his cinematic counterpart. I could easily write a whole essay on why the CW’s Superman is better in every way than Zach Snyder’s interpretation, but this post is about Supergirl not Superman.

The most recent episode of Supergirl, titled Welcome to Earth, touches on some very relevant and relatable themes—specifically, the issue of immigration and personal prejudices. The story centers around the arrival of the President (played by Wonder Woman actress, Linda Carter), who plans to sign an executive order granting America’s extraterrestrial visitors amnesty and even full citizenship. As you might expect, the Alien Amnesty Act is a pretty divisive issue. Kara gets very excited about it, but J’onn J'onzz (The Martian Manhunter) remains pessimistic about the prospect of aliens stepping out the shadows. “People in this world don’t have much tolerance for others who look different,” says J’onn. “I say that as an alien and as someone who wore the face of a black man for 15 years.”

When an alien assassin makes an attempt on the President’s life, Kara’s own prejudices rise to the surface. Her first suspect is an alien named Mon-El (Lar Gand actually, but that’s a long story). When Supergirl discovers that Mon-El hails from the planet Daxam, she explains that Krypton and Daxam used to clash because of their differing ways of life. While Krypton was a democracy, Daxam was a monarchy that “ruled a population of hoodlums.” Thus, she immediately assumes he attacked the president. Only after wrongfully imprisoning Mon-El does Supergirl discover and defeat the actual attacker—a fire-manipulating villain named Scorcher.

This episode serves as a social commentary, highlighting real problems and prejudices in our own culture. Of course, America isn’t the first nation to struggle with racial tension. Prejudice and discrimination, in varying forms and to various degrees, has plagued humanity for thousands of years.

Racism and oppression littered the world of the New Testament. In the mind of a first-century Jew, Gentiles (Africans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Asians, etc.) were created to fuel the fires of hell. When a Jew called a Gentile “uncircumcised,” he spit it. It was a name of profound contempt. If a Jewish person married a Gentile, the Jewish parents held a funeral service for their child. In their eyes, their child was dead.

On the flip side, Gentiles regarded Jews to be sub-human. Historically, the Jews have been an oppressed people, living under the thumb of one Gentile nation after another (e.g., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome). In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile.

Yet, here’s what the Bible says about this division: “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups” (Ephesians 2:14-15 NLT).

In other words, Jesus intended the church to be a community free of discrimination, prejudice and hostility where we are called to “accept each other just as Christ has accepted” us (Romans 15:7 NLT). Again, the Bible says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NLT).

All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross. The church ought to be a place of acceptance for people of all ethnicities and backgrounds. And Christians ought to work to eliminate bigotry and bias in our communities and country.

After defeating Scorcher, Supergirl releases Mon-El from his cell, confessing, “I don’t know you at all and it was a mistake of me to misjudge you just because you’re from Daxam. You didn’t try to kill the President and I apologize for assuming you did.” She then extends her hand in friendship. We all ought to follow in Supergirl’s footsteps, admitting and apologizing for our prejudices then trying our best (with the help of Christ) to overcome them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Green with Evil

I just watched the teaser trailer for the new Power Rangers movie and I can barely contain my excitement. I was twelve years old when the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series first aired and immediately became a life-long fan. I loved all of the original cast: Jason—the Red Ranger, Kimberly—the Pink Ranger, Billy—the Blue Ranger, Zack—the Black Ranger, and Trini—the Yellow Ranger. My favorite character, however, didn’t join the cast until part way through the first season. In a five-episode story arc title Green with Evil, fans were introduced to Tommy Oliver—the Green Ranger.

At first, Tommy isn’t a Power Ranger. In fact, he’s neither a hero nor a villain. He’s simply an ordinary teenager attending Angel Grove High School. However, thanks to his remarkable martial arts skills, Tommy catches the eye of the evil empress Rita Repulsa, the Power Rangers’ arch villainess. Rita kidnaps Tommy, puts him under her spell, and transforms him into the Evil Green Ranger dedicated to the destruction of the Power Rangers.

After infiltrating and ransacking the team’s Command Center, the Green Ranger bests the other Rangers in battle, sending them in retreat back to their damaged headquarters. Once the Power Rangers discover the Green Ranger’s secret identity, however, they reach out to Tommy as a friend and fellow student, helping him to overcome Rita’s evil influence. Finally coming to his senses, Tommy penitently wonders aloud, “What have I done?”

“What you did, you did under Rita’s influence,” Jason responds. “You own the power now. Fight by our side and we can defeat Rita.”

“After everything that’s happened?” Tommy doubts.

“Tommy we need you. It’s where you belong,” Jason assures his fellow Ranger. Then, extending a friendly hand, Jason invites, “Will you join us, Tommy?” With a nod and a handshake Tommy’s life changed course. Together, the Power Rangers foiled Rita Repulsa’s evil plans and saved the citizens of Angel Grove.

I can’t help but notice some spiritual parallels in Tommy’s tale.

Just as Rita’s evil influence clouded Tommy’s mind and corrupted his morals, sin has a similar effect on us. The Bible describes sin’s influence, saying, “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity” (Ephesians 4:18-19 NLT). Sin closes our minds and corrupts our morals. It leads us down a destructive path away from God’s goodness and grace. We all wrestle with sin and sometimes surrender to its seductive influence. Thankfully, however, we are not alone in our battle.

Just as the Power Rangers reached out to Tommy, confronting him and helping him to overcome Rita’s grasp, close Christian friends can do the same for us. The Bible says, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20 NIV). It’s our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to watch out for each other, to keep one another accountable, and help each other conquer the sins that so easily beset us. Through the encouragement and help of close Christian friends, we can foil Satan’s evil schemes and experience true victory in Jesus!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gods of Metal

While piddling around on YouTube the other day, I came across a video titled Everything Great About Avengers: Age of Ultron which prompted me to rewatch the movie. As the video points out, there is lots to love about this movie—so many great moments both laugh-out-loud and stand-up-and-cheer. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the movie, though, is the titular villain—Ultron.
Since his first appearance in Avengers #54 (1968), Ultron has evolved into one of the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe. Originally created by Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man) as an artificial intelligence programmed to achieve peace and order in the world, Ultron concludes, “Humanity is inherently flawed. Observation and analysis suggest humanity is encoded with chaotic and violent tendencies that cannot be overcome” (Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; Season 1, Episode 22). Thus, Ultron sets out to usher in peace and oder by ridding the world of humanity.
In the film version, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner team up to create Ultron for similar purposes. But, just as in previous incarnations, Ultron redefines his programming and seeks to remake the world in his image. Rarely have I seen a villain with such a penchant for biblical allusions.
When he comes face to face with the Avengers, Ultron greets only one of our heroes with sarcastic disdain: “Captain America-God’s righteous man.” Ultron means this as an insult, but he’s actually correct (remember Cap’s memorable line: “There’s only one God ma’am. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.”).
In another scene, when Ultron lays claim to a chunk of precious, indestructible vibranium, he quotes Jesus, saying, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”
Later, Ultron assures Wanda and Pietro, “The human race will have every opportunity to improve.” Doubtful, Pietro questions, “And if they don’t?” Ultron answers, “Ask Noah… When the earth starts to settle God throws a stone at it. And believe me—he’s winding up.” Ultron sees humanity as wayward, self-destructive and in need of a good cleansing. The mechanical monster seems to frame himself as a wrathful deity—a creative being who wants to work with a blank slate.
To me, this latest incarnation of Ultron (and perhaps all previous ones as well) represents the dangers of making for ourselves “gods cast of metal” (Leviticus 19:4). Wittingly or not, Tony Stark created for himself a false god—a god in whom he placed his trust. Obviously, that trust was misplaced. All too often, we make the same mistake. False gods come in many forms—money, power, fame, possessions, sex, drugs, whiskey, even the god of self. Anything that takes the place of the One True God in our hearts and lives becomes a god of our own making. And it always ends badly.
Fortunately, we have a couple resources for dethroning these lesser gods.
The first is Scripture. In Avengers #68 (1969), Ultron experiences one of his greatest defeats. When Ultron tries to pry a pivotal piece of information from Ant-Man’s mind, the hero crashes Ultron’s positronic brain by focusing his thoughts on a single phrase, repeated over and over in his mind. Ultron cries, “My mind… filling with thoughts I cannot bear! No! I was prepared to receive any scientific formula… any arcane knowledge… but not this… not this!” When his fellow Avengers ask Ant-Man what phrase caused the mechanical menace to overload, Hank Pym replies, “A simple phrase, Avengers… and an ancient one… ‘thou shalt not kill.’” That’s right! The words of Scripture (the Ten Commandment to be exact) enabled Ant-Man to vanquish this “god cast of metal.” And, like Ant-Man, we always have the Word of God at our disposal. By focusing our thoughts on Scripture, we can avoid settling for lesser gods.
Furthermore, we have the church. Early in the film, Ultron visits a church. “This church is in the exact center of the city,” he explains. “The elders decreed it so that everyone could be equally close to God.” Fittingly, it’s in this same church where the Avengers battle Ultron’s minions in the movie’s climactic conclusion. But remember, the church isn’t a place… it’s people. When Ultron asks, “How do you hope to stop me?” Iron Man nods to Captain America and replies, “Like the old man said—together!” The same is true for us. The church is the center of it all. Together—working side by side, hand in hand—we can keep each other accountable and overthrow the gods of this world.

In the Old Testament, whenever Israel repented and returned to the Lord, they would destroy all of their carved statues and metal idols and tear down all of their altars. Maybe it’s time for us to do the same. What “gods cast of metal” do you need to tear down?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ghost Rider's Adversary & Advocate

I’ve recently taken an interest in Marvel’s Ghost Rider. I’m in the planning stages for a Ghost Rider costume, I picked up a stack of Ghost Rider comic books at a local comic show yesterday, and I got super excited when I heard that Ghost Rider will be a major character in Agents of SHIELD season 4. I even re-watched the 2008 Ghost Rider movie the other night… it was still terrible. Nonetheless, Ghost Rider’s character has really piqued my interest.

For those unfamiliar with Ghost Rider, John Blaze was born into a world of motorcycle grease and cheering crowds. The adopted son of a motorcycle stuntman, Craig “Crash” Simpson, Johnny always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps… or tread marks. This dream came to a fiery end when Crash revealed he was dying of cancer. Distraught and lacking any sort of spiritual foundation, Johnny turned to the occult in search of answers. His studies ultimately led to a spell that could summon Satan himself and Johnny literally made a deal with the devil. Satan promised to cure Crash’s cancer in return for Johnny's promise of servitude. Soon afterward, Crash died in a tragic motorcycle accident during a stunt show, but Satan held Johnny to their deal transforming him into a leather-clad skeleton with a flaming skull and fiery chopper. Of course, Johnny refuses to do Satan’s bidding and instead uses his power as Ghost Rider to punish evildoers and wage war against Satan’s demons.

I think what first attracted me to the character was my discovery that Jesus loves Ghost Rider. In Ghost Rider #9, a story written by Tony Isabella in 1973, the “hell-bound hero” rides into his first fearful showdown with Satan. As the battle reaches its climactic conclusion, Ghost Rider finds himself completely outmatched and at the mercy of Satan. But just before Satan can deliver a devastating blow, a mysterious stranger (who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus) comes to Ghost Rider’s defense. “Let me help you up, Johnny,” the stranger says extending a kind hand. “No! No!” Satan cries. Turning to Satan, the stranger declares, “Johnny Blaze’s soul is beyond you, Satan! He has earned his second chance!” Without throwing a single punch or energy blast, the stranger saves that day as the devil tucks his pointed tail between his legs and runs away.

While the stranger is nameless, the imagery is certainly biblical—Jesus helping a sinner to his feet and standing up to Satan on his behalf. Something else this “Jesus” says seems deeply true: “No man lives his life without contending with you several times, Satan.”

While he may not have red skin, horns and a cape, Satan is a very real enemy. This means, like Johnny Blaze, you are engaged in a spiritual battle whether you want to be or not. It’s a battle between good and evil, and you are the prize! Satan’s target is your spirit. Scripture describes Satan as an angelic being who fell from heaven due to pride and sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God's purposes and tempt God’s people. The devil will do everything he can to undermine your relationship with God. He’ll attack your reputation in order to corrupt your witness. He’ll target your marriage. He’ll steal your peace, your passion, and your sense of purpose. He will do whatever it takes to destroy your faith and your future. The Bible warns, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NLT).

Thankfully, as illustrated by Ghost Rider’s encounter with Christ, Satan may be our adversary but Jesus is our advocate. Any time Satan knocks us down, Jesus will be there to help us up. When we put our faith and future in the hands of Jesus, all Satan can do is tuck tail and run away (James 4:7).  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Guilt & Suicide

As I’m sure many of you did, my wife and I saw Suicide Squad in theaters last week. I haven’t been impressed with any of DC’s movies lately, so I went into this one with fairly low expectations. I’m also not a fan of villains. It seems to be a common trend these days to idolize the bad guys. People like villains—the misunderstood criminals, the anti-heroes, the rebels. In Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller’s team of hardened criminals—including Deadshot (a lethal assassin), Harley Quinn (the Joker’s psychotic girlfriend), and Killer Croc (a mutated murderer)—are portrayed as victims as much as they are villains. Even though I’m not a fan of villains, there's still some good to be found in many of these bad guys.

One character in particular piqued my interest—El Diablo. He's the most broken of the bunch. El Diablo is no less a killer than the rest of the squad, but he's filled with regrets over his past mistakes. He first used his ability to create and control fire to establish himself as a gang leader. But then, in a moment of anger, he lost control of his powers, tragically burning down his own home with his wife and children inside. From then on, he viewed his powers as a curse from Satan and refused to light up. In fact, when Amanda Waller first drafts the guy, he says, "I ain't no weapon. I’ll die in peace before I raise my hand." Even so, El Diablo seems to think that he is beyond redemption. Later in the film, he reminisces about his wife praying on his behalf. But then adds, “God didn’t give me these powers. Why should He take them away.” El Diablo feels swallowed up by guilt and regret.

I think El Diablo is the most relatable member of the team. We all make mistakes. The frustrating thing about life is that it always moves forward. There is no "R" on the stick-shift, no reverse in the gears. Time never moves backward, not an inch, not a step, never. Therefore a deed once done, can never be undone. A word once spoken, can never be unsaid. As a result, all of us live with certain regrets. We may even begin to think God could never forgive us. But the truth is—no one is beyond God’s grace.

David probably felt much like El Diablo. In a moment of weakness David commits adultery with Bathsheba. Afraid that his sin will be discovered, he then sends her husband on his own suicide mission and orders his fellow soldiers to abandon him on the battlefield. All this scheming takes its toll, however. David later describes this season of secret sin in graphic terms: “When I refused to admit my wrongs, I was miserable, moaning and complaining all day long so that even my bones felt brittle. Day and night, Your hand kept pressing on me. My strength dried up like water in the summer heat; You wore me down” (Psalm 32:3-4 TV).

Sleepless nights. Haunting guilt. David was a walking wreak, living in a swirl of misery. That’s what living with guilt does to you. Thankfully, David’s story doesn’t end there and neither should yours. David finally confessed his sins to God and sought forgiveness. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. He writes, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2 NLT). That’s just what God did. He washed away David’s sins and restored a sense of joy and purpose to David’s life. He can do the same for you!

No matter what you’ve done, no matter how dark or horrible the sins of your past may be, God can take away your guilt and give you a new purpose in life. Bad guys can become good guys after all. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Missing the Mark

My daughter’s favorite superhero is Hawkeye. Although, admittedly, she thought his name was Hawkguy until she was seven. She likes his quick wit and skills with a bow. Unlike being bit by a radioactive spider or exposed to gamma radiation, becoming a skilled archer is something she can actually do. I think that’s why she likes him.

Hawkeye is Marvel’s version of Robin Hood or Green Arrow. He’s billed as “the world’s greatest archer” and he prides himself on his accuracy. In Avenging Spider-man #4, Hawkeye and Spidey team up to take down some bad guys. In a candid moment, Hawkeye confesses, “I mean, I can't miss... I'm on a team with super-humans and one god, in case you've forgotten… And if I miss, it means I'm just another dude with a bow. It means I've been fooling myself this whole time. And that's why I never miss.” Ironically, Hawkeye does miss. Later in the issue, in the midst of battle, Hawkeye fires a taser-like electrified arrow at a distant enemy and misses his target. When the battle dies down, Spidey spots the arrow lying on the ground and, out of compassion for Hawkeye, picks it up and tacks it into the already defeated villain. When Hawkeye rounds the corner he celebrates, “I got ‘em! Ha! Nailed it!”

This may come as a surprise, but the Bible talks about archery quite a bit. How, you ask?  Well, there are actual archers in some of the war stories (King Saul met his demise to an arrow in 1 Samuel 31). Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar, was an archer (Genesis 21.20). Esau hunted with a bow and arrow (Genesis 27). And one story involves arrows that are purposely off target (1 Samuel 20). In all, there are over 50 references to archery, bows or arrows in the bible. But even more than that, one interpretation of both the Hebrew and Greek words for “sin” is to miss the mark or to be off target—an archery term.

Imagine a king preparing to go to war. He calls all the archers in front of him, wanting only the best of the best to defend of the kingdom. Thus he demands perfect accuracy. If they miss, they are dismissed—there are no second chances. Unfortunately, even expert archers like Hawkeye miss occasionally.

The same is true for us. All too often, we miss the mark, and thus fall short of God’s standard of perfection. No matter how “good” we try to be, our lives always end up off target. Thankfully, there is one person who never missed the mark—Jesus. He lived the perfect, sinless life that we never could. Just as Spidey gave Hawkeye credit for his victory, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, God gives us credit for his perfect performance. Let’s be thankful and amazed that God through Jesus can forgive our sins, not just once, but every time that we miss the mark!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sacrifice!

My wife and I just finished binge-watching the third season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which turned out to be their best and most biblical season thus far. The whole season built toward the sacrificial death of one of SHIELD’s agents. Earlier in the season, Agent Daisy Johnson received a premonition thanks to an Inhuman with the ability to reveal the future. In her vision, Daisy sees a SHIELD agent die. Although she can’t see which agent it is, she can see a necklace with a gold cross in the agent’s hand.

As it turns out, the necklace and cross belong to Elena Rodriguez, a new recruit with super-speed who believes that her abilities are a gift from God and must be used in service of others. However, as the season progresses the cross repeatedly changes hands. Elena first gives the cross to Mack, the team’s musclebound engineer, reminding him, “This isn’t some lucky rabbit’s foot. It’s a symbol of faith.” Through a series of events the cross then passes to Agent Fitz, and then to Daisy herself. Finally, it ends up in the hands of Daisy’s love interest and fellow agent, Lincoln Campbell.

In the season finale, SHIELD faces an evil Inhuman named Hive bent on world domination and in possession of a nuclear warhead. In an act of self-sacrifice, Lincoln takes the cross from Daisy (aware of her earlier vision), then traps himself and Hive in a Quinjet carrying the nuclear warhead. With only moments before detonation, Lincoln rockets himself, Hive, and the warhead out into space.

Over the com-link, Daisy pleads with Lincoln, “What are you doing? This is crazy.” Lincoln replies, “This is my purpose, I know that now.” With tears streaming down her face, Daisy cries, “You can’t just die for me like this, it’s wrong.” Lincoln answers, “Saving the girl I love and the world at the same time… it feels pretty right to me.” When the communication signal fades, Daisy turns to Director Coulson, and cries, “He’s paying for my mistakes.” Coulson corrects her, “No. he’s paying for all our mistakes.” Aboard the Quinjet, Hive questions Lincoln, “[You’d] sacrifice for them with all their flaws?” Just before the warhead explodes in a blaze of light, Lincoln looks once more at the cross in his hand and replies, “They’re only human.”

Rarely will you see a better Christ-figure in television. What Lincoln did for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jesus did for you and me. The circumstances were different, but the result was the same. Your sin and mine have condemned us to eternal death. But despite all our flaws, Jesus willing sacrificed himself for our mistakes. Like Lincoln, Jesus chose the cross then carried it knowing full well where it would lead him.

We’ll have to wait until next season to find out how Daisy, Coulson and the rest of the team respond to Lincoln’s sacrifice. But the question now is—how will we respond to Christ’s sacrifice? 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Overlooked and Underrated!

While I can’t imagine Jesus actually challenging Aquaman to a fight, I couldn’t help but laugh at this image. I think it also highlights Aquaman’s role as the laughingstock of the superhero community. He seems to be the butt of every superhero joke. I still love the Cartoon Network commercial featuring Aquaman and Wonder Woman. As the two heroes dangerously dangle above a pool of boiling acid, Aquaman announces, “My ability to talk with fish is of no help, Wonder Woman.” The Amazon Princess just rolls her eyes and waits for the Power Puff Girls to come to their rescue. During Geoff Johns’ run as writer on Aquaman’s comic series, he chose to incorporate this lack of appreciation into the story. In issue #1, Aquaman leaps into action when a gang of thieves steals an armored truck full of cash. The criminals lead the cops on a high-speed chase through downtown Boston until Aquaman intervenes. When the thieves see the superhero standing in the street ahead of them, one of them asks, “Dude, is that… Aquaman!?” Suddenly the whole crew bursts into laughter. Even the cops don’t give Aquaman much credit. One officer blurts out, “What’s Aquaman doing here? We’re not in the ocean and I don’t see any fish around…” Despite having some pretty cool powers and abilities, it seems like the King of Atlantis is just doomed to be overlooked and underrated.

I think the one-time King of Israel could probably relate. In 1 Samuel 16, God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king for God’s people. The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem and told him, “Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king” (1 Samuel 16:1 NLT). When Samuel arrived, Jesse presents seven of his sons. Samuel examines the boys one at a time like canines on a leash. Imagine the list of qualifications that must have run through Samuel’s mind for such a position: tall, smart, articulate, brave, groomed, well-mannered, a natural-born leader. Seven sons strut their stuff, but all seven fall short. Samuel passes on each of Jesse’s sons and then asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” I imagine Jesse with a quizzical expression replying, “There is still the youngest … He is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11, NIV). In time, young David will go on to slay giants and conquer kingdoms. The Son of God will be called the Son of David. The greatest psalms—many of which we still sing today—will flow from his pen. We’ll call him king, warrior, minstrel, and giant-killer. But on this day, he wasn’t even invited to dinner with the family. Like Aquaman, David was overlooked and underrated.

Maybe you can relate. Lucky for us, God doesn't judge people the way we do. God whispers a reminder to Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). It seems fans of Aquaman and our Father in Heaven have something in common—they both look beneath the surface. The next time you feel overlooked and underrated, take heart. You might be overlooked and underrated by others, but you are handpicked by God.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Eagerly Awaiting!

This Friday my family and I attended Planet Comic Con in Kansas City, MO. We didn’t do any cosplaying and we didn’t do any ministry. We arrived with one goal—to finally meet the legendary Stan Lee! The only way to guarantee an encounter with the creator of dozens of beloved Marvel superheroes was to buy a VIP pass, which cost more than I’m willing to admit. Even with the VIP pass, though, we still had to wait in line amongst over three hundred other VIPs who all anxiously awaited the opportunity to meet comic’s most prolific creator.  The kids and I were bursting with excitement. I’ve wanted to meet Stan Lee for ages and my kids have all grown up as Marvel fans and they’ve even read a children’s biography about Stan Lee, so all of us eagerly anticipated the moment. As we waited in line for what seemed like an eternity we discussed what we would say to him and debated which comic book to have him sign. When the moment finally came, though, it wasn’t all we hoped it would be.

In order to ensure every paying customer received an autograph and a photo with Stan Lee, the convention staff ushered each person through the line at break-neck speeds. After hours of waiting, we spent literally ten seconds in Stan Lee’s presence. He offered a warm smile and a “hello” in that unmistakable New York accent of his, but before we could blink we were ushered out of his presence so that others could have a turn. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll cherish our photo and my now-signed copy of Avengers #10, but the whole experience was over so quickly that it just didn’t live up to the hype and hope we’d built up around it.

As Christians, we all know what it’s like to eagerly await our opportunity to stand in the presence of the Creator. Not just the creator of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, but the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The Bible says, “Christ will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 NLT). Are you eagerly waiting for Christ? The early Christians did. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, saying, “you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 NLT). The Thessalonians spent their lives with an eye on the clouds and ear for the trump. They waited anxiously for the day of Christ’s return.

Sadly, I think many of us have lost that sense of expectancy. After waiting for hours, I started to wonder if Stan Lee would ever arrive. I guess some of us have done the same thing with Christ. We’ve waited so long, we wonder if he’ll ever show up. He will. But he’ll arrive on his time, not ours. When Stan Lee finally made his appearance, the crowd began to cheer exuberantly. If you think seeing Stan Lee is amazing, just wait. The Bible tells us, “On the day when the Lord Jesus comes, all the people who have believed will be amazed at Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Amazed at Jesus! Not amazed at angels or mansions or new bodies or new creations. Paul doesn’t measure the joy of encountering the apostles or embracing our loved ones. If we will be amazed at those things, which certainly we will, he does not say. What he does say is that we will be amazed at Jesus. And, in case you’re worried, your time with Christ won’t be over and done in the blink of an eye like our meeting with Stan Lee. No one will usher you out of Christ’s presence. In fact, the Bible assures us that when Christ comes, “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Forever. No end in sight. I can only imagine what it will be like when my family and I stand in the presence of Jesus. But until that day, I’ll choose to live forwardly, eagerly awaiting his arrival!

'nuff said!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Finding your Fortress

Wouldn’t you love to visit Superman’s Fortress of Solitude?

This weekend my kids and I watched Superman: The Movie followed by Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut on VidAngel. In both films, Superman frequently retreats to his frozen sanctuary, the Fortress of Solitude. The Fortress is created by a special crystal that Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, enclosed in his son’s spaceship and contains numerous "memory crystals" that can be used to access Jor-El's artificial intelligence and hologram.

When Superman brings Lois to the Fortress, she exclaims, “Wow! This is your home?” Superman replies, “No, actually I live in the city about three blocks from you. But this is a very special place for me.” The Fortress of Solitude is special to Superman because it provides him a place to get away from all the distractions and demands of life and allows him to commune with his father.

This is yet another way that Superman emulates Jesus. Just as Superman traveled to a solitary place to be alone with his father, Jesus also traveled to solitary places to connect with his Heavenly Father. The Bible says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35 NIV). Elsewhere, the Bible says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16 NIV). Not only did Jesus retreat to private places for prayer, but He also encouraged us to do the same: “when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 HCSB).

If your life is anything like mine, then you’ve got a lot going on. You’ve got chores to complete, costumes to create, children to chase, a spouse to love, a dog to feed, church commitments to keep, soccer games to attend, lunch appointments, doctor’s appointments, hair appointments and that doesn’t even begin to account for the projects, paper work, and priorities at the office or in the shop or on the farm. In the midst of it all, God longs to quietly connect with you.

We all need a Fortress of Solitude. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a crystalline castle. Maybe your Fortress of Solitude is a park bench or the foot of your bed. Maybe your “solitary place” is at the kitchen table early in the morning before anyone else is awake. Maybe your “private room” is a study, an office, or a deer stand out in the woods. It doesn’t really matter where your fortress is. What matters is that you find a special solitary place where you can connect and commune with your Father free from distractions, disturbances and disruptions.

So where is your Fortress of Solitude?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Holy Heroes!

I'm very excited to announce that my new book, Holy Heroes: The Gospel According to DC & Marvel, is finally in print and soon-to-be on shelves. If you're a fan of comics or cosplay and a follower of Christ (or if you'd just like to know more about one or the other), then this book is for you!

Like modern-day parables, the stories of superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spider-man, Hulk and many more pack a spiritual punch and help superhero fans draw near to the heart of God in a relatable, relevant way.

"Holy Heroes is a rare treat—one that showcases an impressive depth of superhero lore, personal fandom experiences, and biblical truths... Holy Heroes provides unique insight into the beloved genre and iconic characters from a Christian geeks’ perspective. If that’s not worth a hearty Shazam! then I don’t know what is." – Geeks Under Grace

“If you are a Christian nerd, like me, this book will be a great tool. A way to enjoy fandom and take some steps with Jesus in your own life.” – Nerd Chapel

"From comic books to fan conventions, from classic television shows to recent blockbuster movies, Scott embraces the whole superhero scene. His breadth of knowledge earns him a gold star in the grade book of fandom. My fellow pastor knows his Bible, too, and he grounds this book in solid Christian teaching." – H. Michael Brewer, author Who Needs a Superhero?

Holy Heroes is available at these and many other online retailers or, better yet, ask for it at your local Family Christian, Lifeway, or Barnes & Noble.

 If you've already ordered or read Holy Heroes, please consider rating and reviewing the book on AmazonGoodreads, or Google Books

Monday, April 4, 2016

God v Evil

The most anticipated superhero film in history opened to rather mixed reviews last weekend. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is perhaps the most controversial superhero movie I’ve seen. It’s also the most theological. A profound philosophical question undergirds the film: Can a being of great power be truly good?

The maniacal mastermind, Lex Luthor, subtlety introduces this theme when he asks Senator Finch, “Do you know the oldest lie in America, Senator? It's that power can be innocent.” In one of the more depressing moments of the movie, even Superman seems to agree, remarking to Lois, “No one stays good in this world.”

The theme explodes to the surface, however, when Luthor levies some pretty heavy accusations against Superman… and God. In his climactic confrontation with the Man of Steel, Lex opines, “No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy's fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.”

It’s an age old argument. Philosophers and theologians have wrestled with it for centuries. And even among Christians, the question gnaws at us from the back of our minds. Isn’t there a part of us that wonders, “Is Luthor right?” Does the presence and pervasiveness of evil in our world demonstrate God’s limitations? After all—it’s argued—if God is all powerful couldn’t He rid the world of evil? And if God is all good, wouldn’t he want to? Let me offer three possible answers to that question.

First, if God were to rid the world of evil He would have to start with you and me. I believe that God created humanity with free will—the freedom to choose for ourselves between good and evil; right and wrong. Unfortunately, we all choose evil at times. We lie, we cheat, we act selfishly, we lose our tempers, give into to temptations, we make cutting and cruel remarks. The Bible sums up our situation, saying, “No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent” (Romans 3:10 TLB). We often forget that for God to rid the world of evil, He would have to rid the world of us.

Furthermore, I believe that God can bring great good even out of the darkest evil. Bad things happen and they happen with unpredictable frequency and varying levels of intensity. Some are mere inconveniences; others are life-shattering disasters. But there is a promise in God’s Word that can meet every negative moment head-on, and given enough time, it will resolve every problem. The Bible says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). Everything includes evil. Given time, even the most painful, heart wrenching experiences can be woven together for our eventual good.

Finally, rather than simply removing our suffering, God decided to join us in it. It’s no coincidence that Batman v Superman opened on Good Friday. The final scenes of the movie point us to Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, sacrificed himself on the cross on behalf of a fallen and evil world. He experience the worst humanity had to offer—the lies, the anger, the bitterness, the brutality, and betrayal. He took it all upon himself as if to say, “I’m with them.” In so doing, Jesus opened the door to eternity. In the face of evil, the Bible shouts, “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

In the end, God will rid the world of evil. The return of Christ will herald the total abolition of evil. Looking forward to that day, Paul (who experienced more evil and suffering than most) said, “Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine” (2 Corinthians 4:17 GWT). In the meantime, you and I face the same challenge as Superman. We can surrender to the darkness that surrounds us, proving Lex Luthor right. Or we can shine a light in the darkness, and be the good that we hope to see in the world.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Vengeance is Mine!

If you’re like me, you probably spent the weekend binge-watching the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. The first four episodes pit Daredevil against one of Marvel’s most iconic anti-heroes—The Punisher. After the mob guns down his wife and children for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Frank Castle utilizes his military training to exact revenge. Now serving as judge, jury, and executioner, The Punisher wages a one man war against those who have done him wrong, leaving bullet-riddled bodies in his wake.

Despite his murderous wrath, Punisher is actually a likable character. We relate to his loss. We understand his thirst for revenge. The desire to "get even" seems to be woven into the human psyche. Revenge and retaliation are natural instincts. In an unusual story in the Old Testament, however, David shows us a better way.

David’s victory over the hulking Philistine, Goliath, won him the admiration and affection of everyone in Israel; everyone, that is, except King Saul. Saul saw David’s valor and victory as a threat to his throne and, thus, sought repeatedly to kill David. But when faced with the opportunity to pay Saul back for all the harm he’d done, David choose a different path. He showed Saul mercy and spared his life, then announced: “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you” (1 Samuel 24:12 NLT).

Rather than take revenge on his enemy, David put the matter into God’s hands. We all have a Saul in our lives. It might be an employer who unfairly fired you. It might be a spouse who abandoned you. It might be a mom or dad who failed you. It could be a friend who betrayed you. Whatever the case, you now live in the backwash of mistreatment. You have been “done wrong,” and maybe you’re waiting for your moment to get even. Instead, do what David did. Trust God to be the judge.

In the 2004 movie, The Punisher, a friend tells Frank, “Vaya con Dios, Castle. Go with God.” Frank Castle’s reply is revealing: “God's going to sit this one out.” That’s what happens when we take revenge. Payback removes God from the equation. But the Bible says: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NLT).

God occupies the only seat on Heaven’s Supreme Court. He wears the robe and refuses to share the gavel. Only God dispenses perfect punishment. Vengeance is His job. So leave your enemies in God’s hands. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Divided We Fall!

Two highly anticipated superhero flicks hit theaters soon. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice releases in just two weeks and Captain America: Civil War debuts May 6. While the details differ, both of these films feature iconic superheroes pitted against one another over ideological differences. In Batman vs. Superman, the Dark Knight’s distrust of the Man of Steel leads to an epic battle between DC’s two most beloved heroes. In the comic series that inspired Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man find themselves on opposite sides of a heated political issue. Captain America’s decision to oppose Iron Man (and the White House) fractures the superhero community. Lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and chaos erupts. The ensuing melee lays waste to several square blocks of New York City. While conflicts like these make for enthralling entertainment, the fact remains—when superheroes skirmish, nobody wins.

The same is true for Christians. Unfortunately, conflict amongst Christians is all too common. With more than two hundred different denominations in the United States, it seems as though Christians will dispute and divide over just about anything—baptism, gifts of the Spirit, unconditional election, ecclesiastical structure, women’s role in ministry, homosexuality, evolution, whether or not Christians should watch Deadpool, etc. All too often we identify ourselves in terms of the particular beliefs that set us apart, rather than those that bind us together with the larger Christian world. Meanwhile, we’re oblivious to the damage we’re doing.

In the climax of Marvel’s Civil War mini-series, Captain America stands over Iron Man, ready to deliver a crippling blow. Suddenly, firefighters, EMTs and police officers tackle Cap and wrestle him to the ground. Only then does Steve Rogers lift his eyes and see the damage they’ve dealt to New York’s landscape. Tears well up in his eyes, as he says, “Oh my God… they’re right. We’re not fighting for the people anymore… we’re just fighting.” When I examine the landscape of Christianity today, I wonder if the same is true of us.

Jesus beseeched his Father, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one” (John 17:20-21 NLT). Paul expresses a similar sentiment, urging Christians, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 NIV). I’m sure that by the end of each film, the superheroes will overcome their differences and unite against a common threat for the common good. May we as Christians do the same!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Most Powerful Voice on Earth

The Inhumans, a reclusive race of genetically altered superhumans, are among Marvel’s lesser known comic-book characters. These secluded superhumans follow the leadership of their king, Black Bolt, whose powerful voice triggers a supremely strong and highly destructive shock wave capable of leveling a city every time he speaks. Due to the potential peril posed by this power, Black Bolt practices rigorous mental training to prevent himself from ever uttering a sound, even in his sleep, and he usually maintains complete silence, communicating through sign language or via spokesperson.

In an episode of Ultimate Spider-man, which my son and I recently watched on Netflix, Black Bolt uses his earth-shattering voice to save the city of New York. As the floating city of Attilan plummets toward Manhattan, Black Bolt plants his feet atop the Daily Bugle building, turns his eyes skyward and utters a single word. The resulting shock wave sends the falling utopia sailing into the upper atmosphere. What I find most compelling is Black Bolt’s word choice. He could have chosen any word in the English language or even an alien language for that matter. But when Black Bolt spoke, he said: “Peace.”

Jesus made a similar choice. In Mark 4, a sudden storm seizes control of a leaky fishing boat occupied by Jesus and his followers. The sky rumbled above them, the water churned beneath them. Their fishing boat bounced and spun on the white-tops of angry waves. In the midst of the storm, one of them shouted over the crashing waves at Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38 NLT). Then Jesus stood up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39 ESV). When Jesus speaks, even the wind and the waves listen.

Two thousand years later, the words of Jesus have not lost their power. Not only did the words of Jesus have the power to still the storm on the Sea of Galilee, but also, when you read his words splashed across the pages of your Bible, they have the power to still the storm within you.

Just as Black Bolt’s powerful voice brought peace to the city of New York, the voice of Jesus can bring peace to your heart and mine.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fight On Your Knees!

Who would win in a fight—Superman or Hulk? Batman or Captain America? The Flash or Quick Silver? In 1996 DC and Marvel Comics teamed up to answer these and other similar questions in an epic crossover event. With all of reality hanging in the balance, the heroes of two universes must battle each other for the fate of their own existence. Amid many other matchups, Thor, the mighty Norse god of thunder, is pitted against Captain Marvel, the emissary of the wizard Shazam and embodiment of Olympian power. As you can see in the image to the left, Thor and Captain Marvel stand poised—ready for battle. Their eyes meet. But before any fists fly, both combatants fall to their knees, fold their hands, bow their heads and pray. As both a follower of Christ and a fan of comics, this moment spoke to me. Nestled between mighty mêlées and swashbuckling skirmishes, two of DC and Marvel’s mightiest heroes paused and prayed.

Their actions echo those of Jesus in Matthew 26. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prepared Himself for what would be his greatest challenge. In a few short hours, soldiers would lead Him to a place called Golgotha, where He would be crucified. He knew exactly what was coming. Betrayal. Shame. Torture. Trauma. Loneliness. And eventually… death. How could He face such a future without flinching? The answer—He prayed. The Bible says that He went to a remote olive grove called Gethsemane then “Jesus fell to the ground and prayed” (Matthew 26:39 NCV).

Perhaps we could learn from these examples. We each have our own personal challenges and conflicts awaiting us. Before the battle begins, each of us ought to pause and pray. The Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). Prayer may not remove our challenges, but it will give us the power and peace to face them head on. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Merc with the Mouth

In just a few short days 20th Century Fox will bring yet another Marvel Comics character to the big screen. Marvel’s merc with the mouth, Deadpool, promises to be a faithful interpretation of the character as evidenced by Fox’s tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign. In light of all the hype surrounding Deadpool’s debut, I’m about to share an unpopular opinion—I don’t like Deadpool (and you probably shouldn’t either).

Don’t get me wrong. Deadpool is an entertaining, even compelling character. But unlike other colorful comic-book characters, Deadpool fails epically as a hero or role model. As revealed by the teaser trailers, Deadpool is a foul-mouthed mercenary who more than earns the R-rating attached to his movie. Deadpool combines Spider-man’s wise-cracking wit with the Joker’s sinister sense of humor, making him an amusing anti-hero. Unlike other comedic criminals (such as the Joker or the Riddler) though, writers rarely paint Deadpool as a genuine villain; rather, he’s often the “hero” of his own stories despite his moral depravity. He’s a killer without much of a conscience, yet he’s a fan favorite even among kids. And this is what bothers me most about him.

At nearly every comic-con I attend, I see kids (boys and girls alike) cosplaying as Deadpool. Undiscerning parents dress their three-year-olds up as an amoral murder because they think he’s funny, and many of these kids see Deadpool as their favorite “superhero.”  Deadpool is not a hero. He’s not a role model. He’s not someone to look up to or imitate. The Bible cautions us, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NIV).

While I believe there is hope for sinners of all stripes (even Deadpool), I think it’s important—especially for kids—to emulate and exalt genuine heroes; heroes who stand up for what is right and inspire us not just to greatness, but also to goodness.