Spider Man: Christian Themes Embedded in the American Super-Hero

Theologians say the movie presented much more than flying superheroes
( [email protected] ) Jul 15, 2004 05:01 PM EDT

Are action flicks solely pure action?

Even since its first published comic book, Spider-Man has been one of the most popular characters in modern fiction. The first Spider-Man movie, which explained how the main character Peter became the hero Spider-Man, was the top-grossing film for 2002, garnering $403.7 million.

The sequal to Spider Man - "Spider-Man 2" hit theaters last month, and most who went to see the new film expected no more than action-packed entertainment. However, according to theologians, the movie presents much more than flying superheroes; they say it addresses religious themes.

Perhaps one of the most famous lines in the "Spider-Man 2" movie was one also written in the comic book: "With great power there must also come great responsibility."

For more than four decades, Spider-Man along with his alter-ego, Peter Parker, has struggled to be responsible in the face of personal sacrifice. The theme that responsibility and power are webbed together also is found in many religious traditions.

According to some theologians, Spider man presents a universal human conflict that surpasses the 2-dimensional comic series. More than just an iconic battle between good and evil, it's a tale that includes the realistic uncertainty: "What is the best way to do good?

"I would suggest that's because the line expresses a great truth, a truth that's applicable to all men and all times," said Doug Blount, a philosophy professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Even Jewish traditional roots can be drawn from the movie, according to Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.

"The whole Hebrew Bible is one long story about the just use of power," said Stern. "From Adam and Eve onward, there is the idea that we are endowed with unique power by being created in God's image and that the power automatically entails responsibility."

Within the film, there is a scene which alludes to the crucifixion of Christ, conveying themes dealing with the responsibility of power.

Other critics have claimed that the film compares Spider-Man's character to the serving image of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

"Spider-Man reflects other aspects of Jesus' example," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, an Episcopalian theologian from South Carolina. "You don't see Spider-Man interacting with the powerful because he has power," he said. "Jesus was never seen courting the powerful."