Kate Orson talks to a Christian commentator who turned his back on superhero films when he discovered what was really going on
The theme of good fighting against evil runs through many a children’s TV programme, book and film. From old classics like Lord of The Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia, to modern day favourites like Harry Potter or superhero films, there’s something that draws children and adults alike, to stories of darkness being defeated.
While we might want to stay away from too much non-Christian worldly influence, can popular culture be a way to share with children about the spiritual war we are in?
As Christian parents we might want to avoid the violence, or the glorification of witchcraft in books and films like Harry Potter. Many of us may be grappling with walking the line between being too permissive, and too restrictive. While permissiveness could potentially lure children into the temptations of the world, being overly restrictive could cause rebellion. Jesus never said it would be easy.
One way around this could be to read, and watch together, using the culture as teachable moments to share the Christian perspective, and how there are forces of good and evil in this world. Just as Paul quoted Pagan poets, and had a knowledge and understanding of the culture, can we explore the culture with our children, teaching them and guiding them back to the Gospel?
Perhaps first we need to understand that it is dangerous territory, and be fully aware of the terrain.
Chad Davidson is a father of four and an elder at Blessed Hope Chapel in California. Together with the founder of Blessed Hope, Joe Schimmel, they work together on Good Fight Ministries, looking at anti-Christian messages in popular culture. They have recently released a new documentary ‘Marvel And DC’s War On God,’ a documentary about Marvel and DC superhero films.
Davidson says, ‘’I was really into hero films like The Dark Knight and The Iron Man. I liked the idea of being able to take my kids somewhere where they can watch a movie, there’s a clear good guy, a clear bad guy, and hopefully you see the good guy win. I’m trying to paint this picture so people don’t think, oh, these guys are just judgmental fuddy duddies. It’s not the case. I did not know because I was ignorant and didn’t look into it.’’
Davidson’s research led him to explore the background of some of the comic book writers who inspired Marvel and DC films such as Grant Morrison and Alan Moore who are involved in witchcraft.
‘’I didn’t know all the depths of some of the writers. I didn’t know that people were practising magic to get roles for films, whether it’s Robert Downey Jr. who played Iron Man, or Ezra Miller who played the Flash. I didn’t know that this stuff was going on. When I realised, I didn’t want to mess around with the spiritual realm.’’
Good and evil inversion
On closer analysis Davidson saw how good and evil are often inverted in mainstream films. They often seem to push a Gnostic worldview where there’s an all powerful evil bad guy, similar to how Gnosticism views the old Testament God as evil.
‘’It gets really in depth in terms of what’s called Gnostic cosmology and understanding how Yahweh is ultimately this evil God, an evil created God, and we’re the ones not understanding it. And it’s actually Sophia that is the serpent in the garden that actually opens up our minds to understand.’’
Films often use biblical themes but with an inverted twist. For example in the Netflix series Smallville about Superman, the planet Apokolips, is being pulled to earth, by magnetic ‘omega’ symbols burned into people’s skulls. Superman’s quest is all about stopping ‘the apocalypse.’ As Pastor Joe Schimmel said in an interview with ex-new-ager turned Christian, Doreen Virtue, ‘’it’s like the book of revelation but inside out and backwards.’
These Gnostic ideas could lead non-Christians to have a negative perception of the Christian viewpoint of God, but can Christians who are solid in their walk watch them?
Avoid unless you can handle it?
Davidson says, ‘’Jesus talked about how the eye is the lamp of the body. Really ultimately, if you’re looking upon darkness, how great is that darkness within you? Someone might think they are strong, but the Bible warns that we’re not that strong and that we can be deceived. We have to continually meditate on his word, that God’s word is used for correction and training. As Psalm 101:3 says, ‘I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. It’s not just worthless, it’s conveying worldviews that are contrary to the word of God, that’s a big problem.’
I’m curious how Davidson’s children reacted when he changed his opinion on superhero films.
‘’I’m very open and honest with my children. They know that I was an atheist for almost half of my life. My kids had about twelve different superhero costumes. I talked to my eldest and said, hey, this is the stuff we’re finding out. I remember when it kind of clicked for him and it was like watching him grow up before my eyes as he lay down every one of those costumes and put them in the trash. I was like, man, he’s really seeing this. I didn’t make him do it.”
Perhaps honesty really is the best policy. Honesty with our children, and also with ourselves too about when we are being led into temptation to compromise our Christian values even when- a film is ‘fictional’ or has a few positive themes.
I asked Davidson what he watches with his children these days, ‘’’we actually don’t have a lot of time. My kids play football, (the American kind) and they wrestle, and we go on mission trips. We watch Bible stories like Superbooks and my kids love animals so they watch documentaries, like National Geographic.’’
Our individual circumstances are complex and only God can help guide us through the temptations of our culture. We need to stay close to him, listen to the nudging of a conviction when it’s time to allow a film and discuss the themes with our children, or set a limit and say no. If we do watch it’s crucial to use discernment and notice how the culture might twist the best good and evil story of all time. (For a look at how a family changed its culture, go here)