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Why Superman Is Not the Answer

Man of Steel
 

 
I didn't really care for the latest cinematic iteration of the Superman myth. Like way too many movies today, it was made for the generation that came of age with video games and MTV and their constant, irritatingly frenetic action. When the CGI whiz-bang stuff kicks in, I just check out, and Man of Steel is about three-quarters whiz-bang.

However, there is a theme in this film that is worthy of some reflection, namely the tension between individual autonomy and a state-controlled society. Man of Steel commences with a lengthy segment dealing with the closing days of the planet Krypton. We learn that a fiercely totalitarian regime, led by a General Zod, is seeking the arrest of a scientist called Jor-El. It becomes clear that Jor-El has attempted to undermine the regime's policy of strictly controlling the genetics of Kryptonite newborns. Very much in the manner of Plato's Republic, Kryptonite children are rigidly pre-programmed to be a member of one of three social groups.

Jor-El and his wife have conceived a child in the traditional manner and are seeking to send their son, born in freedom, away from their dying planet. I won't bore you with many more plot details, but suffice it to say that the child (the future Superman) does indeed get away to planet Earth and that General Zod manages to survive the destruction of his world. The movie then unfolds as the story of a great battle between the representative of freedom and the avatar of genetic manipulation and political tyranny.

Lest you think that the link to Plato is a bit forced, the director at one point shows the teenaged Superman reading The Republic. In his classic The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper, a survivor of Nazi tyranny, presented Plato's Republic as the forerunner of all totalitarianisms that have sprung up in the West. Very often, Popper saw, these tyrannies begin with the best of intentions. Good-hearted leaders believe that they have hit upon some form of life that will benefit the greatest number and thus they endeavor to implement their vision through binding legal prescription. Plato himself thought that the guardians of his ideal republic should have all property—including wives and children—in common and hence called for a strictly enforced communism among social elites. Further, he felt that the soldiers who protect his perfect city should have their emotions trained in a very precise manner and therefore decreed that tight censorship should obtain in regard to their reading and entertainment. On Popper's interpretation, post-revolutionary French society, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, and the Iran of the Ayatollahs would be imitations of the Platonic original: idealistic visions which quickly devolved into totalitarian oppression.

In answer to these totalizing systems, Popper proposed the open society, which is to say, a political arrangement that places stress on the prerogatives and freedom of the individual. Thomas Jefferson's insistence that government exists primarily for the purpose of guaranteeing the liberty of individuals to determine their own destinies, to seek happiness as they see fit, is deeply congruent with Popper's ideal. Much of the political history of the past three hundred years might be characterized as a battle between these two visions, these contrasting ideologies. At its limit, the Platonic system results in the apotheosizing of the state and/or the divinization of the ruler. And this is why General Zod (so close to "God") is aptly named. At its limit, the open society conduces toward the apotheosizing of the individual will, so that personal freedom becomes absolute. Many times before, I have pilloried the U.S. Supreme Court statement in the matter of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, whereby individual freedom is entitled to define even the meaning of the universe! If Plato is the philosopher who best articulates the nature of the totalitarian society, Friedrich Nietzsche is the philosopher who best expresses the limit case of the apotheosized ego. Beyond good and evil, he said, lies the will of the Ubermensch, literally the superman. We might read the battle between General Zod and Superman, therefore, as a symbol of the struggle between two falsely deified realities, the nation-state and the ego.

Happily, there is a state of affairs that lies beyond this clash. Biblical religion is eminently clear that there is one God and that any attempt to deify the state, the king, or the self-asserting ego results in spiritual calamity. If you're curious about particular references, I might urge you to read the account of the fall in Genesis chapter three, the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter eleven, Samuel's critique of kingship in first Samuel chapter eight, and the story of David and Bathsheba in second Samuel chapter eleven. The Bible recommends neither the heteronomy of the oppressive state nor the autonomy of the individual will, but rather, if I can borrow a term from Paul Tillich, "theonomy," which means allowing God to become the inner law of one's life. Both the state and the will are under God's judgment and hence neither General Zod nor Superman is the answer.

I'm sure, gentle reader, that you will forgive my revealing the none-too-surprising ending to Man of Steel: Superman's victory over the wicked general. In a Biblical telling of the story, the hero of individualism, having conquered General Zod, would kneel to God.
 
 
Originally published at Word on Fire. Text from Real Clear Religion. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Front Page Mag)

Fr. Robert Barron

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Fr. Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing emerging technologies to draw people into or back to the Faith. Fr. Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Rationalist1

    While I agree that the concept of kings (with real power( and totalitarian governments are not in anyway an appropriate form of government, either now, or in the past I wonder how replacing it with an acknowledgement of God's supremacy would help. If only on the practical level that God isn't around to rule and his numerous surrogates often seem ready to tell us how to pattern our lives and what is legal and what isn't.

    My take on this is that until the Parousia we continue with our open, secular democracy with maintaining the balance between individual freedoms and our societal responsibilities to each other. There is a tension there between those competing factions but as the ( misattributed ) Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis can lead, if we work on it, to a better synthesis.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "God isn't around to rule"

      That, of course, is an assumption we Catholics don't share.

      • Rationalist1

        The Second coming has not occurred. God is not here on Earth and isn't around to rule. As I said we only have his numerous surrogates telling us what God wants.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          R1,

          "The Second coming has not occurred. God is not here on Earth and isn't around to rule."

          This been a Catholic site I present what Catholics believe. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

          1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the
          Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species."

          1374
          The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.""This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Rationalist1

            So the second coming has happened? That was it?

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            R1,

            "So the second coming has happened? That was it?"

            Not at all. Catholics understand the second coming as mostly related to the end of times and final judgement. At this time Christ will return "as he left" (Like the angel told the apostles), in resurrected glory. But Jesus also said "I will be with you always", referring to the different types of presence I mentioned above, specially in His real presence, the Eucharist.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Loreen Lee

            The presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a 'bodily' presence, (of His Person) then, unlike the 'presence'? of the Holy Ghost. Although I cannot kinow whether or not I am worthy, and thus am making a presupposition, (we are warned) there is also, thankfully, the encouragement, that through communion we can find forgiveness for our sins, and thus 'spiritual' growth. I must conclude that this communion therefore is indeed mystical, and yet I may not be in a state of being fully 'receptive'. So, like with the Holy Spirit, it remains a 'mystery'......I am still searching for the 'rationale'.....!!!!?????

          • ZenDruid

            "So, like with the Holy Spirit, it remains a 'mystery'......I am still searching for the 'rationale'.....!!!!?????"

            Perhaps there isn't one.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yeah! I had to come back because I realized I was confusing the mystical body of the church with the body of Christ. But even Kant considered that 'Reason' included more than he assigned to the 'empirical' understanding within his Critique. That's why there's Faith. Because reason can be caught up in antinomies. See his four antimonies. But I am able to accept the 'mystery' in the universe, and still consider myself rational. After all the science fiction writers postulate stories that are ingenious and require the reader, like in fiction, to remove the element of 'disbelief'. But I do believe that 'faith' can be 'congruent'? with reason. Perhaps some day, if you will allow me to be a bit of a science fictionalist, the whole cosmos will be transformed, and 'resurrected'......!!!!!! Well hopefully at least us 'humans'.....Theoretically, they say that science is now capable of bringing back extinct species from their DNA, although the efficacy? of this is questioned. To speaki with an atheist sense, then, Catholicism does in an analogous way, allow me to 'presume possibilities'.that are more 'challenging' than the best of science, whether fiction or empirically based hypothesis.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've read through your comments Loreen Lee and I don't have a clue as to what you are saying. It might help if limited yourself to one through per combox.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you Kevin. I have read through my comments critcally enough to understand what you are talking about. Although my attempt to understand does envolve through dialogue, I realize the need to 'speak' with greater clarity, and do perceive that very often I fall short of that goal in these comments. I am encouraged by all responses on what for me are difficult subjects and/or topics. Thank you.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Loreen,

            I'm not sure if I understand your question. But I think you are asking about the difference between the "presence" of the Holy Spirit and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Am I correct?

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. It's like looking at the Trinity under different categories, like Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. I actually find Kant's philosophy helpful in this because he assigned truth to the theoretical postulates of the empirical world, beauty to teleology, (this is complicated), though with respect to Practical Reason, I have difficulty equating a sense of duty (law, but within the perogative of the indidual's autonomy?) as solely constitutive of choice and 'ends', and that he is vague about his meaning of a good will, I find. My interpretation! So please, I would be most thankful for further 'elucidation'.....because although Jesus said he was the truth, the way and the life, Kant would seem to associate truth with the empirical. (body?) I have read that the Eucharist is the 'what' re-presentation- re-membering of the 'incarnation'...that the reality of the Logos (Truth) made flesh is indeed a 'Reality'. We 'grow' in the assimilation of 'truth/Truth' --- that's the best I can do.....

        • Jesus S Aaron Christ Payne

          Not one person on this planet other than I knows what
          God wants. SHE wants the truth revealed. Man has become so corrupt and all are so far removed from God that I have only found one other on this planet who knows who God is.

      • Loreen Lee

        I believe you are referring to the 'presence' of the Holy Spirit. It can be very difficult to learn how and the necessity to 'look within'. (This an attempt to place the religious perspective within the context of reflection, and note that the Holy Spirit would mean that self-reflection is not necessarily self-referential.!! But as to Nietzsche, I remember reading that the Superman is the development of 'what?" reflection to the point where the individual has conquered, (transcended?) the dichotomies involved in the placement of logic within a morality, (through understanding?) and the living of a virtuous life, (although perhaps a 'pagan' interpretation (as in Aristotle) of what constitutes 'virtue'. All I know is I have a 'need' for understanding, even for that which is 'above' understanding????? i.e. Faith.

        • Rationalist1

          Again then we definitely only have those who have the presence of the Holy Spirit within them, and not non believers or non Christians, to tell us what God wants.

          • Loreen Lee

            I therefore would not want to 'presume' that I am acting in accordance with the 'gifts' of the Holy Spirit. But there are occasions where unplanned, within the context of the immediacy that one searches for within life, that one finds oneself saying or doing something, unthought of in the psychology of conscious planning, that is 'right' and possibly even charitable, (although it is difficult to assess one's effect on another person). Do we explain the source by an unsubstantiated empirical connection of the right neurons, at the right time, or do we go to the 'unexplainability 'of consiousness, within our ''person', who within the theology of the trinity, and the often within an objectification of the human being, is considered within a 'solely empirical (nominalist) philosophy' not to 'exist'. After Kant, I am still searching as to whether transcendentals are 'ideals' (and the argument is whether or not ideas are real) or 'realities. The psychotic is someone who is convinced of the reality of his ideas, without evidence or corroboration. This may be considered madness, but even here, if one seeks to understand the development of the 'story', one can learn that the language even of the insane, although not readily made public is not merely 'private'. One can find there is substance, and even logic and an empirical history behind the madness. I say this because it parallels what is regarded as the ability of the Holy Ghost to give the gift of speaking in 'tongues': Another metaphor, alliteration, allegorical, poetic thought!!!!??????

      • primenumbers

        The problem is though that we don't have an unambiguous direct route to God, just a variety of humans who claim to be conduits, claiming different things from their communications with God. Again, the problem is an epistemological one - by what method do we reliably achieve knowledge of God. The really important word though is "reliably".

        • Loreen Lee

          I would disagree with the priorities. Certainty is an epistemological category philosophically, I believe. Knowledge is both epistemological and within the context of 'faith' a gift of the Holy Spirit. In this regard, I believe it is an ontological issue and not entirely 'epistemological'. Indeed I have had the idea that epistemologically, I could accept various interpretations of atheism, theism, deism, and even agnosticism, within certain 'contexts'. I have also found 'truth' in 'all' religions. But without getting myself into the situation where I become a 'fideist', (going the way of Pascal's wager, in the self-interest that accrues with my 'belief', and separate faith from reason, within my personal belief. There is I pray, a growing consciousness, even in assimilating and rejecting the various epistemological options by testing them, and being critical of their effect on my hopefully developing understanding. (Dare I assume that I am always aware of their effect?) Still, the important thing is whether or not my 'being' becomes more whole and complete. Is epistemology 'grounded?' in life experience. Does it or should it involve my being, and not merely abstract terminology. I agree with Heidegger that an Ontology is fundamental not only to belief, but perhaps even to epistemology. There is thus two senses of 'knowing' God, something that I believe we can/must? aspire to, but too often assume 'without warrant'?, epistemologically!.

          Well I haven't gotten into trouble yet. But I must confess that it frightens me a little leaving these comments!!!!!!

          • primenumbers

            Ah, I put epistemology before ontology. I cannot know of existence unless I have a reliable epistemology. And a reliable epistemology is one which has a correction method, and also takes into account the known cognitive biases (because we're dealing with people).

            A good comments is a good comment and a good discussion is what we're here for. I'm not out to convert Catholics away from their faith, but to engage with them because I'm fascinated about why people believe. I also have a parallel interest in and around logical arguments, which dovetails nicely into an (relatively unimportant I think) aspect of religious belief.

          • Loreen Lee

            Ah! I too admire the daring, the personal venture, the methodoligical doubt of Descartes. (Augustine: I err therefore I am.) Was it personal, or as a friend argued with me today, rather a logical exercise. Did Descartes really doubt? But I doubt? There is also the argument that it is a solipistic position, and thus even the modern existentialists went against him. But as I said, epistemologically I can agree with Descartes. I also find value in Buddhist meditation, but question whether this, like prayer, is 'merely' epistemological.

          • primenumbers

            What I was getting at with logical arguments is that they're presented as part of an overall apologetic, yet very few people seem to be persuaded by them. More often or not people become religious for a variety of other reasons, yet still vast effort is put forth into this area of philosophy / theology, more perhaps as an abstract mental exercise than as an example of religious belief. So in my interest of why religious people believe, such arguments could represent a very small number of conversions. I somewhat get the feeling that such arguments are not actually projected at an atheistic target audience, but more aimed at dealing with the reasonable doubts of believers. In that respect they become rationalizations for believers.

          • Loreen Lee

            Your point is well taken!!!! There is the 'concept?' of a 'leap of faith'. This is consistent with the idea that faith, considered in Catholicism to be a 'theological' (i.e. transcendal virtue, not of this world, but perhaps of the inner development of a 'person) is a gift. I myself believe that it comes through personal, or rather life experience, rather than 'mere' argument, and proofs. But I cannot speak for 'everyone'.....!!
            Thanks for responding....(P.S. I also don't think it incongruent that a person with the 'gift' of faith, still finds the need to justify his experience, rationally. But this is again, I believe, your 'point'. Thank you.

          • primenumbers

            The problem being for us is that the results of faith are not distinguishable from pretence or imagination. We also look at the larger religious picture and see the chaos of religious beliefs that faith has brought us, and rightly assert that faith is a demonstrably poor epistemology.

          • Loreen Lee

            I love your challenges primenumbers. Hope I can handle them. I have argued elsewhere on this post, that faith cannot be entirely epistemological, although I have not clarified my case to the standard of more developed theological and philosophical argument, than my own indiidual understanding.
            I am currently of the belief though that the Catholic Church continues to reject much of modern philosophy as a rational for faith, precisely because of the constitution of epistemology as primary, within the philosophy of Descartes. Thus I struggle to put this in context, because I do 'feel' that dissent must be 'absorbed' (by the church) in order to be transcendent. In other comments, I have given the example of Heidegger's philosophy of re-establishing the fundamental? categoy of ontology, a perspective that he derived from Aristotle. I am 'personally' aware of the great gulf that distinguishes modernism and Aristotelin/Platonic thought. I merely search for 'congruencies', and feel that this forum can/could be most helpful as both a means to express my perplexities, an to develop my perspective. But yes, as Einstein said, the most important thing is imagination, and Buddhism also takes imagination as the prime definition of 'mind'. Without imagination science would 'get nowhere'. As the Catholic church teachers, there are dangers however, in imaginatiive thought, such as unrealistic fantasies, etc. etc.which it distinguishes from even images from personal experience, which are tested against tradition, rational, (the scriptues, (interpret as 'life experience') and the rational of philosophy. (I think) Epistemology is characterized as 'theories of knowledge'. It is thus self-recognized as a developing, and incomplete discipline.

      • Jesus S Aaron Christ Payne

        She is watching you make an assumption.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Maybe this will help.

      What keeps kings on the one hand, and presidents, legislators, and judges on the other, on the right track?

      I think the answer is the rule of reason.

      But why should these rulers *care* about the rule of reason? The answer is they have to answer to God in the end for their exercise of power. That's why acknowledging God's supremacy "helps" from the Catholic perspective.

      The founding fathers of the U.S. agreed with this in their view that democracy demanded a moral and virtuous people.

      • Rationalist1

        I would rather have a legislator whose morals arose, not from a concern about pleasing a remote deity, and one whose will is transmitted exclusively through a small number of men, mostly foreign, bit one whose morals are informed by reason, empathy. experience, discussion and and acknowledgement of of the only thing we are certain of is our shared humanity

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think this is a false, forced choice.

        • Loreen Lee

          I ote you have left out a sense of 'purpose' or teleology, whether this be thought of in terms of pragmatic interest, or a transcendental ideal/reality.

  • Dcn Harbey Santiago

    Hmmm... I wander if a "spoiler alert" disclaimer is needed, for the benefit of those (like me) who have not seen the movie, yet.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
    Deacon Harbey Santiago

  • stanz2reason

    I have to say I'm shocked that the content of this article addresses political theory rather than the obvious comparisons between Jesus & Superman. These comparisons were evident in the '78 film and were even more apparent in 'Man of Steel'.

    Father Barron... get on that. That's an article I'd love to see from a priest.

    Brandon... make that happen.

  • Sage McCarey

    "Karl Popper, a survivor of Nazi tyranny, presented Plato's Republic as the forerunner of all totalitarianisms that have sprung up in the West. Very often, Popper saw, these tyrannies begin with the best of intentions. Good-hearted leaders believe that they have hit upon some form of life that will benefit the greatest number and thus they endeavor to implement their vision through binding legal prescription."

    The first thing that poppered :-) into my head when I read this was the church! Do you really not see how totalitarian the RCC is? The church wants to control human sexuality for example. The church believes it should control who, when, under what circumstances we humans express our sexuality. The church wants to control especially women, tells women not to use birth control, and then we should carry every pregnancy to term. The church has decided women don't have the right to control their own family lives and their reproduction! What is different from Plato deciding guardians should control women and children and hold them in common?

    I know you believe you receive your rules and regs come from god, but I don't believe that. The men who lead the church (always and forever only men) claim to know what god wants and it's always control over people and their most private interactions.

    • Rationalist1

      Just look how the Church controlled Europe for 1000 years when it had total social power

    • Linda

      The Church does not teach that about women. The Church teaches that women should take control, be aware of their bodies and their awesome capabilities. Both men and women should respect themselves and maintain dignity. Natural family planning - which uses uses science and data to predict ovulation - is an effective form of birth control. Also, I was taught that the Church refers to itself as "she" and considers itself the Bride of Christ. It seems odd that "She" would then be anti-female.

      • Rationalist1

        And all of that is taught by men only.

        • Linda

          And so it is therefore wrong? I see a lot of holes in this particular line of reasoning.

          • Rationalist1

            No, it's not necessarily wrong because the beliefes are dictated solely by men. But as a Catholic woman, you have no say in what you believe.

          • Linda

            So because I am a Catholic woman I no longer have free will?

          • Rationalist1

            Not in what you believe. You can choose not to believe it all and no longer be a Catholic or become a much disparaged Cafeteria Catholic and dissent on the Church's teaching on the rights of workers to unionize, the unjustness of the Iraq war and being against capital punishment but you have no say over those policies.

          • Linda

            I'm not sure why you're bringing up any of those other subjects; feels a bit antagonistic. I will put them aside to say this: I am a Catholic. I choose to be a Catholic. I have looked into the Church's teaching on this issue and I have chosen to accept it. I am a practicing Catholic, and by nature a flawed human being, so I have taken issue with different teachings at different times in my life. But I will say that on this I think the Church is right on. I think it is a beautiful, deeply spiritual teaching, one fully respectful of women, and in its way, quite demanding of men, as they are required to be intimate partners with their wives, to be so in tune with how the wives' bodies work and their ability as a couple to produce life that they both actively choose of their own free wills when they give themselves over to the possibility of life. It is a much more exciting, intimate, loving act when you work together. If you are married, you should give it a go. Then you will have first-hand experience and data to back up your opinion, as I do.

          • Rationalist1

            You said the Church teaches that women should take control. They can't. Never will. I am married and my wife and I are equals in this marriage, and not just in word, but in action.

          • Linda

            I am glad you are equals, though I once heard some good advice: A marriage should be 60/40, with each of you giving 60 and expecting 40. It makes for a more forgiving and less score-keeping relationship. :)

          • Rationalist1

            AGREE

          • Sage McCarey

            Linda, you are not a flawed human being! Why do you say that? Yes, you make mistakes as we all do but Flawed? How so?

          • Linda

            I am human; I am imperfect; I am flawed. I choose to follow a demanding path toward perfection and fall short every day. But it is, I think, the right path to be on, and worth the effort (though I could probably put in a bit more than I do. :) ).

          • Susan

            I choose to follow a demanding path toward perfection

            What is perfection?

            How do you know the path you're following will lead you closer to it?

          • Linda

            Loving God with my whole self and loving my neighbor as myself. Extremely demanding but extremely satisfying.

          • Susan

            Hi Linda. Thank you for responding but that doesn't answer either of my questions.

            What is perfection?

          • Linda

            I believe perfection - perfect humanity - is just that: loving God with everything I am, and loving all around me, treating them with dignity and respect, doing unto others as I'd have them do unto me. And I know this is the right path because an analysis of all alternative paths leaves me empty and wanting. And I am a failure every day (but a success, too!) because its very hard to will the good of the other without putting yourself first. It's really, really, *really* hard sometimes to put God or others before my own wants and needs (and I don't always - the failure), but I am usually more satisfied and happy when I do (the success!). I am blessed with a child who is happiest when those around him are happy. He almost never thinks of what he might want; in any situation he almost always thinks first of what his brother, his friend, his dad, his mom, whoever he happens to be with, wants first. It's difficult sometimes to get him to make a choice of his own. I force him at times but it always feels wrong because he has such a pure and loving nature. In him I see the perfection of loving. It's beautiful and humbling, pure and straight from heaven. I truly believe that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I *know* I'm flawed. Something in me demands I know everything but I'm ignorant. Something in me demands I do good and avoid evil, but I often do what I wish I did not. Something in me demands perfect health but I get sick, my body is wearing out, and someday I'll die. Something in me demands perfect happiness, but nothing I've found in life provides that.

            And if none of those "demands" are rational, then that irrationally is my big flaw.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Linda, just so you know, for progressives, a Catholic woman is not really a woman if she believes in traditional morality, just as a black person is not really black if he or she is conservative, which is why there are also strange creatures like "white" Hispanics.

          • Susan

            Linda, just so you know, for progressives, a Catholic woman is not really a woman if she believes in traditional morality,

            I have no idea what you mean by this.

            Please explain.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am referring to the ideology so prevalent in our culture that those who hold it are hardly aware of it: that only persons who agree with the current orthodoxy have any standing to speak.

            So Sandra Fluke can speak about women's concerns but Linda cannot. Al Sharpton can speak about the concerns of African Americans but Clarence Thomas cannot. And the mainstream media can identify George Zimmerman as a "white" Hispanic to make him less creditable.

          • Susan

            So Sandra Fluke can speak about women's concerns but Linda cannot.

            From what little I know about the Sandra Fluke case, there was a political party trying to prevent her from speaking on a key issue. So, that's a strange example.

            Who is silencing LInda?

            I'm not sure what you mean by "progressives".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sage, Josh, and Rationalist1 dismissed Linda's ideas because they came from a supposed male-dominated religion.

          • Corylus

            I am referring to the ideology so prevalent in our culture that those who hold it are hardly aware of it: that only persons who agree with the current orthodoxy have any standing to speak.

            So Sandra Fluke can speak about women's concerns but Linda cannot.

            Well I cannot speak for anyone else, but for me it is a little more complex than that. I followed the Fluke case and I listened to her; not due to her ideology or otherwise; but in relation to the factual information that she brought to the table. In her talk here and below (from 1.45 on) she discussed 'contraceptive' medication in relation to the amelioration of polycystic ovary syndrome and the difficulty that her friend had accessing it due to the assumption that she wanted this medication for contraception.

            This tells me that in Fluke's university there were not only had some individuals (in their health department) making normative assumptions about women - due to whether or not they were likely sexually active - it also tells me that there were some spectacular ignoramuses present.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't get your point. She said her friend's prescription for pos *was covered* at Georgetown.

            Overall, she is spouting Planned Parenthood cant.

          • ZenDruid

            spouting Planned Parenthood cant

            The choice of words here reveals a simplistic doctrinaire reaction.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you follow the propaganda of Planned Parenthood, which consists of nicely dressed up lies, you'll see that that's all Sandra Fluke testified to.

          • ZenDruid

            which consists of nicely dressed up lies

            Ditto.

          • Corylus

            I don't get your point. She said her friend's prescription for pos *was covered* at Georgetown.

            Technically covered, yes, but nevertheless not honoured.

            Now why would this be the case? Well, ineptitude is always a possibility :P However, it seems to go further than that in that her friend's doctors were unwilling to believe that her homosexuality made contraception a non issue.

            This brings us back to the notion of a 'male-centred' bias onto this issues. I like to be a bit more subtle than talking in such binary terms, however, in this particular case I appear to have no choice ...

            they say that a picture speaks a thousand words...

            do you not understand that this appears not only bizarre, but exclusionary to the extent of risking relevant factual information being excluded?

            With regard to to my point - this was related purely to a lack of understanding of biology being shown. However, ...

            Overall, she is spouting Planned Parenthood cant.

            ... as you want to talk about 'cant' then I will oblige.

            A common 'cant' that arose from all of this was the 'cant' that women can be quickly and easily classified into the boxes of either 'virgin' or 'whore'. (An obvious lunacy as most women are neither)

            For example, let's look at Limburgh's reaction

            Limbaugh's reaction to this intelligent and articulate woman's speech:

            What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be
            paid to have sex -- what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.
            She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.

            Does this bear any resemblance whatsoever to what she actually said?

            No it doesn't. Neither, I submit, does what you have just said.

            N.B. I am not in any why comparing you to that nasty individual Limbaugh (you seem a calm and measured person). I am merely pointing out that you both seem inclined to read into her statement things that are simply not there.

          • ZenDruid

            I hold forth the hope that nobody here really gives Flush Dimbulb any credence.

          • Corylus

            I very much hope so too Zen.*

            I give complete credit in that regard - until proved otherwise - I merely hold him up as the possible end point of certain assumptions.

            -=-=-

            *May I call you Zen? I would not care to be overly familiar :)

          • ZenDruid

            I would be honoured.

          • Corylus

            Marvellous :)

          • Linda

            Lol!

          • Linda

            Lol!

          • Linda

            Okay, I've tried to delete the "LOL" but can't. It was meant in response to someone earlier that I thought was trying to be funny but obviously I've missed my mark in more ways than one. Please ignore it. Thanks!

      • josh

        The church is symbolized as the 'Bride of Christ' to emphasize its submission and inferiority to the figure of Christ. Yes, it's inherently a bit misogynistic.

        • Linda

          Except that all of us - women *and* men - are called to submit. The men are asked to assume the traditional female role of submission as well. Very balanced.

      • Sage McCarey

        Hi Linda, if natural family planning is so effective why is it estimated 90 percent of Catholics are using birth control? And why is the church fighting the use of birth control and abortion as if women are not capable of deciding when they want to start a family or add to their family?

        • Linda

          I would imagine that people don't want to be bothered with natural family planning. I think they don't trust it, or can't trust themselves to be in control when they ought to be. But just because it is difficult doesn't make it incorrect. Women are completely capable of deciding for themselves when to have children. Natural family planning allows for that control. The idea that you would know your body well enough to know whether you could get pregnant seems like it should be encouraged, not stifled. As to abortion, it is not a form of birth control; it is taking an innocent life. It is terribly tragic that any woman feels this is her best or only choice. It isn't.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Sage, sorry but you don't have the first clue about what the Catholic Church teaches.

      In regard to human sexuality, the Church teaches we should conform our behavior to the reality of things. That is, sexuality ought to be lived according to the nature of human sexuality not some arbitrary rules the Church has invented. This is why the Church says we ought to live by virtues like prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance and avoid vices like intemperance, cowardice, injustice, and bad decision-making.

      • Sage McCarey

        I guess the church and I disagree about the "reality of things". Who is to say what the nature of sexuality is after all the years that religion has been controlling human sexuality?

  • http://suddenalarm.blaseckie.ca/ maureen

    With the greatest of respect, I have just one wee disagreement here...Zod is not the leader of a totalitarian regime on Krypton but rather of the government's military. He attempts a coup but is sentenced, along with his small troop of warriors, to imprisonment in what has been interpreted elsewhere as an alternate dimensional prison.

    Or we may recognize it as a form of purgatory.

    There are many superficial and, in some cases heavy handed visual references throughout the movie to spirituality. I am grateful to Fr. Barron for drilling down to the actual structure of the film's thesis.

    Thank you for sharing it in Strange Notions. I look forward to finding this newsletter email in my email everyday.

  • severalspeciesof

    Who said that superman was THE answer?

    Yes, I understand that it can spark interesting conversation, such as is going on now, but I just had to say it... :)

    Glen

  • Matthew Hepler

    Father, one biblical reference that I believe you missed includes a striking scene in which Clark was talking with the priest sweeping the church. When the camera was on the face of Clark in the background we see very clearly a stained glass window showing the famous image of Christ praying in the garden asking, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me". The very conversation that Clark is having with the Priest is about whether he should give himself up to Zod which echoes the Pharacies that came after Christ.

    • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

      I feel that it was already thought by Father Barron when he says:

      Superman's victory over the wicked general. In a Biblical telling of the
      story, the hero of individualism, having conquered General Zod, would
      kneel to God.

      But yes, that scene was very moving for me :)

    • blackzafiro

      I confess I was crying when I understood the parallel they were trying to make, and the fact that Kal-El, in his fear, doubt and confusion looked for aid from a man of God. Thumbs up ^_^

  • Sage McCarey

    Oral Roberts claims god speaks directly to him. That crazy guy in the white suit drives demons out of people he says. All those fundie preachers claim god speaks to them. I don't believe it. I have had transcendent experiences in my life; the difference between me and them is that I don't attribute that to a god or gods. And I don't try to tell people how to live their lives based on my experiences.
    This is off topic but I've been doing some research on Satan. What does the RCC teach about Satan?

    • Loreen Lee

      That you can compare Satan to an 'absolute'!!?? narcicisst. (grin grin) I have run into confusion regarding the hirerarchy of angels, but if it is true that the Seraphim are highest, and represent love, and then the Cherubim, who represent knowledge, then Satan was a Seraphim. There are many stories: see even in literature, forget author and work, (Ah Milton.) but the gist of it is that Satan chooses to love self. God does not reject Satan. Satan rejects God. He chooses to regard himself as the 'highest'. Perhaps even to the point of 'acknowledging no 'other'. Thus he is associated with vanity and pride. But I do not want to confuse possession of spirits (we do talk of the demons within though) with mental health issues. For me that would be a dangerous course to take.... You might be interested in what William James says (philosophically) about this in 'Varieties of Religious Experience'. The Church scrutinizes the occurence of 'apparitions' etc. to decide whether or not they are 'worthy of belief'....

    • Sample1

      I relish the irony that can be wrought from realizing that Satan is not an atheist and Jesus is not a person of faith.

      Mike
      (Pardon the interruption, I've been looking for a place to post that since yesterday).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I agree with those two "facts" but what do you relish about them?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Do a little more "research" and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church if you want to know. It's free on-line.

  • Roger Hane

    I always preferred the Silver Surfer. He seemed to be caught up in existentialism in an entertaining and thought provoking way.

  • Loreen Lee

    Just checked out New Advent. Here's from Barbara Nicolosi..... an excerpt. You might want to read the entire post before it becomes blog history.

    As for the vaunted religious references, well, they really aren’t that
    profound, guys. Superman stands in front of a window of Jesus. WOWWWWWWWWWW. Superman is – get this – the Son of a wise and loving father – MIND-BLOWING! THAT’S JUST LIKE YOU-KNOW-WHO!!!! Superman in the movie is 33 YEARS OLD!!!!! Holy Summa Theologica, Batman!
    I hope every church is ready this weekend for millions of converts!
    Because how could the average pagan brain resist THAT kind of deep magic
    wisdom!? Good grief.

  • Jay

    I agree with the thoughts that are presented. I sometimes compare the individualism that is so pervasive within our culture with the control over society that some countries like China seem to have. Whether it be something as abhorrent as China's desire to have control over places of worship (ex, Catholic Bishop choices-China's desire to have at least some control over who gets to be a bishop) or as ridiculous as Casey vs. Planned Parenthood cited in this article, hyper state control and hyper individualism can both be bad for society.

  • Max Driffill

    A few things (and in no particular order):
    "I'm sure, gentle reader, that you will forgive my revealing the none-too-surprising ending to Man of Steel: Superman's victory over the wicked general. In a Biblical telling of the story, the hero of individualism, having conquered General Zod, would kneel to God."

    I'm not sure why this follows. It is the profound humanism of both sets of Clark's parents that allow him to be the hero he is. Clark was reading philosophy not the Bible. And a good thing too.

    Some of your details are incorrect:
    "However, there is a theme in this film that is worthy of some reflection, namely the tension between individual autonomy and a state-controlled society. Man of Steel commences with a lengthy segment dealing with the closing days of the planet Krypton. We learn that a fiercely totalitarian regime, led by a General Zod, is seeking the arrest of a scientist called Jor-El."

    I'm not sure how fiercely totalitarian we can say the society of Krypton really is. It certainly has rules. Zod is actually attempting a coup against Krypton's ruling council, largely because of its incompetence, and because it had failed to listen to Jor-El's warning. Science denialism managed to ruin Krypton in big way. Zod asks Jor-El to join him to help him save Krypton (not knowing that Krypton is out of time). Zod only becomes angry with Jor-El when he learns of the flouting of Kryptonian breeding rules.

    "It becomes clear that Jor-El has attempted to undermine the regime's policy of strictly controlling the genetics of Kryptonite newborns. Very much in the manner of Plato's Republic, Kryptonite children are rigidly pre-programmed to be a member of one of three social groups.""

    This part you get mostly right, but for one horrendously callous mis-step. People from Krypton are called Kryptonians.
    Have you no shame. Its unclear to me how you can even sleep at night.

    Superman is not our king though. He is a person doing the best he can to help, and he does this not for a king, or a god or a country, but because of the profound lessons in humanity that he learned from his parents. The values of Clark Kent are the source of the heroics, and perhaps they are the answer.

  • ZenDruid

    What was the question?

  • Mikegalanx

    "I have pilloried the U.S. Supreme Court statement in the matter of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, whereby individual freedom is entitled to define even the meaning of the universe!"

    Actually, it just says people are allowed to use birth control- something which the Father believes should be controlled by the state.

    "Thomas Jefferson's insistence that government exists primarily for the
    purpose of guaranteeing the liberty of individuals to determine their
    own destinies, to seek happiness as they see fit, is deeply congruent
    with Popper's ideal. "

    Which is why the Catholic Church deeply opposed the ideals of the American Revolution, a dislike that was heartily reciprocated by Jefferson:
    "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden
    people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest
    grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious
    leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
    (And many more)

    "Much of the political history of the past three
    hundred years might be characterized as a battle between these two
    visions, these contrasting ideologies."

    Yes, and unfortunately, except for the last 50 years or so the Catholic Church has usually been on the side of tyranny

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This is a distortion of history.

      Barnabe Chiaramonti (Pope Pius VII) argued in 1797 that democracy was not contrary to the Gospel. Nevertheless, he argued that liberty and
      equality were ideals that could only be achieved in Christ. Democracy required people of virtue and upright character and this was only possible with the help of divine grace.

      Despite Jefferson's prejuduce against Catholicism, the American founding fathers essentially agreed with the pope on this. For example, John Adams wrote,

      "[W]e have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition,
      revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

      • Rationalist1

        Then why isn't the Church democratic and why in the 1000 years that the Catholic Church held so much authority in Europe did democracies not exist,

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Drat Discus for not alerting me to your response.

          While all the members are the Church are radically equal, the Church was founded with a hierarchical governance and she doesn't think she has the right to change that, only be faithful to it. That is why the Church is not a democracy. Why should she be?

          Pius VII was not saying that democracy was the *only* moral means of governance or the best form of government, only that it is not contrary to the Gospel. The Church does not invent forms of government for human beings.

        • Linda

          The only vaguely democratic episode I can think of from the Gospels involves Pontius Pilate. The crowd chooses Barabbus over Christ, then demands that Jesus be crucified. It may be that the Church is a bit wary because of that. ;)

  • Corylus

    Robert,

    Looks like you spend a fair amount of time in the cinema (what with this and the recent Gatsby review) - that is lovely to see, I do wish I could get in there more often myself.

    Sometimes though a film, is just a film ... is just a film :)

    If you would like to watch a film with philosophical implications then I would advise Serenity as something with a few discussion points in there.

  • Corylus

    Now.

    Let's get back on thread with an example of the real Superman, advocating not the provision of answers (with a capital 'A'), but the attempted answering of questions: and the solution to the many problems that these answers can provide.

    I am old enough to remember well the original star. My heart broke to see him in such a state.

  • Jesus S Aaron Christ Payne

    Turning the problem of Evil on its head. Why the world needs Superman/Jesus/Yoda from the House of Payne in which God dwells.

    What is in a Name but (N a Me) which is the name of your Enemy. The unicorn apocalypse or great revival of the truth. We must first have it Painfully revealed that the article was written by Zod/Christian/88 against his enemy mortal enemy Jesus/Pagan/33.

    The music playing loud on the Radio as sympathy for the Devil moans about the evil thats been allowed to Rome/888. The Catholic cat-is-holi C! In ancient Egypt were Ra-88, Dio the devil who was a tyrant pharaoh preaching from the book a Ra or Christian Bible. The Cat was Holy because it was said to scare off Amun Ra and still today they have lied to you all and have you say Amen which shows homage to him.

    Superman is 36-Krypton on the elemental chart. The Book of Rao 33, the trinity. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God, Jesus and his child to carry on his DNA so God could send him back. You will make my power your own. The Son becomes the father and Father becomes the Sun 333.

    Mr. Barron weather you know it or not up work at the Republic. Your word has a forked tongue and is on fire indeed. While he may fool you into thinking that he walks a holy path, His Crossroad in 2008 tells me he is 88/HH Hitler in front of your face.

    The Government and the Church has become so far removed from God that She no longer talks to any of you. You have all been led astray and deceived by the very ones that warned you not to be deceived and led astray. The end of Hate is the cure for that. Jesus will end hate and toss of the devil. Which means the end of 888 the Catholic church and its Christianity.

    Your hate for Superman is the same hate the Catholic church had for Jesus because he walked a pagan path with the native indians and lived in harmony with the planet as to where the development (devil men) by your current employer is based and hate and consumption.

    Sin,

    The House of Payne Church of God

    OS2 Eisu S. Aaron Uni Peg Unix Christ-Payne

    The Unicorn Pegasus

    The direct bloodline descendant and Heir that is being denied by Rome.

    • Andrew G.

      I think I speak for all of us when I say...

      whut

      (parent comment reported as inappropriate)

      • Jesus S Aaron Uni Christ Payne

        The Priest writing the article is the villain Zod 88. Superman is Jesus 33 who was killed by the very church who used his name to spread their own religion that is based on hate.

      • Jesus S Aaron Uni Christ Payne

        did you have what I wrote reported? This a forum for discussion just because you don't understand is no reason remove it.

      • Corylus

        Well - you are speaking for me there at any rate.

  • Jesus S Aaron Uni Christ Payne

    Turning the problem of Evil on its head. Why the world needs Superman/Jesus/Yoda from the House of Payne in which God dwells.

    What is in a Name but (N a Me) which is the name of your Enemy. The unicorn apocalypse or great revival of the truth. We must first have it Painfully revealed that the article was written by Zod/Christian/88 against his enemy mortal enemy Jesus/Pagan/33.

    The music playing loud on the Radio as sympathy for the Devil moans about the evil thats been allowed to Rome/888. The Catholic cat-is-holi C! In ancient Egypt were Ra-88, Dio the devil who was a tyrant pharaoh preaching from the book a Ra or Christian Bible. The Cat was Holy because it was said to scare off Amun Ra and still today they have lied to you all and have you say Amen which shows homage to him.

    Superman is 36-Krypton on the elemental chart. The Book of Rao 33, the trinity. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God, Jesus and his child to carry on his DNA so God could send him back. You will make my power your own. The Son becomes the father and Father becomes the Sun 333.

    Mr. Barron weather you know it or not up work at the Republic. Your word has a forked tongue and is on fire indeed. While he may fool you into thinking that he walks a holy path, His Crossroad in 2008 tells me he is 88/HH Hitler in front of your face.

    The Government and the Church has become so far removed from God that She no longer talks to any of you. You have all been led astray and deceived by the very ones that warned you not to be deceived and led astray. The end of Hate is the cure for that. Jesus will end hate and toss of the devil. Which means the end of 888 the Catholic church and its Christianity.

    Your hate for Superman is the same hate the Catholic church had for Jesus because he walked a pagan path with the native indians and lived in harmony with the planet as to where the development (devil men) by your current employer is based and hate and consumption.

    Sin,

    The House of Payne Church of God

    OS2 Eisu S. Aaron Uni Peg Unix Christ-Payne

    The Unicorn Pegasus

    The direct bloodline descendant and Heir that is being denied by Rome.

  • JOR EL VAZQUEZ LIMON

    ACABO DE LEER LA PUBLICACIÓN DEL SEÑOR O TEÓLOGO ROBERT...
    QUIEN HABLA SOBRE LA REFLEXIÓN SOBRE UNA PARTE DE LA NUEVA PELÍCULA DE:
    "EL HOMBRE DE ACERO".

    1.- PRIMERO QUIERO SUGERIR LO SIGUIENTE:

    LA PRÓXIMA VEZ QUE SE VUELVAN A REFERIR AL PADRE DE DICHO
    PERSONAJE DE PELÍCULA POR FAVOR ESCRIBANLO ASÍ: "YOR-EL O YORK EL; EN
    REALIDAD A MI NO ME AFECTA EN LO ABSOLUTO QUE SE PAREZCA MUCHO A MI NOMBRE,
    PERO PUES NO ME GUSTAN TAMPOCO LAS CONFUSIONES Y ERRORES ORTOGRÁFICOS, ADEMAS
    MI NOMBRE SE LEE ASÍ COMO ESTA ESCRITO Y EN ESPAÑOL, POR LO QUE EL ÚNICO
    PARECIDO QUE HAY ES LA FORMA COMO ALGUNOS EXTRANJEROS LO ESCRIBEN....

    2.- AHORA BIEN, LA ÚNICA REFLEXIÓN QUE YO ENCUENTRO ES MUY
    DISTINTA A LA DE MUCHOS CRISTIANOS, LAICOS Y RELIGIOSOS CATÓLICOS
    TELE-VIDENTES:

    CUANDO JESUS VENGA DE NUEVO A JUZGAR A VIVOS Y
    MUERTOS...SERÁ CUANDO YA EXISTAN TODAS LAS "FUTURAS MARAVILLAS DE LA
    TECNOLOGÍA MODERNA", Y CUANDO YA HAYAN OCURRIDO NUMEROSOS HECHOS Y SUCESOS
    MUY PARECIDOS O SIMILARES A LOS FICTICIOS QUE SE INVENTAN EN LAS PELÍCULAS DE
    CIENCIA FICCIÓN.

    ASÍ QUE: MIS QUERIDOS COMPAÑEROS Y AFICIONADOS A LAS REDES
    SOCIALES Y PAGINAS DE INTERNET (SOBRE TODO ESTA), VAYAN HACIENDO REFLEXIÓN
    SOBRE ESTO QUE LES DIGO: "QUE ES LA VERDADERA REALIDAD SOBRE EL
    FUTURO"; Y ESTÉN PENDIENTES DE MI PRÓXIMO COMENTARIO QUE VA A ESTAR
    RELACIONADO SOBRE PASAJES BÍBLICOS Y EL MUNDO DE LA CIENCIA.

    LIC. EN PEDAGOGÍA JOR EL VAZQUEZ LIMON