Last night my wife, brother-in-law, and I went to see X-Men: The Last Stand at the friendly movie theater. As a childhood fan of the Marvel Unviverse, the X-men films have been quite interesting to me. For one, I memorized all the powers and stories of the mutants when I was a kid, so it all comes back very quickly (by the way, Rogue is completely different in the movies than in the comics). This third installment just opened with the fourth largest box office weekend of all time and after seeing it word of mouth looks to be good. I have found the X-men story to be interesting for several reasons, and I think it is a continual hit for some of these reasons. In a unique story, the X-men take us towards some transcendent realities that we all long for. Some of these mega-themes I find to connect to the gospel of grace quite readily. I know some of you may be saying that the X-men are burdened by a naturalistic worldview and an overemphasis on "evolution" and its magic mutations. But I think much more is going on here. In the saga of the men called X - I find the following themes openly explored
A Longing for Justic and Equality - How is there to be equality on the earth amidst unequals? Societies have struggled with this since the dawn of time. Plato and the eastern philosophies recommend a striated caste system with those suited for ruling, those more highly gifted, are given the keys to a culture. Unfortunately such systems end of unjustly distributing privilege and power to the neglect of the week and the untouchable. Others have sought to endow humans with certain intrinsic value due to what they are. People have different gifts, but the same transcendent value due to their nature. Western culture has grounded this in the image of God - that uniquely, human beings are different from all other things and share the same image - this alone gives humans value rather than their functioning capacities. In X3 there is an interesting question asked "How can there be democracy when one man can move a city with his mind?" - Good question. We know that we must have equality under law, but where is such equality grounded in an naturalistic, evolutionary framework where beings are clearly not equal. Only the view of man in the imago dei, carefully grounds the invalid and the elite with the same enduring value.
A Desire to Transcend our Limitations - Everywhere on the earth man aspires to be more than he is. Either through the finely honed development of his body through physical training or the fine tuning of the human mind, people long to escape the limited condition they find themselves in. We desire to escape death, disease, weakness, and aging. We desire to find hope that somehow, someday, all we be better. Different religions offer man a way to transcend his body into an infinite reality. The Hindu does so by looking inward to a oneness with being in meditation, the Scientologist does so by lying to himself to make himself superior due to the unlocking of the potential of his mind. What hope does the X-men narrative offer us? Perhaps, someday there will be a quantum leap of evolution that will take some of us to the point of being super-humans. We love to think that somehow we will become better - maybe be able to control the elements with our minds, heal our own bodies, or at least pick up and throw really heavy things. Our desire to be "more" points to an important truth, but reminds us of our deepest enemy. Some day, in God's timing, we will be made more, glorified in fact, in some way we will be partakers in the divine nature to rule and reign with a great King named Jesus. Our sicknesses, our weaknesses, and our own deaths will some day come to defeat. Yet here is the reality, we desire to create this world with our own hands, not waiting for the hand of God. And here is what we find. When man attempts to re-create himself to be as a god, he always destroys himself and his neighbor. All the utopian schemes of our history show that whether by science or political force, the one who tries bring his utopian vision on the masses always brings oppression with his hands. We are not worthy to be our own masters, but this lesson we are slow to learn. A self-governing system, where we are suspicious of power residing in one and only one place (checks and balances), where people are governed by truth and morality, yes by God, seems to be the best system we have seen. All others which are led by self proclaimed super-men always break the backs of the conquered while buckling under the pride and deception of its own regime. We some day will be changed, with powers exceeding the X-men, but it will be at the revelation of the Sons of God, not at the hell unleashed by the minds of men.
A Clearly Defined Moral Universe - In the X-men we see good and evil as the categories which separate. These categories transcend mutant and human with good and evil on all sides of the DNA arrangement. This goodness seems to transcend the stage upon which the X-men drama takes place. Ethics are not found in DNA, they are found in the souls of human beings - the one's who watch these movies know that Magneto and his warring, power lustful, ways are not "good" and the self-sacrificing, peace seeking X-men are not "the evil guys." How do we know these things? Such is a great clue to the reality of our world. There is a transcendent fountain of truth and goodness. From his very character flow to us the categories of right and wrong - without ethics grounded in the very nature of God, we could not watch the X-men and know anything of the story. For without this reality - we would not know right from wrong and could not sense the drama unfolding before us. Though there is a scene in X3 where Xavier is teaching young minds "ethics" in a way that leans toward denying the transcendent reality, this quickly passes and the world of the movies is very much the real world. One in which there is a real evil afoot, one which must be thwarted by those who love what is good. We are drawn to the X-men's stories for no other reason - we see ourselves on both sides of the battles. We are the ones who are greedy, power hungry, humans who will oppress the weak and kill our neighbor. Yet we desire to be more like the good we see, yet we know not how to change ourselves or our world. Who will deliver us from such a condition. Superman? Maybe, maybe a Super-man, one whose sandals we are unfit to tie. One who died to forgive us for our sins and our demons and give us new hearts to be more like him. The one in whom all goodness dwelt fully in bodily form.
Enjoy the X-men and take its evolutionary nonsense with an intelligent mind. You know that a gene mutation does not make a man able to pick up a skyscraper. But we also should know that the desires of the X-men are not fulfilled in a naturalistic, evolutionary worldview. Only in the real world that God has made and rules will we be delivered. For it is in the hands of God that we find transcendence, moral reality, and in the end of all things, there will be perfect justice and peace.
Trust Jesus - rather than the professor or Wolverine. But enjoy the movie and worship the living God and desire not your children to be mutants. This is never a good thing.