I was perusing the local Cokesbury store yesterday. And if you read the last blog then let me reassure you that I did NOT buy any new books. But in wandering up and down the aisles I saw a couple of new titles that just struck a dissonant chord with me. For some strange reason, the "Gospel According to..." are popping up all the time. I had a copy of the "Gospel According to Peanuts" from a few years back (it went into the pile). There are perspectives on the Gospel from Harry Potter, Star Wars (which really confuzzles me), and Science Fiction available.
Well this morning I queued up my son Andrew's favorite series: The Superfriends.
Yep, the 1970's/1980's television depiction of the Justice League: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Robin, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins. Andrew likes the later shows with some of the other DC heroes (his current favorites are Green Lantern and Firestorm). Fortunately Cartoon Network's Boomerang Channel provides plenty of shows for him to watch.
But I was pondering the nature of the stories and something struck me. The entire concept of the Justice League/Superfriends is based on responsible grace. The villains, while portrayed as evil (the meet together in the Hall of Evil and declare themselves as such), do not seem totally depraved. They show moments of conscience. While they proclaim a desire for the "total annihilation" or "destruction" of the Superfriends, they provide plenty of opportunities for the Superfriends to escape. Clearly they are showing the marks of prevenient grace.
The Superfriends constantly face the same hijinks of the villains with the same commitment to the hope that they will change. But they don't just leave them to do the evil that they want to do. The Superfriends are there to remind them, without acting judgmental about it, that there is a right way. I mean, really think about this. Between Superman, who is clearly a god-like being (as he is written in the Superfriends), and Green Lantern, who can do just about anything with his power ring, could just haul the whole lot of the Hall of Evil out into space and throw them into the sun (get it: outer darkness, unquenchable flame). But the Superfriends do not judge the villains nor do they punish them. Instead they are constantly present to remind them of the good that ought to be done.
I jest, of course, but not really. Any "Gospel According to..." approach is always going to fall short in certain aspects. And it will always be up to the person interpreting. But we use these illustrations to make contact points with people. There is no harm, really. Jesus did something similar with parable teaching. He used the cultural references of the people he spoke with to get to the point. So we, too, can speak the word of the Gospel using the words of culture.