A Comic-Con footnote

Outside Comi-Con 2014, San Diego Convention Center.

Comic-Con 2014, San Diego Convention Center

I was standing outside the convention center for Comic-Con 2014 on Saturday — it was hot and noisy, and waiting for the traffic signal to change was even more unpleasant because of the Christian evangelicals positioned at various crosswalks.

As we waited to cross the street, they blasted our ears with their mini-speakers. All of us, they announced, were headed to H-E-double hockey sticks if we didn’t accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. A fiery punishment awaits  all unbelievers.

Unbelievers, at Comic-Con? I thought. Really?

There was plenty of belief on display inside and outside the venue. I didn’t dress up, but tons of people did: I saw witches and scarlet witches; zombies, vampires, and angels with elaborate, feathery wings; gladiators, King Arthurs, and Game of Thrones characters; manga girls and X-boys, and, of course, your traditional superheroes, too.

 

comic con attendees

 

It reminded me of something that Robertson Davies wrote in his essay “The Novelist and Magic” :

The people I pitied, without despising them, were [those] innumerable fellow-citizens who have no focus for their faith, but in whom the roots of faith are still alive, and who seek hungrily and foolishly for something to do with the power they feel, but do not — even in the vaguest and most superstitious sense — understand.

That’s what I saw all around me: a hunger for something. Comic books and superheroes have always tapped into the roots of religious faith. They ask you to believe in things unseen, like time-travel portals and invisible space ships, or mysterious loners with the power to change the world.

If you saw the movie Man of Steel, you may recall that some of the dialogue describing Kal-el’s purpose has a strong biblical ring to it. I can’t tell you the exact lines, but there are several moments when Superman’s purpose on earth is described in explicitly messianic terms … the hero sent from the heavens who can save the world even though he’s rejected and feared.

man of steel movie poster

So, when those preachers said the attendees didn’t believe in anything, they were wrong. The capacity for belief was everywhere, even if it was being invested in looking like Iron Man or the Hulk instead of what they were talking about.

If they’d been a little less scolding, if they’d taken a more interesting route — like, for instance, describing Jesus as “the Bible’s ultimate superhero” — that sort of humor might have won them some listeners.

Instead, we were all just waiting for the traffic signal to change.

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7 responses

  1. Thanks, Jil, you’re probably right — still, I might have turned around and talked to them if they’d approached it like that. Finger-wagging hasn’t worked on me since my first-grade teacher yelled at me for talking in class.

  2. I always learn something from your posts. Extremists (I won’t call them “Christians” because, quite frankly, it sounds like they were hardly Christ-like) at Comic-Con. I mean…Really??? My sentiments exactly. Maybe serving at a soup-kitchen might be more effective if you want to, like, affect others. But I don’t know. The world is a little nuts. I keep remembering a post that kepps making the rounds on Facebook: My need to be informed is in conflict with my need for sanity. But thanks for this. My grown grandkids were there – send a selfie – and they are hardly H-E-hockey stick hockey stick material. Seems like such a waste of energy, that kind of stuff.

  3. What goes around, comes around, and the first person I thought of when I read this was Martin Luther. Now, that might seem strange, but I really do think he got it right in his Large Catechism, where he says, re: the first Commandment:

    …the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.

    Some people trust in money, some in their own strength and abilities, some in fame, and some in their roles within a community. You got it exactly right. I suspect Luther might have had a hard question or two even for the more traditionally religous there. Trusting in our own righteousness didn’t cut it with him, either. 😉

  4. Confidence and faith in belief or making idols — thank you for this quote, shoreacres. Luther. An extraordinary theologian. If I could time travel, he’s someone I’d like to meet even at the risk of getting in a fight with him over the papacy!

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