Entertained or Devoted?
My husband and I went to see the movie, Man of Steel, on opening weekend. He wanted the ultimate viewing, complete with comfy chairs, so he sprang for the 3D experience. From the beginning my senses were bombarded, the sound was so loud that I could feel it and the overwhelming screen was filled with extraordinary images which, honestly, have become increasingly ordinary in our modern age. As the destructive images piled up in my mind – the cars, buildings and people smashing in the scenes before me – I thought about the destructive prophecies that will be fulfilled in the last days. Is this what it will look like?
My answer was no. This is Hollywood’s version, highlighted for best visual appeal and accompanied by a dynamic soundtrack and a well-honed script to produce the ultimate in entertainment. The final scenes of this telestial world will not be honed for my enjoyment. These false scenes are before us more and more as technologies improve and we beg to be entertained by pouring our dollars into the industry’s pockets. I wonder if this type of entertainment leads me to believe less in ancient prophecies and their injunction that I need God in my life?
As you probably know, Man of Steel is a modern portrayal of Superman. The basic storyline is the same as the 80’s movie, with a few tweaks to appeal to modern viewers (one of which is a more inspiring Lois Lane). As I watched Superman’s larger than life abilities play out on the screen I thought of who I know that in reality has larger than life abilities – Christ, the Savior of Mankind, and God, our Eternal Father. If the most important person to walk on the earth was compared to the fictional superheros which dominate entertainment, would we give Christ more than a passing glance?
Of course we are mature and discerning individuals, we know the difference between reality and entertainment… I think. It is the sheer amount of entertainment that makes me wonder if this is really true. Superheros are in the movies, on TV, video games, comic books, chapter books, websites, music, and more that I probably don’t even know about. How much of our time and focus is placed on these fictional characters that do nothing for us, but maybe even harm our view of reality if taken in such large doses? I ask this of myself as my children have settled into a more leisurely schedule this summer. Their days include chores, reading, and playing outside but it also includes movies, video games, and computer time. If entertainment becomes a bigger part of their lives than their devotional time, which characters become more real?
It is difficult to worship and remember a being whose physical form is beyond our gaze. There is a part of me who wants to see God before me in ways which would turn faith into knowledge. I don’t want to wonder if that promotion at work was a blessing or a coincidence. I want to see God’s hand touch my fevered child when she miraculously recovers from her illness. When God tells me that faith can move mountains, I want to see the mountain move, and God’s hand, on YouTube.
As a country, are we so desperately hungry for God in our lives that we build golden calves? Superman, Spiderman and Ironman seem to fit the mold as our modern day golden calves. It could even be said that the amount of money spent to create them rivals the worth of the golden calf of Moses’ day – it may be more fitting to say that our calves are platinum.
At one point in Man of Steel, Superman is faced with a great dilemma and seeks counsel in a church. As he briefly talks to the pastor, Superman’s silhouette is outlined by a stained glass window. It was then that the subtlety of the analogy between Christ and Superman fell away. Superman was being raised above me as a modern day interpretation of Christ, by an industry that continually thumbs their noses at his teachings. This and other representations stirred in my mind, as I tried to sort out drastic conclusions (like the entertainment industry being run by evil men) from well-meaning creative endeavors (people with good intentions who write harmless stories). I couldn’t come to a conclusion that anything was all bad, but I also couldn’t see the industry producing a multitude of good fruits either.
In our hearts, I believe we really do want God in our lives, we want to be saved and redeemed. The problem is that we want it to come with popcorn and soda and be done in 3 hours. We want to recline in stadium seating with 3D glasses as redemption comes to us. I shouldn’t speak for all, I see these tendencies in myself. It would be fabulous if during my time of greatest distress someone showed up to fix everything in a super-human way that I never could.
In idolizing these characters I feel like I give something away, a piece of reality is traded for these fantasies. Is it worth my faith to idolize the Avengers? The more I dream of things that will never be, the more I lose my grip on reality and things that matter most. It could be that I’m being overly dramatic, these are only movies. But that question comes to my mind again – has entertainment become a bigger part of my life than my devotion?
At the basic level the difference seems to be that superheros would fix things for me, whereas God wants me to learn and grow by fixing things myself, with his help. It is not a magnificent result that matters so much as our development. The perfect primary lesson, the perfect powerpoint presentation, the perfect FHE (which can only be accomplished with superhuman effort) is not the goal, it never has been for our Heavenly Father. God cannot save me without my action and continued faith when the world grows dark, even if my wispy little candle only slightly pierces the darkness.
In this month’s Ensign there is a excerpt from a 1976 article written by President Kimball. The original article was entitled, “The False Gods We Worship.” In closing he says:
When a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving ‘the world’ behind. Herein lies the only true happiness.
It is not Superman that will save us, it is Christ when he asks us to give up the platinum calf and follow him. Follow him out of the movie theater to visiting and home teaching appointments, to the temple, to family scripture study, to service in the community. That is where I will see his hand and it will not be gold or platinum, but will look very much like my own.