What if Superman didn’t want to be a hero?

May 4th, 2015

Excerpted with permission from "Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet" by Paul Asay (Abingdon Press)

What if Superman didn’t want to be a hero?

He didn’t have to be, you know. He could’ve been a doctor (and saved ever so much money on X-ray machines) or a welder (that heat vision sure comes in handy) or the best FedEx delivery guy ever. He might’ve been a fantastically fearsome nightclub bouncer or a reality TV star. If he got into sports, he could’ve lived quite comfortably off the bullion from his gold medals.

Parents tell their kids that they can be anything they want to be. That’s a load of dryer lint, of course. Parents lie a lot—especially about what their kids can or cannot realistically do. Except for Jonathan and Martha Kent. When they told their little boy, Clark, that he could do anything (perhaps as Clark bench-pressed the family dairy cow), they meant it.

And practically any career he picked would’ve been far more lucrative than being a superhero (work week: 168 hours, give or take; starting salary: nothing, plus tips). He might’ve had enough cash to buy a nice little split-level in the Metropolis suburbs — or, at the very least, heat the Fortress of Solitude a little better. (And don’t talk to me about Clark’s twice-monthly paycheck from the Daily Planet. I’ve been a reporter. I could’ve made more money donating plasma.)

And yet he chose a life filled with danger, destruction, and frequent contact with deadly kryptonite. He chose to put his (admittedly rugged) life on the line for the good of us all — even though we never even promised him a plate of nachos in the deal. What would possess a guy to use his skills and gifts so thoughtfully, when he could be making gobs of money in Las Vegas?

It’s simple: he’s been called to do so. And I believe that calling, whether it takes the form of eerie ramblings from his dead father or his own Kansas-grown conscience or some sort of quirk of the guy’s Kryptonian DNA, originates from another, greater source.

I believe that almost all superheroes are called to their work. They’d have to be, wouldn’t they? After all, even us normal folks without heat vision are called by God to take part in his great story—whether we are doctors or bouncers or reality television stars or even writers. We’re all part of a plan. Whether we choose to participate or not is up to us. Superheroes are, like we are, asked to follow a higher purpose — to sacrifice something of ourselves for others. If we follow a calling, we’re heroes (even if our superpowers are kinda lame).

Because heroism isn’t about travel-sized grappling hooks hanging on our utility belts. It’s about pursuing a higher purpose — following God’s will for us, no matter how hard that calling might be. Just like the men and women who wear multicolored spandex for a living. And no, I’m not talking about Zumba instructors.

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