Superhero Films - Unlikely Sources of Truth

David Locklair (Portage, Indiana USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Pastor Locklair serves Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELS) in Portage, Indiana. He and his wife Kallie have three children, Jahleel (7), Camden (5), and Peyton (1), and one dog, Jackie the Beagle. Pastor Locklair loves dogmatics, professional sports, and superheroes. In connection with superheroes, he particularly enjoys finding spiritual truths reflected in the stories and using those truths as a tool for presenting the Gospel. He writes movie reviews for the Christ in Media Institute blog, which gives him the opportunity to explore these things.

You are no doubt aware that our society today pushes back hard against the idea of "absolute truth." We are bombarded with messages about "speaking your truth" and "being true to your truth." Truth is said to be subjective. You discover, define, and declare your truth, and no one should oppose you because it's your truth. This widespread attitude has caused great difficulties for the Christian Church. People dismiss the Gospel as being our truth which is not suitable for them. People shut down outreach efforts with a simple "that's not for me." People are often completely dismissive of the idea that there is absolute truth which applies to all people of all time, and so they will not even listen to a discussion of truth according to Scripture.

And yet, for all this insistence upon truth being relative, people (even society in general) do reflect ideas of absolute truth. This inconsistency is a reminder to us of conscience; though it has been corrupted by the fall into sin, and though people can and do suppress it, the conscience remains.

This gives us a ready opportunity to make use of apologetics. A goal of apologetics ("making a defense of the Faith") is to tear down faulty ideas in order then to proclaim the Gospel. This is in line with II Corinthians 10:5 where St. Paul wrote, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." You may be familiar with apologetics, but you may not have considered it from the perspective of modern media. I hope to show you how something as simple as talking about movies you enjoy can be a tool to proclaim the Gospel.

I enjoy writing movie reviews for the Christ in Media Institute. So far, all of these reviews have been of superhero films. There are two reasons for this. The first is simply because it's a genre I love. The second is because superhero films often reflect ideas of truth and give me a direct way to work in spiritual themes. Though the writers, producers, and directors may often be people who would say "truth is relative," yet the truth often is reflected in their films.

Think about some of the typical constants in a superhero movie: "good guys" and "bad guys," protecting the innocent, developing into a "hero," and saving others. The very nature of these things often leads into quite a few other spiritual themes as well. They certainly reflect ideas about truth. What makes someone a "hero"? Why do we root for people to be saved? What does this say about the nature and value of life?

Superhero movies require "good guys" and "bad guys." Even when there is an effort to make the protagonist more of an "antihero," he is clearly distinguished from the villain. Consider the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thanos is clearly a villain. Captain America is clearly a hero. Even the characters that have much more complex character arcs, like Winter Soldier and Loki, are clearly identified as "good guy" or "bad guy" by the time a particular arc reaches completion. In films/cinematic universes that try harder to have conflicted antiheroes, the antihero is still a "hero" in so far as he does the right thing.

How is it that we can all agree on such labels? Clearly there is an objective standard. Thanos is the bad guy because he seeks genocide and genocide is wrong. Captain America is the hero because he saves people from harm and puts his life on the line and those are good things. Where did this standard come from? It came from the conscience. It's the remnant of the natural law written on our hearts. Yes, the fall into sin corrupted our conscience so that it is no longer perfect but it remains in part and so we see such universal standards. The reason that references to objective truth come out in these films is because the filmmakers have this conscience.

The very idea of superheroes is built around the idea that people need saving. People need saving because there are bad things in the world (an objective truth). Superheroes are often said to be "saviors." Whether it's Shazam saving his family in Shazam, Batman saving the city of Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, or Iron Man saving the entire universe in Avengers: Endgame , superheroes save people.

This very naturally leads into a discussion of sin and why it's in our world, and Who saves us from the consequences of sin. So, just by talking about some of the most popular movies today, we have opportunity to talk about Law and Gospel. The modern day action film is often "high stakes," and this is certainly true of most newer superhero films. Mortal danger is a common element. The filmmaker who uses such high stakes must then also deal with questions about the value of life, the nature of death, and even things of the afterlife.

Hollywood is one of the biggest supporters of the abortion industry, and yet Hollywood's superhero films often better reflect those who are pro-life. Avengers: Infinity War is a prominent example. Though its filmmakers are not likely to oppose abortion, this movie contains numerous references to the value of all life – here again we see the inconsistency. The objective truth that all life has value is written on their hearts and so they produce art which reflects that truth.

These are just a few examples, and yet we see here a great apologetics tool for the Christian. Why does "truth" come out in films even when the film makers may very well say they deny objective truth? Simply because there is objective truth. You don't have to write formal movie reviews to make use of superhero media in your Christian vocation. Do you go to these movies with your friends? Do you post about these movies on social media? Do you talk about these movies with your family? Do you meet people who have this same interest? Then you have opportunities to connect those conversations to the Gospel.

Particular film genres can give you unique opportunities to speak to unbelievers. Again, let's consider the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People of all different beliefs enjoy these films – just look at the box office numbers! If you enjoy the MCU, you instantly have a connection to talk to other fans of the MCU. The same is true of other films.

I like to use superhero movies for this because I love the genre and it tends to portray many reflections of truth. However, you can do the same thing with other film genres, and even other types of media/story telling too. If you're not sure how to do that with your particular favorite genre, try this: when you watch a movie, think about how the filmmakers are trying to influence you. What does this film say about truth – is there a standard for it or is it totally subjective? Who are the "good guys" of the film and are they truly on the side of good? What makes the hero a hero? For whom does the film want you to root and why? What does the film say about life, death, and eternity? After asking such questions, find the reflection of objective truth in the story and use that as your starting point for discussion.


Follow Pastor Locklair's movie reviews in the Christ in Media Institute blog.


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Discussion

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Karen 2019-10-21 9:38:16pm
I find this very interesting and have noticed the same thing in the types of television programs I enjoy. I like dramas that involve solving mysteries. I have come to realize that even though the individual actors, producers, etc, very likely do not share my Christian worldview, there is nevertheless a strong distinction between "right" and "wrong" in just about every episode. Life is treated as something important, relationships matter, adult children want to care for aging parents, children are valued, and so on. Certainly not the message that society wishes to portray in our time! This opens the door to interesting discussions and hopefully, to a chance to give a witness to the Author of Truth.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-22 12:11:26am
It certainly is seen across multiple genres and media types!
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Gary 2019-10-22 1:35:07am
Good points. My wife and I notice this in the TV show NCIS. Although none of the characters are Christian, the theme of "right and wrong" runs strong in the show. The characters have a conscious (for the most part). Using popular culture to connect with those we know seems like a wonderful witnessing tool.
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Will 2019-10-22 4:02:15pm
I can think of five or movies and tv shows that have come out this year. That show "right from wrong"
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Melisa Tarja (Bethany lutheran college ) 2019-10-22 4:11:08pm
This is a very interesting thing that i had never thought of before. But it makes a lot of sense if you think about it because the audience that these movies have been targeting is kids and teenagers. Learning righ from wrong through movies is not something new in not just in hero movies but in most movies out there we have the good and the bad. There is a lot of ways you can connect this to Christian worldviews.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-26 1:31:29pm
Thanks for reading!
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Daniel 2019-10-22 1:17:15am
This is interesting and helpful because it is widely applicable. Both Marvel and DC have had tremendous box office hits this year (2019), so it is probable that we all know someone who has enjoyed one or more of these movies.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-23 1:09:27pm
The numbers are quite astounding. The AVERAGE gross of an MCU movie is over 980 million dollars (that's the average of 23 films!).
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Nancy Roebke (Lutheran Mission Volunteer and Missionary Wife) 2019-10-22 2:47:12pm
And then you can use this:https://www.google.com/search?q=meme+jesus+that+is+how+I+saved+the.world.&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=ny-us&client=safari#imgrc=wonI_-NT4qYKgM:
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-22 9:45:18pm
It is interesting that in some cases, the writers of these films have clearly directly taken Christ themes and used them for their heroes. DC's "Man of Steel" (2013) does this in some very interesting visual ways.
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Tiger Thomas (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 3:58:24pm
This is a very interesting article. In my opinion, the Natural Law that is inscribed on is always leads us back to God in some degree. Your example of these film directors clearly identifying a good and bad guy off the basis of their conscience is a brilliant example of this.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-23 1:06:30pm
Thanks for the feedback!
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Will 2019-10-22 3:58:44pm
Great ideas. Many shows and movies in todays world are showing "right from wrong"
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-23 1:04:38pm
Yes, you really do see this across different genres!
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Christopher (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 3:59:33pm
This is definitely an important discussion in today's society. Whether it be in theaters or on YouTube, people love watching movies and videos that support their idea of truth.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-22 9:43:12pm
Good point. In some cases, the general audience is demanding that film writers' include certain ideas. In some cases, people are calling for films to include "truths" as a way to push an agenda. This can be harmful when that "truth" is not in fact truth but rather contrary to Scripture. This is something that we as the consumers need to watch out for - having our opinions swayed by how an issue is presented on film.
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Ruth (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 6:21:10pm
It is so common to see people wanting to support their truth. Maybe this is because they do not know what truth is, so they search for evidence of what might be the truth?
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Samuel (Student at Bethany Lutheran College ) 2019-10-22 4:00:21pm
And speaking of antiheroes, numerous villains today are almost all not trues "all bad". Like the new joker movie and even Thanos the "evil villain" has a very relatable backstory. This makes you feel bad for him, even though he is ultimately the "bad guy". But in joker is he the hero or villain?
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Emmanuel Luangkhamdeng (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:10:38pm
Hollywood has been making a lot of movies where they focus on the antiheroes such as the characters you gave for example. I do agree with you that a lot of antiheroes do have tragic backstories that make you feel remorse for them. This allows you to relate to them and understand them more. This may make us question ourselves about who is really good and really bad, even though the villains are already preconceived as "bad."
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-22 9:40:20pm
Absolutely! This all seems to be very much intentional on the part of the writers as an effort to explore "right" and "wrong" (even if they don't always figure it out correctly).
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Jae Carlson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:04:24pm
When clicking on this article, I did not even notice this about movies or shows. I would assume that most people don't watch a Marvel movie to connect it to Law and Gospel but this actually makes a lot of sense. Everyone wants the "good" guy/s to win and they want the "bad" guy/s to lose. Each and every super hero movie, not matter the how complicated the backstories are for characters, they all have the same running theme of Good VS Evil, Light VS Dark. There is a clear connection to apologetics and the gospel.
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Benjamin Johnson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:14:24pm
I agree that there is an obvious connection, this is a theme that seems to be written in our minds.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-26 1:31:09pm
Thank you both for the feedback!
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Doris 2019-10-22 4:09:09pm
Interesting opinion. Never thought about the theme of films can also lead us toward God in a certain degree.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-26 7:20:06pm
Thanks for reading!
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Benjamin Johnson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:09:45pm
I agree!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 8:35:50pm
Thanks for reading!
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Josh 2019-10-22 8:00:19pm
This article makes some great points - in most superhero films, we can clearly see the truth that Paul expressed in Romans 1:20 and 2:15. It's very interesting how one of the most anti-objective truth establishments that exists (Hollywood) is indirectly reinforcing the ideas of absolute truth and right vs. wrong. Just as Paul used a starting point that the Athenians could relate to (the alter to an unknown God), this article clearly shows that superhero movies present a similar sort of opportunity for us to initiate conversations today.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-02 11:35:32pm
Thank you for the feedback!
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Halle Blais (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 9:43:23pm
I really liked this! My mom and I have discussed this very topic on many occasions. We also discuss the fact that even if the movie itself is ignoring Gods presence there is still traces of Gods word in the movie. Without God we wouldn't have any sort of morals or any sense of right or wrong yet every movie especially MCU movies are very heavily moral based just like the point you made about abortion and the emphasis on the importance of life in Infinity War.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-23 1:03:10am
And that is how a great starting point for discussion - "why do we have this sense of morals and right and wrong?" As Christians, we know the answer!
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Nick (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-23 5:49:00pm
I found this presentation very interesting and have thought about the ideas mentioned in the article before. Even though writers and directors have no intention of bringing a Christian ideal into their movies or television shows, it seems that natural truths still tend to show themselves in the works, proving there are natural truths that cannot be denied. Was there a specific movie that gave you the motivation to write this presentation?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-24 1:23:13pm
That's a great question, Nick! In general, Batman Begins was the first superhero film that got me thinking in these areas. In specifics, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were the two biggest inspirations for this article. I don't have a Batman Begins review for Christ in Media, but I do have reviews for Infinity War and Endgame on the blog.
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Nick (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 6:10:07pm
Thank you for your reply! Those movies seemed like great examples because it always feels like they had underlying themes that we could speculate about. I always found these movies very interesting and it's great to see someone else revealing their thoughts about these movies.
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Conor Kopp (Martin Luther College ) 2019-10-23 5:55:18pm
Pastor Locklair,


The topic of absolute truth is a very timely one. It was insightful to mention the fact that although these films think of themselves as ‘progressive’ they still hold to traditional, Biblical truths about good and evil. Bringing up abortion was also good, because it exposes the hypocricy of many of these liberal filmakers.

I would be interested to see what other popular modern films you see Biblical truth in, despite their ‘progressive’ attitudes toward sexuality and morality in general. I find looking for these themes in secular entertainment fascinating.



Thank you for your contribution.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-24 5:11:17pm
Thanks for the question, Conor!

I'm a little bit "narrow" in the films I watch, but I think you certainly see such things in other genres. A lot of Science Fiction films deal with matters of human life and what makes us "human." That opens in the door in a different way to discuss Biblical things. A lot of the fantasy films have the same ideas of "good guys" vs. "bad guys." Even consider all these Disney Cartoons being remade into live action films - nearly every single one of them is about "good vs. evil."

Have you noticed particular films or genres that we can use in this way?
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Conor Kopp (Martin Luther College ) 2019-11-04 6:15:54pm
I would agree about Science Fiction. Star Trek in particular comes to mind when I think 'progressive'. Especially in the recent series, "Star Trek Discovery" homosexuality and 'acceptance' of all cultures are pushed the hardest. Most of my experience with the franchise comes from "The Next Generation". One episode I found interesting was an episode where Lieutenant Warf was going to commit suicide because that was part of his religion and culture. Captain Picard respected his views and didn't try to stop him. Lieutenant Riker, on the other hand said that what he was doing was morally wrong, despite what his culture said, and stopped him from doing it. Interestingly, God's law imprinted on their hearts that taking your own life is wrong trumped 'progressive' attitudes. Strangely, the writers seemed to be promoting absolute truth rather than the subjective 'tolerant' view they usually do. I think these inconsistencies and exceptions in the corrupt morals of today are quite intriguing. It shows that this world may claim to forsake God and his law completely, but they still adhere to it more than they would like to admit.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-06 1:36:12pm
That's a great example, Conor. In that episode, it really seems like the writers are in conflict. They want to allow for truth to be subjective from culture to culture and yet they also see (and express through Riker) that we have this strong notion that murder is wrong. I am not sure what their overall intent was, but in the end it seems that some viewers are going to be left with the impression that Worf's ideas are objectively wrong and Riker's objectively right...
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Lexi (Martin Luther College ) 2019-11-04 6:23:26pm
Conor,

You are certainly correct in saying that the concept of absolute truth is controversial! I agree Pastor Locklair's comment about the remakes of Disney films. No matter how much society pushes the idea that everyone creates their own truth, filmmakers continue to make millions on the concept of absolute good and absolute evil. It seems as if there is a double standard. Do you believe that this will worsen as time goes on? Or will these more "progressive" ideas fade within the next decade or so?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-06 1:38:43pm
Hi Lexi,
Throughout history we do tend to see these things go in cycles. Will we see a resurgence of recognition of (and adherence to) natural law in our time and place? Maybe. We certainly have a strong push against such things - will that end of leading to a counter movement push back in the right direction or will it lead to further progression away from the truth? Only time will tell, but God is still in control either way and He will not abandon His Church.
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Anna Rue (MLC ) 2019-10-23 6:25:39pm

Pastor Lockliar

I’m a former Lakeside Lutheran student and I had a teacher who was obsessed with superheroes. He brought to life these ideas and I haven’t looked at a superhero movie the same since. The deeper meanings behind the good vs. evil and other hidden easter eggs in the film’s stories, really bring in Christians views on the storylines.

Do you think it’s possible to bring something that so many people view as worldly into classroom and church service settings?

Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-24 5:08:02pm
Excellent question, Anna. I do think it's possible to do that well. I think there are two primary ways these things can be used in the classroom and church.

1. Teaching people apologetics. I believe that these stories serve well in those "natural law" questions. Why do people have this sense of right wrong? Why do we have this idea of how a hero should act or a how a villain should act? The classroom would be an excellent place to teach students how to use these things to talk to family and friends about matters of truth. The same thing can be said for the church (Bible Class or sermon).

2. As illustrations. I believe these things can be used the same way we use any other illustrations in our classrooms, Bible classes, and pulpits.
It should certainly be kept in mind that the purpose of the Service is to proclaim Christ. Any illustration of any kind should serve that purpose. My pulpit shouldn't be a place for me to retell my favorite superhero story, but if an element of that story can illustrate a Biblical truth, I would (and have) certainly use it.

What do you think?
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Anna Rue 2019-11-04 6:13:38pm
In my senior year of high school, I had an apologetics class but a lot of the time I really struggled with good applications from the bible into real-life situations and I think that happens a lot in religion classes. We're taught facts about the bible but that's it, we aren't taught how to use this information and compare it and share it with other people who might not know much about the bible. It's difficult to tell people about why we believe what we believe when we aren't taught ways to bring in everyday situations and tie them back to the bible. What would you suggest is the best way to start bringing that into a classroom to teach the younger generation how to relate to people when evangelizing?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 10:20:22pm
Thanks for the question!

The best way is simply to teach people a simple Law/Gospel presentation, something like "The Great Exchange." There is no magic formula for getting people to listen to us, so while it is helpful to look for connections like we are talking about here, the main thing is simply to declare God's Word. How do we do that? The same way we talk about anything that is important to us. It could be as simple as saying to a friend, "This topic is very important and so I want to talk to you about it because I care about you." Other ways are to do what we are talking about here - is there an "in" with something you both like that would bridge well to talking about God's Word? So, in the case of these films, "Isn't it interesting how all these movies have a concept of right and wrong? The Bible actually talks about why that is..."
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Jack Vogel (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-23 6:51:52pm
Pastor Locklair,

I greatly appreciate your article about superheroes. It is a genre that many teens love, and using your ideas would reach to many teenagers. Teens are harder and harder to reach these days with social media, and the church needs young people to continue spreading the gospel. I feel like the best way to reach out to people is finding something they love.

While many people love superhero movies, some people would criticize using superheroes to portray what God did for us. Every superhero has a weakness, but Jesus had no weakness, he was perfect. Even though a savior and a superhero are very similar, some people would take offense to Jesus being placed among the Marvel heroes. How would you respond to people who claim Jesus should not be compared to a superhero?

Thank you for sharing your article.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-24 5:25:59pm
Thanks for bringing this up, Jack!

Here's where I would start. I would say that rather than comparing Jesus to a superhero, I am comparing superheros to Jesus.

Here's what I mean: I use superheroes in the same way I would use any other illustration: to point to Jesus. I would not use Jesus as a way to talk about superheros.
When you use an illustration, you're really just dealing with one point of comparison. No illustration ever lives up to what it is illustrating. So, for example, when we talk about "saviors" in superhero stories and use that to talk about the Savior, the point of comparison is why people need saving, or why it's good for people to be saved. As an argument from the lesser (the hero) to the greater (Jesus), you then move from talking about "saving" in a limited sense to "saving" in the ultimate sense.

There is no comparing Jesus to a superhero: He is far, far greater. However, we may be able to compare a superhero to what Jesus does as a way to talk about Jesus.

What do you think?
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Jack Vogel (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:08:57pm
Thanks for your response. Thanks for the clarification and explaining illustrating superheroes and Jesus.
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Alexis Gantner / Nathan Sargent (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 12:35:10am
Pastor Locklair,

Your discussion of absolute truth in connection with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an excellent way for people of all backgrounds to connect. Over time, I've struggled with connecting spiritually with others when they don't believe what I do. It's either the notion that I don't know how to connect with someone or the notion of not wanting to say the wrong thing in fear that I won't completely convince them of this truth. Within different circumstances, it would be very useful in connecting with people who share in this interest of Marvel. I'm a big MCU fan and using this genre of movies to share God's gospel becomes a lot less difficult. It's very interesting how we as Christians can use these types of entities that express something entirely different, to create a conversation. I'm hoping that when using this example in conversation with my non-Christian friends, they'll pay closer attention to this truth and how God uses everything as a tool to help bring his people to faith.

Thanks for sharing this article!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:45:05pm
Thank you for reading it!
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Nicholas (BLTS) 2019-10-24 2:15:02pm
This is an interesting way to build into conversations of truth; connecting to the social zeitgeist does seem like a good way to talk with a wide variety of people. You would need to be careful--many people shut down conversations that they deem are "too religious"--but this is definitely one way to work into that sphere.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-26 7:20:59pm
Thanks for reading!
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Brooke R and Alissa D (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 3:39:08pm
The good and evil is the constant theme in everything I believe. I personally believe this stems from the golden rule, treating others the way they would like to be treated. In Iron Man, Tony Stark did not start out as a good guy, but he was never a cognitive bad guy. Once Tony became the "helpless" he had the man in the cave save him which made him the Iron Man. Since he was helped when he needed it, he felt as if he needs to make a difference and help the "helpless." I would love to wonder your thoughts on the new Joker film, someone who being oppressed to the extent to where he felt he must become the anti-hero. Without the spoilers, personally I think there is no true "good" in this film, and do you think this can be the case or is there always the omipresence good and sometimes it's just not as clear?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-24 5:18:48pm
I'm so glad you brought up this question!

Let me give a little disclaimer first: I have not seen Joker. As a huge Batman fan, I'm disillusioned by a film that is so far removed from the traditional Batman mythos. That being said, I have read a lot about it and know the story and the spoilers.
From all that I have read, I think you are correct. I'm not sure there are any clear "good" themes in this film. I suppose in a sense it makes us question how we treat others (especially those on the fringe of society), but I'm not sure that's exactly the same as having a clearly natural law / right vs. wrong theme(s).
I don't think every film shows "good," no. Sometimes a film just has no "redeemable qualities" and doesn't teach anything good at all. I wouldn't categorically say that about Joker, as I haven't seen it, but from what I do know, I would agree with your analysis.
What have you heard from friends or others who have seen Joker? Are people finding "good" in it?
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Noah Bruckschen (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:24:08pm

Hello Pastor Locklair,

I really enjoyed your article and how you see the connection between the conscience and the values still portrayed in movies. It is enlightening to see this happening even in today’s world.


Would you consider it worthwhile to discuss perhaps a hero’s conflict within the story? I thought immediately of in Civil War when Cap had to essentially choose between Bucky and Tony. How would you use that to transition into an evangelism opportunity?

Thanks for your time
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 5:57:57pm
Hi Noah,

Thanks for the feedback! I would consider it worthwhile, yes. A hero's conflict can show how sin pulls at us even when we know what's right. Depending on the example, it might demonstrate how the natural law reminds us of what is wrong, or it might show us the conflict within the Christian that St. Paul talks about in Romans. For evangelism purposes, it would be the former that would be helpful.

I'm not exactly sure how the example of Steve and Bucky or Tony would tie in.... something to think about...
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Noah Bruckschen (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:16:15pm
thank you for your thoughts,
I was simply trying to show an example of when a character had a difficult decision to make and that one was the first that came to mind.

Noah
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Richard Leasure (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:40:45pm
Dear Mr. Locklair,

I am also a nerd. I loved superheroes as a child and just never grew out of them as most children do. Your article was simply amazing in every way, but I do have a question about it. You equate the idea of superheroes with the need for a savior. What then would you say the villains represent? Would you lean towards our own sins individually, or could they be broader and reflect the sins of an entire nation? Maybe a little bit of both?

Thanks.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 5:55:21pm
Hi Richard,
I would say a little of both, yes. Sometimes it's clear that a villain is acting on his own, and sometimes it's clear that he's part of a broader "movement." Consider, the villain in Shazam - Dr. Sivana. He acts on his own and in connection with his own temptations. On the other hand, someone like Ra's al Ghul in the Dark Knight trilogy is acting in accord with a broader group and mindset.
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Brooke Wasser ((MLC)) 2019-10-24 5:44:41pm
Pastor Locklair,

I appreciated how you tied the absolute truth to superhero films. Doing so was a brilliant way to parallel what we as Christians do to make use of apologetics. Pointing out that action movies in some ways reflect the truths that we as Christians believe is an awesome way to evangelize.


After reading your article, I had one question to ask you. I agree that you can evangelize to people by connecting movies to the absolute truths that we believe, but when does it become too far of a stretch? I think that you can start your evangelism with connecting movies to the objective truth, but you can only talk about movies so much before you should and need to start bringing in God’s actual Word into the conversation.

Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:20:40pm
Great question, Brooke!

I would say that it becomes too far of a stretch when the person you are talking with is confused by the comparison. If that's happening, it's not helpful and it's time to try a different one. As you note, the primary thing is God's Word; the Word alone will convert someone to faith. This type of discussion is just a "jumping point" to then talk about God's Word. If we find ourselves not actually using the Word, then we can't call it evangelism.
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Brooke Wasser ((MLC)) 2019-11-07 6:14:43pm
Rev. Locklair,
Thank you for considering my ideas. I agree that without God's Word it is not considered evangelism. However, as you stated, this type of discussion is a good jumping point, especially if the person is a big moviegoer.
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Joshua Mark Snyder (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:45:39pm
Pastor Locklair,

I liked your article and the connections that you drew between the ministry and superhero films. I especially appreciated the applicable portion on Law and Gospel opportunities from the films carrying over into real life. The “high stakes” phraseology is one of the sayings that stuck in my mind after reading, it really helps put the emphasis on what our mission is and why it matters so much when we are on the Earth.

After finishing the article, I had one main question. How much have you been able to use this connection with people in your ministry? You talk about the connections one may be able to form with others and how we can help them understand, do you feel that using secular media is helpful to catering to unbelievers or those who have lost their way? Does the connection hold itself mostly to helping the believer understand?

Thank you very much for your time and contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:11:39pm
Thanks for the question, Joshua,
I have used these illustrations in Bible classes, Confirmation classes, the Lutheran day school, and in sermons in addition to personal conversations. They generally tend to be most helpful for younger people who have an interest in these films (though sometimes others find them helpful too!). In using them for unbelievers, it would only make sense if said unbeliever had an interest in superheroes because you're trying to build a bridge from a common interest to the Gospel.
As far as which group it tends to be more helpful to... I would say it's both. The illustrations tend to work well for both groups in my experience.
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Joshua Snyder (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:22:56pm
Pastor,
Thank you for responding to my questions. I enjoyed learning about how Christians can look outside the Bible to make these connections. I have a hard time reaching out to unbelievers but this has provided one way that I might be able to reach someone without shoving the Bible down their throat from the get-go. The bridge between myself and others is something that I want to become better at creating, this has given me one more tool to do that.
Thank you again.
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Micah Otto (MLC) 2019-10-24 5:47:59pm

Pastor Locklair,

Thank you for showing a new way of looking at movies. It is fascinating to see the different ways to sniff out truths in movies that may not have been specifically placed there.

A question I had when reading this is do you think that the presence of these truths reflects the natural knowledge of God? The fact that people have a certain importance for life was one that stuck out to me. This example seems as though the natural knowledge of God lurks in the background through this movie.

Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:47:30pm
Hi Micah,
I do, yes! Where does this value of life come from? Where does this sense of right and wrong come from? Scripture says that this is the natural law written on our conscience (Romans 2).
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Nicole Rohrick (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 7:01:20pm
Pastor Locklair,

I really enjoyed reading about the connections you made between superhero films and Christian faith. The role of a superhero as a savior is a wonderful segway into the topic of Christianity. I appreciated that you mentioned films in general as unexpected sources of truth meaning we can gain knowledge and opportunities to spread the Word in most things we watch. And as you mentioned, it may not have been the filmmakers’ intention, but if we can see the connections then it’s beneficial to us.

While reading this, I continued to think of ways to implement this truth in my ministry (or the ministry of others). I wondered how this could fit into the classroom or is it appropriate to use movies like this in a classroom to generate discussion? And do you think there’s an opportunity to form a sort of Bible study around this idea? Could such a Bible study exist: viewing films and discussing the link to the Gospel, their impact on Christian lives, and what the Bible says on topics presented in the movies?

Thank you so much for contributing to this conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:55:57pm
Great questions, Nicole!

I primarily use these things as illustrations and have used them as such in: Bible class, confirmation class, Lutheran day school, and eve sermons.
I think in settings where some people may and some people may not be interested in this subject matter, it is best used to illustrate.
In a setting where the entire group may be interested, it certainly could work to create a whole study around it. Perhaps for a young adult Bible class, or a class targeted at a more narrow group. If a teacher had a group of students with a shared interest in, that could certainly work as well. I wouldn't replace a general Sunday morning Bible class with a study based around these films, because not everyone in the church would have an interest in superheros. But, I would (and have) use it for a study with a specific group of people who do have such an interest. So, I would use it for a specialized study, but not a general study for the church.
What do you think?
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Nicole Rohrick (MLC) 2019-11-07 6:24:11pm
Thank you so much for responding. I completely agree that this may not be everyone's cup of tea and in that case should only be used with a specific group of people. I was thinking along those lines by creating a Bible study based specifically on this topic (although with a variety of films, not limited to superhero films) that anyone can come to if they desire. I am so fascinated by the idea of taking media that interests people and finding ways to connect it to what God tells us. So thank you for introducing me to this idea!
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Ruth (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 11:24:59pm
Pastor Locklair,

Thank you for clearly stating that there is absolute truth. Thank you for clearly identifying the danger in the rejection of absolute truth. I sometimes struggle to clearly express that there is absolute truth when talking to friends, but your article helped me pinpoint exactly where the contradiction lies: “The very idea of superheroes is built around the idea that people need saving. People need saving because there are bad things in the world (an objective truth).” It is so simple when you write it out like this! I will definitely use this when talking with my friends and my marvel-obsessed brother about superhero movies.

Can you think of any other objective truths that appear in society that contradict society’s anti-truth trend? You mentioned abortion being contradicted by the placement of value on life. What other standards uphold absolute truth though society may not realize it? How can I use those other contradictions to witness to unbelievers?

Thank you for writing this article and contributing to the conference!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 7:01:34pm
Hi Ruth,
Thanks for the feedback! Here are some of the contradictions of anti-truth that stand out for me in this films and how they can be used to witness to unbelievers:

1. The value of human life - why do people have this idea? Look at what the Bible says about life...
2. The need for saving - why is our world full of so many bad things? Don't we too need saving? Look at what the Bible says about the fall into sin and the sending of the Savior...
3. The categories of "good guys" and "bad guys" - why do we have this idea of "right" and "wrong"? Look at what the Bible says about the natural law written on our hearts...

The world says that human life is nothing special, and we can save ourselves, and there is no such thing as "objective" good and bad, but look at these films contradict that.
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Ruth (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 6:11:01pm
Thank you for responding to my question! It helps to see these three contradictions listed out and also to see how to respond by using the Bible.
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Lexi (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 2:21:04am
Mr. Locklair,

I found your article to be both strikingly insightful and notably practical! Within the last decade, superhero films have seen an incredible growth in popularity. Prior to reading your article, I would have never thought that these fantastical plots could be such a wonderful ministry opportunity! As you mentioned, I believe they will be especially beneficial as we fight for the lives of unborn babies. In superhero films, all life is deemed valuable. This concept is a wonderful doorway into a conversation about life and its meaning.

While reading your article, I wondered about your own experiences in “superhero-evangelizing.” Have you had any opportunities to share God’s Word with others using superhero analogies? If so, what plots did you use?

Thank you so much for your consideration and contribution to the conference!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:17:53pm
I love this question! Thanks.

Yes, I have, and two primary plots stand out for this:

1. Superman's storyline from Batman vs. Superman to Justice League.

2. Loki's total character arc in the MCU.

I would love to expand on that but I don't want to spoil things for those who haven't seen the films...
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Lexi (Martin Luther College ) 2019-11-04 6:14:10pm
Those are wonderful examples! Thank you so much for sharing! Again, I agree that these well-known films are a very practical way to share truths about our faith. I will certainly have to use the films you suggested in a conversation of my own. Thank you again for your thoughts, and God bless your ministry!
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Jace Fellers (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 4:21:02am
Mr. Locklair,

The connections between Marvel Cinema and the Bible on the topic of truth is very fascinating. The idea that you can find almost anything that you can work into talking about the saving faith in Christ Jesus.

I do have a question for you and hope you can answer; who would be the “bad guys” of our world? Obviously Satan and our own sins are good examples of bad guys, but would we consider unbelievers as bad guys as well?

Thank you for your contribution to the conference and I hope you can get back to me.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:51:13pm
Hi Jace,
In Ephesians 6:12, St. Paul writes, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." In the real world, the bad guy is Satan. Sadly, many people act in harmony with him and his will, just as our own sinful nature desires.
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Jace Fellers (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:09:17pm
Thank you for your answer, this passage helps answer my question. That they aren't the villain, but they follow the one that is the ultimate villain.
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Alexis Gantner (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-26 8:59:43pm
This is an excellent question Jace. I'm currently taking an Introduction to Theology course that helps determine these "bad guys" we're referring to. While Satan is the biggest bad guy of them all, we also have his angels and the world as our enemies. It might seem like a stretch to say that the entire world is our enemy, but because of sin we share in agreement that not everyone will come to faith in Christ. There are the elect and those who are not. That doesn't necessarily make unbelievers the bad guys themselves, but it is Satan's overwhelming influence that persuades them to make the wrong decisions, which in turn makes them out to look like the "bad guys." We are correct to say that Satan is the ultimate bad guy who uses his influence on others against God and his absolute truth.

I hope this helps answer your question! Thanks for contributing!
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Caden Rindt (MLC) 2019-10-25 1:50:47pm
Rev. Locklair

Just like you, I love superhero movies. I love how you tie faith and love into the movies. My favorite part is how you tie them in to all superhero movies, not just one or two. I think it’s interesting how people can say there is no such thing absolutes, but still enjoy superhero movies, which are filled with absolutes.



After reading your article, I was wondering how many conversations you have had with people about their faith after talking about superhero movies. Has it been easy for you to talk about faith after talking about a movie?



Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-25 6:15:29pm
Thanks, Caden!
That's a good question.... it would be hard for me to come up with a number. These films tend to be things that I talk about quite a lot with people who share an interest in them, and, yes, I have found it easy to talk about matters of the Faith in connection with them.
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Caden Rindt (MLC) 2019-11-04 7:11:39pm
Thank you very much for the response. I figured that you would talk about movies with people a lot. For me, I talk about them all the time with my friends, and I have found that movies are a great ice breaker. I also agree that movies make sharing our faith easier, since almost everybody can connect to movies.
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Jenna Ehlinger & Kelsey Boucher (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-28 10:38:42pm
This is a very interesting concept. I was raised in a highly secular household and have since found religion, so I have a decent amount of exposure to both understandings of "truth." May I ask how you approach the concept of intent? Captain America is a prime example of good vs. bad, but I find that other heroes' backstories contribute to intent as well. With certain superheroes, how can we say that they save people for a universal "good" and not other factors? For example, in the first three Iron Man movies, Tony Stark is arguably saving people for personal reasons of fame (exemplified through his announcing his identity to the world). Is this a popularity boost a bonus or is recognition what he always desired? Is it really good if it is done for personal gain? While the character clearly grows in following movies, his initial intent is unclear to me. How can we know that their good deeds are a product of conscience as opposed to a product of personal experiences and motives that led them to do the right thing?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-02 11:35:04pm
Great questions! You are right that people, even characters, don't always do the right thing for the right reason. Scripture even tells us that apart from faith no one does the right thing for the right reason. As you note, Tony Stark begins as a very self-centered character. However, what we see as example of truth is not so much that characters do the right thing for the right reason (which would be therefore "good" in God's eyes), but rather that we have this idea of the "good" they should be doing (and do imperfectly).
So, to your question of "is it really good?" Well, yes and no. In God's eyes, it's not good unless it's done in faith. Yet, the act itself can be objectively good or bad depending on what God's Word says. For example, saving life is good (5th Commandment), so if I save someone that is good. Now, if I did it for a selfish reason, then it's not a good work in God's eyes, but the act is still an objectively good thing.
Does that get at your question?
Thanks for reading!
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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-12 6:12:03pm
Here is where Lutheran theology of "grace alone" is important. It is by God's grace alone, not by anything we do, that we are saved. If our salvation depended in any way on what we do, then our "good works" would always have a strong aspect of self-serving in them, which would make our "good works" inherently corrupt. But when we know and believe that Jesus has by his life, death and resurrection won our salvation for us - TOTALLY done by him, and TOTALLY given to us as a free gift of grace - then the good works we do by His power can be completely unselfish and good in God's eyes. That's what it means that a Christian, acting in faith in Jesus, can do truly good works.
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Melissa M. (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-28 11:58:08pm
I never thought of using movies, especially ones on superheroes, to help teach other about the Gospel. I love watching the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With those being so popular as they are, the audience members grasp onto something they can relate to. In this case, the sense of "right" and "wrong" is prominent through these movies. While the heroes may not know the motives behind what makes someone "good" or "bad", an audience member can grasp that and learn from it.
Yet, sometimes what makes a character fascinating is not knowing what side they're on. Not knowing their motives or just the character being a mysterious figure in general can make the reveal all the more shocking.

This is an awesome insight on some of the most popular media the world consumes today. Good job. If I happen upon your movie reviews, I may give them a look as well.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-30 6:32:22pm
Thank you! We’d love to have you check out the various resources on the Christ in Media website
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Emily (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-29 12:03:02am
Whenever I see these movies, I never really view the film through a religious lens. But now after reading this, I really want to watch these superhero films again with a new perspective. I do think that it is interesting to look at the film franchise through another character's perspectives though. For example, in Thanos's eyes, he was the hero of the story. He knew that what he had to do was wrong, but he knew as wrong as mass genocide was, it was the only way to save humanity as a whole. Infinity War especially was almost more of Thanos's story line than the rest of the Avengers. To us as viewers, he is the villain, but Thanos doesn't consider himself the villain. Either way, the entirety of the MCU tells stories with a universal truth in them and it is set up to conclude that the superhero in the viewers' eyes is the hero wins.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-10-30 6:31:14pm
Thank you for the feedback!
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Dr. Jeff Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-30 9:44:40pm
Pastor Locklair,
Thanks for the great article and some of the illustrations that you utilize. Colleges tend to have higher attendance by female students and many young boys are known to struggle with the rigidity of learning. These applications to the superhero world really help to connect with young guys. The Bible encourages young boys to "give themselves up" for their bride just as "Christ gave himself up for the church." It is no wonder that boys identify with superheros and there is a healthy way to utilize those metaphors. It is related to why I like the Esports program at Bethany.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-02 11:37:02pm
Thank you, Dr. Lemke, for reading this and for your feedback! I'm so glad you did!
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Kaylan B. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 5:43:18pm
This was very interesting to read, as I am a big Marvel Universe fan. I recently watched the new Joker movie and it was truly heartbreaking. No one was there to save the Joker and because of that he went down the worst path possible. In superhero movies, we tend to think that the bad guys are born to be bad guys. This movie went against that idea and provided insight on how the Joker became the person he ended up to be. This is an important idea for people today to remember. Doing nice things for someone, big or small, or just showing kindness in general can go a long ways. Being a Human Social Services major, when watching superhero movies, I not only just think about how awesome the superhero's are, but I think about how the villains got to be the people they are and how that could have been potentially avoided.

I go to quite a bit of movies, but never really think about how the filmmakers are trying to influence me or reflect upon the objective truth in the movie. This is something that I would like to start doing! I am interested in what other genres of movies you watch/write about?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-04 1:44:03am
Thanks for reading, Kaylan!

Currently, I am only writing reviews for Superhero films. I could expand that for Christ in Media and we would love to do that, but, so far, time constraints have prevented that.

My "priorities" for movie watching are MCU and DC films. I am interested in most other superhero films as well. I also enjoy science fiction (e.g., Star Wars, Star Trek) and fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit trilogy). Those are the main genres I watch.
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Kelvin Johannes (MLC) 2019-11-04 2:22:38pm
Pastor Locklair,

I thoroughly enjoyed your suggestions of using superhero movies for gospel outreach. I revel about how you brought in the idea of making bridges by first talking about the MCU. I especially thought this was interesting because as a pre-seminary guy, I attend these meetings called SPAM. Basically it is a chance to better get to know your fellow future pastors. Anyway at the last spam meeting, one of the presenters talked about the superhero method of evangelism. Now his was meant to be funny. But what a great way to talk about two really awesome things to someone else.

After reading your article I did have one question. I had heard at one point that everything is based on the Bible however loosely. I read your article and you mentioned our natural knowledge of God that being said what about books/ movies where there is no “bad guy” but only a problem, is the problem just a certain sin that the character faces then?

Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 10:04:52pm
Thanks for reading!

I would say that there are cases where the problem could be a reflection of sin/a certain sin, yes. There are also certainly films/stories where there are very few, if any, Biblical reflections. Though we do all have the natural knowledge of God, it can be suppressed (Romans 2).
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Taryn Christensen (Bethany Luthern College) 2019-11-04 3:29:02pm
As a younger generation, I have never thought of this before. Movies ARE aimed for the kids and teenagers of today. Learning the rights from wrong through the movies is not new in the "hero" movies but also in other movies as well showing us the good from the bad. There are plenty of ways to connect this to the Christian point of view or in our world today.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 10:05:52pm
Thanks for the feedback!
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Regina Lou (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:11:16pm
Pastor Locklair,

Thank you for presenting this idea that superhero movies can be straightly connected to our faith. I am a super huge fan of those superhero movies, and the “savior” concept in the movies usually successfully arouses people’s emotion towards gratitude. Being saved by a stranger is heartwarming. And as you said, God planted our conscience in our hearts, the movie companies reflect many of the same values in the movies.

While people are watching superhero movies, how can we help them to think about the hidden hints that directly reflect our faith? How should Lutheran high schools promote this idea to teenagers, who happens to be one of the biggest groups of consumers for the superhero movie industry?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 10:14:08pm
Thanks for reading!

I think the best way to help people think about the truths that reflect our faith in these films is to ask "why are these themes constants?" Why do we constantly have "good guys" and "bad guys" and "saviors" and the need for saving? Why would we all have the concepts of these things if they were not universal truths? Where then does such truth come from? That leads very naturally to talking about the Bible and the natural knowledge of God which we do all have and how these concepts illustrate that.

How should Lutheran high schools promote this? I would say first by teaching people how to think critically. Teach students to analyze things well. We are bombarded with entertainment and that entertainment is trying to teach us something. Teach students how to think hard about the messages they are consuming and to compare them to Scripture. Second, teach students to look for those reflections of the natural knowledge of God and to use those things to say "look, where do these universal ideas come from? They must have come from somewhere. Now, look at how the Bible explains that. Look at how this all lines up with what Scripture says."
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Josie O'Brien (MLC) 2019-11-04 7:12:28pm
Rev. Locklair,

I appreciated how you opened up your presentation with a direct use of God’s Word and then slowly worked the superhero movie genre into the piece. This made me really focus on the true importance of your topic; it kept me centered on the truth we have through God and how we can see that through everyday things such as movies.

As I read the article, I understood how Hollywood almost seems hypocritical. They are supporters of abortion, yet in their movies they present the world with characters who are pro-life. When a producer incorporates a hero into the story line of their film and this person is considered a “savior,” are they doing this because they are trying to incorporate an underlying religious theme? Or are they merely only trying to show how some people can save others without needed God-like qualities?

Thank you for your contribution to this conference.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 10:09:17pm
Thanks for reading, Josie!

It's both. There are certainly some writers who are intentionally incorporating religious themes. Zach Synder is one good example. Then there are some who are trying to undermine the necessity of God as well ("His Dark Materials" on HBO is a "good" example of this). Then, you can also find anything in between those as well.
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Josie O'Brien (MLC) 2019-11-07 6:52:45pm
Thank you for taking the time to respond! May God continue to bless you and your work.
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Kaitlynn Aug (Bethany Lutheran College ) 2019-11-05 11:02:00pm
As someone who is relatively new to the Christian Faith, I have found that I need to compare Biblical ideologies to things in my life that I understand in order to grasp them fully. This is one of the reasons I chose this article because it was comparing certain aspects of truth to something I know and understand which are movies. I like how you took something that can be so mythical or sci-fi and turned it into such a real world example. That is another reason why I enjoyed this article. I have had a tough time understanding all the parts of Christianity since I did not grow up with it but these are the types of articles and conversations that make me want to keep learning more and discussing with new people about this faith. Thanks for sharing this!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-05 11:48:28pm
I'm so glad you found this helpful, Kaitlynn! The Lord bless your studies!
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Al D. and Jessica N. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-06 2:53:15am
Thank you for your contribution to this conference. Your application of superhero films is very prevalent and has reached its crux in popular culture. I think as a society we would be remiss not to acknowledge what an impact these films have had on our culture.

In reading some of the comments, there is a lot on natural law as being objectively "good" or "bad". While I wholeheartedly agree that natural law is definitely a determinate of right or wrong, I wonder if other factors are at play. How do we account for other cultures or individuals who might have a different perception of right and wrong (like a hypothetical tribe of cannibals)? Do you think that understanding these superhero films in a moral black and white is only really interpreted by a western, Judeo-Christian audience? Do you think that these films still have a universal appeal?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-06 1:44:16pm
Thanks for the question and for reading this!

The Apostle Paul does point out in Romans 2 that it is possible for us to suppress our conscience and connection to natural law. This can lead to certain groups very blatantly going against what should be universal understandings. Due to the fall into sin, our consciences are no longer perfect and we can destroy them. So, in your example, that hypothetical group of cannibals has suppressed the truth and "seared" their conscience, as Paul puts it.

The moral connection to these films, however, would certainly have an audience outside of a western Judeo or Christian audience. Most cultures of most places of all time have had this notion that murder is wrong. The outliers are those who have seared their consciences like in your example, but the general principle is still true. All people, as the creation of God, have this natural law, so it can be a starting point for people of all different places and cultures.
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Valentina Acon (Divine Savior Academy) 2019-11-06 2:54:42am
Hello Pastor Loclair!,
As a Marvel fanatic, I truly enjoyed your article. It was very interesting to see how you connected the the fact that superhero films actually reflect ideas of truth even though the writers of the movies do not intend it that way. When the movie Infinity War first came out, my friends and I we actually discussed the idea of how in the movie when half of the world disappeared, they all turned into dust just like in the Bible God said to Adam, for dust you are for dust you shall return so it was very nice to see another different connection to the Christian worldview. Currently in school, we are studying worldviews and how important it is to study others worldviews so that we can share the Gospel with other people better. After reading this article, in addition to my knowledge of other worldviews I can now use this connection to the cinematic world to better share God’s word as it is really something that everyone connects to. Thank you for that!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-06 1:45:06pm
Thanks for reading and for your feedback! I'm glad you found it helpful! God bless your studies
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Micah Otto (MLC) 2019-11-07 6:15:27pm
It is so great to be able to look back in scripture and see these truths apply today! Thank you for the reference.
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Joshua Snyder (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:17:06pm
Pastor,
Thank you for responding to my questions. I enjoyed learning about how Christians can look outside the Bible to make these connections. I have a hard time reaching out to unbelievers but this has provided one way that I might be able to reach someone without shoving the Bible down their throat from the get-go. The bridge between myself and others is something that I want to become better at creating, this has given me one more tool to do that.
Thank you again.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-08 4:50:12pm
You are very welcome!
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-09 2:27:43pm
As we near the end of this online conference, I want to thank you all for reading my presentation and for giving feedback. I hope you have all found this to be edifying - I certainly have!
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Isabella Tice (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2019-11-10 9:18:14pm
I found this to be very interesting because you gave a different perspective to the Marvel movies. I also like Marvel movies and have never thought of them to have a spiritual meaning. When you said that Endgame had underlying themes of pro-life, I can actually see that in that movie and a few others. As you said, the directors were probably not pro-life but it is still fascinating to see how the avengers valued and fought for life. When did you get into writing movie reviews?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 4:14:35am
Thanks for reading!

I have been writing formal reviews (for Christ in Media) for a little over a year. I have been writing about movie themes and elements since 2011.
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Isaiah Butler and Madi Wirkes (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2019-11-11 1:43:54am
This is a very interesting point. Although I do not go into superhero movies thinking about the "our truth" it is a great point to bring up with those around us. You can talk about a lot with your friends when you see movies like this. I do agree with what your saying about "our truth" being shown in these movies, but I do find it to be kind of a stretch when trying to compare superhero movies to the ideals of those they are being created by. Sure, Hollywood is big advocate of pro-choice, in my opinion hat has nothing to do with how the movies are being created.

I personally think these movies are made for our enjoyment. If there was to be a political statement or religious statement in there, them movie would lose its appeal.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 8:57:44pm
Thanks for your feedback!

It is true that the writers often try to be careful to make the broadest appeal possible. Yet, there are times that the writers very specifically and admittedly are trying to push an agenda. Not too long ago, the writers behind a very popular and award-winning TV show stated during an awards show that they were not just trying to entertain people but also trying to change their minds about moral issues (in this case, the acceptance of homosexual marriage in particular). There is a big push right now among many film genres for the writers to help normalize homosexuality through film. For example, the writers of Avengers: Endgame included a homosexual character for that reason, and there has been a huge push to make Elsa a lesbian in the sequel to Forzen (it does not appear that happened, but the film hasn't been released yet).
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Mario Cordero/ Millicent Selenka (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-11 1:44:14am
For us, it was fascinating to notice how much emphasize companies like Marvel and DC have on the difference between good and evil and it's obvious for us to see this; however, one thing we thought was important to discuss was a villans own believe of what's good or evil; For example, The Joker in Batman The Dark Knight. This is one of the most popular villains in both the DC and Marvel world and what's interesting its the idea of the characters that his actions are a what are "good" for the city and that what he is doing comes with a purpose, granted he has a lot of mental illnesses we still thought it was interesting to think about. This is an example of the usage of both sides of the coin to make movies but this time the concept of "right" and "wrong" is a little more subject to interpretation to the public. From the Christian standpoint, we connected the Jokers as just that evil force that attempts to influence the average person to commit sins.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 8:50:08pm
Thanks for reading!
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Madi W. and Isaiah B. (WLC) 2019-11-11 4:13:47am
This article is so interesting. I agree with the statement that in society today that there is no absolute truth. Being a psychology and human social services major at WLC, I really do agree with this statement. Everyone in life has their own experiences. In communication classes, it has been stressed to me at that each person experiences their own form of reality as well. But also being a Christian, I know that there is an absolute truth, God’s Word. With that being said, we must be proclaiming our faith as the absolute truth. While unconventional, superheroes are an amazing way to do this! Superheroes are built around the idea that people need saving, and the same goes for sinners. Using superheroes movies could actually be an amazing way of talking about the Law and the Gospel, all that God has done for us, and eventually the death of Christ. I think that this is so amazing and something that a lot of people in our society could understand and possibly form faith through.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 8:49:20pm
Thanks for reading!
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Marquis (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-11 3:50:33pm
I agree with what you are stating in this post, it is very visible to see how in movies they portray good and evil forces in which the good primarily triumph the evil. It is interesting to think a religious aspect with these genres of movies because it is true that superheroes save people which shows that people are important to society.
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 8:48:57pm
Thanks for reading!
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Kendall P and Haley S (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2019-11-11 4:58:13pm
This was a very interesting read. We never considered a direct correlation to superhero films and the gospel. The gospel teaches us the difference between good and evil and it’s crazy how we just unconsciously root for the good guys like Superman and hope villains like Thanos are defeated. It’s fascinating to think about, through the gospel we have learned theses morals of life and even if these movies don’t have a direct correlation to God, we still can connect the two. Do you know notice these ideas in any other movies/tv shows?
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Rev. David Locklair (Hope Lutheran (ELS) - Portage, IN) 2019-11-11 8:48:23pm
Thanks for reading!

These types of themes have been pretty dominate in many of the modern superhero movies in general (though I have found them to be most present in the MCU films). Many movies that have "good guys and bad guys" will reflect these types of themes so you can see such themes in superhero films, sci-fi films, and dramas, among others.
Some of the DC Comics tv shows on the CW (Arrow, the Flash, etc.) give a lot of opportunities for discussion too.
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Ian Starkey, Zach McNamer (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-12 4:22:53am
I find this topic to be interesting and definitely outside the normal lens that people view superhero films. I tend to find that labeling characters in super hero films can be viewed as highly subjective. For example, we could look at Deadpool, who is labeled as an anti-hero. If the comic book writers had not made Deadpool the main character of the comics most of his actions can be viewed as self-centered and morally wrong but, because we are told he is the hero we think of him as such. Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, Batman, Shazam, and many other heroes started off their "heroism" by fixing personal issues, getting back at someone, or trying to make themselves appear better to the public eye, they were in no way thinking about others when they started off. Eventually the "heroes' conscience kicks in and they use their abilities for the greater good to help others but I do not think they should ever be fully considered the "good guys".
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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-12 6:21:47pm Moderator
(The above was posted too near the close of conference discussion for a response from the presenter.)
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