A couple of days ago we saw the new Wonder Woman movie. I know without doing any internet search that there will be some Christian commentators out there warning of the dangers Wonder Woman and other stories based on ‘pagan’ pantheons pose to Christianity and civilization as a whole. Such is the world we live in. I mean, there are still folk out there insisting Harry Potter is evil and nasty and just bad form, when it has always been quite clear the books are the most popular Christian analogy since C.S. Lewis’ Narnia septet.
I would argue Wonder Woman is not promoting paganism at all. In thirty years of engaging with the Neo-Pagan community I have not met a single person who views their Gods like they are presented in the comic-books and movies. The movie is in fact doing a pretty decent job of extolling Christian values and the core Christian message.
While not dog’s balls obvious, like Harry Potter was from the first book, this is pretty clear. I am not sure how this occurred – if the writers are conscious Christians or not. I am resisting the temptation to right-mouse Google to find out. It may just be the messages from Wonder Woman are Christian because Christianity remains the dominant moral background in the west (?!?). I am not sure.
The core message of Wonder Woman is the triumph of love. The co-protagonist Steve Trevor sacrifices himself to save thousands and end the war out of the love he holds for people – broken, damaged and even evil people. This in turn prompts Wonder Woman, who in this movie is both god and human, to resist the temptation of the evil god Ares to help him destroy and enslave flawed and evil humanity, who so deserve their fate. Instead she is spurred to go beyond herself and her powers (she is already seemingly defeated) to an act of exultant love, conquering evil in the final battle.
So far so good – and so far so like so many Hollywood movies. And it is true there is nothing unique in Wonder Woman, neither in story, direction, acting or theme. Except the verity repeated several times and announced as a coda in the final battle:
‘It is not about deserve; it is about what you believe.’
In the movie we, humanity, do not deserve the help of Wonder Woman. She knows this clearly, but she believes in love and so she is there for us. A core Christian message laid bare, hidden slightly behind the context of ‘believing in’ something, in this case Wonder Woman’s belief in love.
Other Christian motifs abound. Charlie, one of the key people in the hand-picked crack team cannot do what he is there to do – because he is broken, damaged and traumatised by the war. Yet there is no question of not accepting him or keeping him, for all his flaws and failure. Love again. And again for the broken human, as we are all broken. At the conclusion of the final battle, the day dawns and a solider, miraculously finding himself alive, falls to his knees as the sun rises. He is one of the ‘enemy’, spared and saved regardless.
To be clear the simple presentation of the verity above, where even though we do not deserve God’s love, it is there nonetheless, is not my favourite. It smacks of penal substitutionary atonement and valorises confessional approaches to Christianity above practice based approaches. Now of course in and by itself it is true (how can it not be?) but it can lead to some pretty wonky theology and ideas.
I remember picking up a copy of Perth based author Stan Deyo’s Cosmic Conspiracy when a teenager. After stories of aliens, UFOS and mind control worthy of Boy’s Own, it is revealed the aliens are all in league with Satan. Okaay. To save the reader before the ‘final day’, Stan helpfully included a little form at the back where we could sign our name stating we believed in Jesus as Lord. Simple as that! Thank the One for making it so easy. 🙂
Of course if we do really hold the truth of this verity deeply it will change us. We will then be moved towards practices like meditation, contemplation, communal worship, community work, alms and so forth – so we may let go of that which separates us from the One and strengthen that which fosters our true self’s love for the One and each other. So it is not that I am against belief based creedal statements – but they are only one part of the story.
As for Wonder Woman, this 2017 outing is the latest in a long list of revisions and resets for the super heroine since 1941. She has ebbed and flowed in as a ‘feminist’ icon (in this movie she is hardly feminist at all). However she endures, partly because we do need to have strong and divine feminine images in our world. I find it most interesting that Wonder Woman’s most novel ‘weapon’ is her Lariat, the Lasso of Truth. How wonderful a gift! Interestingly of course, and the subject for another blog, is the reality that the most truthful, the most powerful – through her complete obedience – feminine divine is the Theotokos. When we look at her story we truly see a Wonder Woman 🙂 Thanks.