Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Mirror: Becoming Better Men

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is an interesting spin on the the very popular Marvel superhero story. It explores the idea of parallel universes, each of which has its own Spiderman. The hero of our story is very briefly a second Spiderman in his universe, before stepping up into the main role and naturally, and humorously, disarming the super villain and saving the world.

This is not a blog post about the human thirst for superheroes and gods. It's very easy to understand their popularity from the standpoint of us having been created by God with a natural appetite for the spiritual world, and more specifically for Him. This post is not about the messianic overtones present in just about every action film ever because the need for a saviour, like the need for a hero, is built into us. It's not about how frequently familiar superhero characters and tropes are rehashed, reworked and represented. For, as Solomon once said, there is nothing new under the sun. This post is not even about the movie which was very funny and entertaining. It certainly is not about how the Blogger interface has been changed since last time I used it; leaving me displeased. 

This is a post about men becoming better men. 

In the film, Miles labours under the weight of expectation of his parents, particularly his father. Dislocated from his neighbourhood, his school and his friends, he feels a little lost. He feels he should try harder, do better, be better. These feelings of inadequacy are exacerbated after he is bitten by a radioactive spider, then meets Spiderman.

The desire to be better is partially inherent, and partially learned. Many factors come into play, but most men will, at some time in their lives, feel as though they are underperforming. They will know the shame of disappointing people they love. They will become ensnared by the desire to cover over what is wrong while they attempt to make it right.

Last weekend was a long weekend in Darwin. Forty two men from my church headed into the bush for men's camp. The theme of the weekend was 'becoming better men'. We ate together, watched a movie under the stars, heard some great teaching and participated in an afternoon of very challenging physical activity.

All of us want to be better men, but we are neither gods, saviours or superheroes. We are humans who acknowledge our own weaknesses, and don't pretend to be anything other than what we are. This is humility. We also recognise our strengths and find ways to use them to help other people. One of the key ideas underpinning the camp was that men who want to be better men, need other men who also want to be better men. If you lie down with dogs you get flees. Pauls puts it a little more eloquently, but no less forcefully, in his first letter to the Corinthians: 'bad company corrupts good character.'

Interestingly, the major take way for me from Superman: Into the Spiderverse was that Miles (young Hispanic Spiderman) needed the other Spiderpeople (include two females and a cartoon pig) to save the world. Spiderman is usually, a lone hero, but in this film it was very much a team effort.

I'll say it again, men who want to be better men, need to spend quality time with other men who want to be better men. This was the message of the movie and of the camp.

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