Waiting for a SuperheroHumanity has a stubborn smile. In spite of our growing secularism, we are optimistic. But the evolutionary story of progress, with the survival of the fittest, with nature red in tooth and claw, has no basis for hope. So, we live as if another story is true.
We are waiting for a superhero. Just look at history. Almost all the big-name comic characters grew out of a time of unrest and uncertainty. A CNN article a few years back told the whole story just in the title, “Superheroes Rise in Tough Times.” Challenges in life drive us back to this longing for some power greater than our own to save us. Batman, Superman, and Captain America all emerged in the midst of the Great Depression and the early years of WW II.
Our yearning for supernatural intervention can be seen in other historical developments as well. During the Civil War one citizen wrote to Salmon Chase, US Treasury Secretary, asking that the “goddess liberty” be replaced on our currency with a statement of our nation’s reliance upon God. Shortly thereafter, the expression “In God We Trust” was imprinted on our coins.
This creed was not added to paper currency until the 1960s, when America was again under extreme duress due to its prolonged military engagement in Vietnam. Similarly, the phrase “one nation under God” was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the mid-1950s, which historians link to a growing national concern over the threat of communism, known as the Red Scare.
In times of economic recession, war, and national horror we express our need for divine mediation. In our most vulnerable moments we let the secret out: we really do believe in something greater than nature, something supernatural. But such optimism does not flourish in a secular story. It is, however, part and parcel of the Christian belief celebrated every December, that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us and we beheld his glory. This is our only hope. This is our only Savior.
This is adapted from my book Christ or Chaos (Crossway, 2016).