The Spiritual Stuff of Spider-Man

I was not naturally drawn to comic books as a child.  My brother, Buddy, was a different story.  I still see him buried in the pages, one hand behind his head, a single finger twirling his hair in circles. 

Eventually, I came around.  I read anything he read, but it was Spider-Man who settled into my imagination.  While my admiration remained dormant through the years, I am drawn to the debut of yet another rendition of Spider-Man on the big screen.  Perhaps a history lesson will help the uninitiated. 

Peter Parker is a high school student bitten by a radioactive spider resulting in super strength along with the ability to stick to walls and ceilings.  He invents a device enabling him to shoot webs and swing high above the city streets.  He wears a Spider-Man costume and fights criminals, including super-villains Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. 

A compelling and misunderstood character, Peter is persecuted by the community he tries to protect.  Uncertain if Spider-Man is a vigilante or a criminal, the city leaders become suspicious and the local newspaper launch a campaign against the “Spider-Man menace.” 

Part superpower, part awkward teen teased by his peers, we watch Peter grow up from high school student to college student to married teacher to single, freelance photographer.  His story, told in a myriad of ways through the years, will be re-introduced this week in a new movie which takes us back to Peter Parker’s high school days and the “untold story.”  (I saw it on July 4th with my friend Dennis Wainright.) 

You will not be surprised when I make simple reflections of the spiritual similarities between Peter Parker/Spider Man and Jesus.  The first one is all too obvious. 

Like Spider-Man, Jesus is always being attacked for doing good.  His identity with the downtrodden and ritually unclean cast him in a negative light with the status quo.  Misunderstanding will be constant companions of those seeking to feed the poor and heal the sick. 

Like Spider-Man, Jesus reminds us of what we can achieve. We can be insecure, awkward and still accomplish incredible things.  While none of us is God, we can all participate in good and Godly activities.  The Spider-Man story reminds us that we can overcome our human faults, fears, handicaps and uncertainties.  We can be ALL we were created to be and that is always more than we think and believe.

 Like Spider-Man, Jesus reminds us of the power of vocation.  Nearly all superheroes – especially at the beginning of their careers – grapple with how they can best use their unique talents.  In the case of Spider-Man, the proverb, “With great power comes great responsibility” rings with authority.   

Superheroes aside, God has given us the power to live good lives even when attacked for doing so because we incessantly believe we can be someone who has the power to make a difference with what we do.  May we do so!

After over three decades of managing and motivating people in the local church as a pastor, I now spend my waking hours heralding the call for living in redemptive, reconciled relationships. I simply call them “stay in the room” relationships.