Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Gospel According to Spiderman

The Road to Forgiveness

The much anticipated movie, Spider-Man 3 hit the big screen on May 2007. The movie opens with Spiderman being the toast of the town. He is a hero to New York which just cannot see enough of him. There are video clips on the streets, photos in the papers, balloon and action figures. In the first fifteen minutes, he saves Gwen Stacey and later in a huge ceremony, is given the key to the city.

Uncle Ben Parker said to Peter Parker/Spiderman in Spider-Man 1, "You've been given a gift Peter, with great power, comes great responsibility." Unfortunately Uncle Ben did not advise his nephew about power that corrupts and lead to pride.

In Spider-Man 2, we saw how Peter struggled whether he wants to use his power or not. He has to make a choice between continuing to be Spiderman or to live a normal life. Aunt May Parker said, "I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dream." Peter decides to become that hero.

In Spider-Man 3, we begin to see a dark side of being a hero. All the adoration has gone to his head. Peter was becoming self-centred and proud. Even when his sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson was trying to explain how bad she was feeling after a bad performance review in the paper about her debut, Peter cannot see from any perspective except his own. This was made worse when Captain Stacey revealed to Aunt May and Peter that the real killer of Uncle Ben is Flint Marko.

Things came to a crisis when Peter was infected by Venom, an alien symbiote that brings out the worst aggression in its host. Spider-Man entered the dark side literally- his colour changed from blue and red to black. The extra power given by the alien to Spiderman was like a drug; exhilarating and intoxicating. He became more aggressive and violent. Peter/Venom, when out of costume was a different character; spiteful, proud, revengeful, and murderous. He used Gwen to humiliate Mary Jane and hammered the Sandman/Flint Marko into mud, thinking he has killed him. He mockingly yelled, “If you want forgiveness, get religion!”

Aunt May was horrified when Peter told her that Spiderman has killed Flint. She said, "Uncle Ben wouldn't want us living with revenge in our hearts, it's like a poison. It can take you over and turn us into something ugly." It was that thought that brought Peter to his senses.

In a poignant moment, Peter/Spiderman/Venom realised that he had became who he always fought- a villain, an anti-hero. The scene was a dark, rainy, and stormy night. The darkness of the night was broken by flashes of lightning. In the background was the spire of a church and on the top of the spire is a cross (symbolism abound in this movie!). Peter/Spiderman/Venom crawled into the belfry of the church and Peter tried to tear the dark costume from his body. It is with only the ringing of the church bells that Peter was able to tear off Venom and was cleansed clean. Thus was the redemption of Peter Parker in a church.

The road to redemption is the road to forgiveness. Aunt May started it by saying, “First, you have to do the hardest thing. You have to forgive yourself.” Spiderman was beaten almost into a pulp by the Sandman and Venom/Brock in the final confrontation. Sandman/Marko turned out to be a misunderstood thief who accidentally shot Uncle Ben. Flint Marko said. "I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I just want you to understand." Understanding the evil that resides in all of us, Peter Parker hesitantly said, "I forgive you."

It was friendship and forgiveness that brought New Goblin/Harry Osborn to the rescue of Mary Jane and Spiderman. Harry sacrificed himself when he jumped between Venom and Spiderman, allowing Venom to impale him with his own sled. Forgiveness involves sacrifice, confession and reconciliation:

Peter Parker/Spiderman: "I never should have hurt you. And said those things."
Harry Osborn/New Goblin: "None of that matters, Peter. You're my friend."
Peter Parker: "Best friend."

It was a long road and Peter Parker finally came to realise the stuff heroes are made of- the ability to forgive others. Real heroes are not those who have the power, or the might, or the strength to beat up others. Real heroes are those who can forgive others who did them harm. They are those who reject the road to revenge and choose instead the road to reconciliation.

Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu chose the road of forgiveness and reconciliation in post apartheid South Africa instead of vengeance. Elisabeth Elliot tasted the bitter fruit of losing her young husband to the Huaorani natives, walked the road of forgiveness that led her through the “Gates of Splendour.” It is not an easy road to walk. The road to forgiveness is full of thorns, suffering, pain, and loss. Jesus also chose the road of forgiveness and reconciliation. God incarnate, Jesus Christ, hung naked, humiliated and broken on a cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 24:34)

The movie Spider-Man 3 ended with Peter Parker voice over “We are the result of the choices we make, even the hard ones”

Reflection Questions
1. Why is it so hard for us to forgive someone who has hurt us?
2. How do we get rid of our need for revenge? Why do you think our need for revenge will injure our spiritual, emotional, and physical lives?
3. Picture in your mind someone who has hurt you badly and you are struggling to forgive. Pray for that person. Pray for yourself.

Lord God, help us to forgive one another. It is so hard to forgive, so easy to hate and yearn for revenge. Dear Holy Spirit, please work in our spirits so that we learn to forgive, to reconcile, and to love. Dear Jesus, thank you for your supreme work on the cross that brought us the Father’s forgiveness and reconciliation. Amen

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2 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

For a spiderman fan, I still have not gotten down to seeing the movie ...
Thanks for the blog piece. There is indeed so many lessons on spirituality in all sorts of places if only we would take time to prayefully relfect.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Paul,

Then you will be in for a treat. Sorry for the many spoilers in my post :)

Yes, as Eugene Peterson so eloquenly puts it, quoting a poem, "Christ plays in ten thousand places." If we look around with spiritual eyes, we shall see Christ everywhere.

4:30 AM  

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