Superman has been standing for “truth, justice, and the American way”, or something like that, for the whole lifespan of most people living today. The red cape, the “S” on the chest, and the red speedos are some of the most recognizable emblems in all of pop-culture. Earlier this summer, fans everywhere were finally given a new on-screen adaptation of the quintessential superhero in Man of Steel. Save for a forgettable 2006 attempt, this was the first appearance on the big screen for Supes since 1987! While Man of Steel certainly took a few lumps from critics, it was far from a disappointment and has everyone looking forward to future sequels.
[WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD!!]
Probably THE biggest issue people had with Man of Steel was Superman’s destructive fight with General Zod, particularly how that fight ended. (I warned you… spoilers…) Superman is faced with the aged-old dilemma of choosing to take the life of one in order to save the lives of many. As Zod is using his heat-vision and nearly has his gaze set on an innocent family, Superman does what he has never done, at least in the traditional Christopher Reeves/comic-book history: He takes General Zod’s life, snapping his neck before he can burn the family to a crisp. Of course, this is after they both have crashed through dozens of sky-scraper, ripping them in half resulting in the presumed death of who knows how many, but nevermind that.
That is the dilemma we are dissecting today: Is it morally acceptable to take the life of one in order to save the lives of many others? Better yet, if you were in Superman’s position in that moment, what would you do? Eric and Elliott will be tackling this dilemma. Eric will take the “worldly” position and come to a conclusion absent of scripture or any appeals to God. Elliott will give us a Christian’s perspective on this dilemma and use scripture to come to his conclusion. Please note, the positions they adopt and argue here are not necessarily their own, but are a means to get discussion going.
As a life long fan of Superman this moment really stuck out for me. Until this point in this film Superman had never killed anyone. There is even a quote by Superman in one of the comic books that says, “No one should kill, not even Superman; especially not Superman.” So when I saw Kal-El twist the neck of General Zod and watched his life leave his body I was stunned. To me the theater was silent. I had tunnel vision and my heart seemed to stop beating, Superman killed someone. I felt like I didn’t know what was real anymore. Superman should not have killed Zod, or should he have?
Kal-El was faced with Zod using his heat vision to attempt to kill a family that was trapped in a corner. Kal-El did his best to avoid killing Zod. There was a lot of destruction and presumed deaths caused by the two Kryptonians fighting through the streets, skies, and buildings of Metropolis, but this time Kal-El was face to face with Zod’s lack of respect for human life. Superman had to kill Zod. Superman didn’t want to kill Zod, but how could he have lived with himself if he had not killed Zod and he watched a young family die so Zod could face some sort of justice for his crimes? Killing someone is wrong. I think this is basic human nature. Every culture and religion around the world has rules against taking the life of another person. These cultures and religions also have exceptions to these rules. You have the right, no the DUTY, to protect the life of someone who does not have the power to protect themselves.
There was no way this human family could shield themselves from Zod’s heat vision, so Kal-El had the DUTY to protect them, even if it meant killing Zod. The raw emotion that Kal-El showed at the moment of Zod’s death was one of the most powerful cinematic moments I have ever witnessed. He didn’t want to kill him, but he knew that it had to be done and it was a last resort. Kal-El immediately felt remorse for what he had done. This too is a big deal. The decision he made will stick with him for the rest of his life, but it was still the right call.
Although we are specifically looking at Superman as our example. This dilemma is quite common and there are other similar questions we could ask. Should a Christian serve in the military? Should a Christian carry or own a gun? Although these are similar, we will focus on what the bible has to say in regards to self-defense and taking someone else’s life to protect another. Before I write or talk about a subject, especially something in regards to the bible, I like to do some research. As I was browsing, I came across this website: http://www.biblicalselfdefense.com
It is very well written and is the source of some of my verses and thoughts. I would highly recommend reading it, since it goes into much more detail.
First off the bible talks multiple times about the importance of preserving and protecting life.
- Ps. 82:4 – Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
- Prov. 24:11 – Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
- Ezekiel 33:6 – But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
However there are specific instances/attitudes that we are warned about.
- Exodus 20:13 – You shall not murder.
- Ex. 21:14 – But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
- Rom. 12:19 – Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
- Psalm 44:6-7 – For I will not trust in my bow, Nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, And have put to shame those who hated us.
Did anyone carry weapons for the purpose of defense?
- Nehemiah 4:17-23 – Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. … So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. ….So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.
- Luke 22:35-39 – And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
Above are just a few of the many verses that speak on this subject and if you’d like a more thorough study of the topic, follow the link in the introduction. So from the first set of verses we see that God values life and expects us to protect and preserve it. We clearly see from the verses that followed that killing out of hate, revenge, or premeditation is wrong and carries with it the punishment of death. Also, ultimately we can’t allow ourselves to trust in these things, but trust in God. He is the true deliverer. Finally we see a few examples where people carried weapons with them for the purpose of defense.
From a biblical point of view, I believe that Superman was justified in his actions. He didn’t do it out of revenge, hate or premeditation. He had spent the last 10 minutes trying to stop Zod and in the process nearly destroyed a city. It wasn’t until he was forced to choose between the life an innocent family and Zod that he made the tough decision. Just before he snaps Zod’s neck, he pleads with him to stop, but to no avail. It wasn’t a glorified killing, but the last resort and only option; and it was the right choice.
There you have it! This was without a doubt one of the more controversial moments in film from this year. We’ve laid out a couple positions on this moral dilemma, now we want to hear from you. Was Superman justified in killing Zod? Was it contrary to Superman’s nature and who he is to kill anyone? Have Eric and Elliott accurately represented the worldly and the Christian perspective in this matter? Let us know what you think, and let’s get a dialogue going!