Is Spider-Man Better than God?

Recently, I became aware of some comments by a US Preacher by the name of Anne Graham Lotz, who runs her own AnGel Ministry, and is daughter of legendary televangelist Billy Graham. Speaking on a conservative radio show so narcissistic that it unironically uses ‘Wake Up’ by Rage Against the Machine as it theme music, Lotz said, she fucking said:

“We’re struggling with our own pride or self-sufficiency. I think that’s why God allows bad things to happen. I think that’s why he would allow 9/11 to happen, or the dreadful attack in San Bernardino, or some of these other places, to show us that we need him. We’re desperate without him.”

Speaking on the alleged rejection of God in the culture at large (which I’d argue is a job half-done), she says:

“When we do that, then the Bible says God abandons us and He backs away and he takes his hand of favor, blessing, his hand of protection away from us and He abandons us.”

Now, she doesn’t quote her chapter and verse on this one, but honestly, it sounds like something the Bible would say.

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Anyway it struck a nerve, in part because I had so recently seen Civil War, with its superb portrayal of Peter Parker by Tom Holland. In a graceful twist on Spider-man’s core theme, that with great power comes great responsibility, Peter says:

“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”

Amen, Peter. (Also, that was note-perfect, Tom Holland. I’m excited for your movie.)

Back to the whole God thing, either He exists or He doesn’t, and if He does than that begs the question of whether He’s even worthy of worship in the first place. Following the philosophy of power and responsibility to it’s logical conclusion, with omnipotent power surely must come omnipotent responsibility? That means you don’t just get to abandon the pesky humans when they defy you; you accept that maybe you’ve been the cosmological equivalent of an absentee father, and spending a bit more time with the kids is what’s called for. Listen: I’m not God, and unlike Lotz or an ecumenical council, can’t claim to speak for Him, but I know my right from wrong.

You cannot abandon your children. That is never okay. Now, maybe your kids grow up and they’re being disrespectful AF, and totally ungrateful for everything you did in raising them, then I think you could make the case. But I don’t remember having any of those conversations; I’ve just been living my life, and trying to live a good one, and man, it’s hard sometimes. I don’t have time for the head games of a potential imaginary being; I have to pay rent and keep my cat alive, because that’s fucking responsibility.

Approximately 10 billion people died in 9/11, and the 2015 San Bernardino shooting claimed the lives of 14 innocent people. Just regular folks. One, in fact, had come to America fleeing Christian persecution; it’s just a shame for Bennetta Betbadal, that the loving God she was so devoted to would abandon her to a pair of gun-wielding lunatics. Because reasons, I guess.

“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”

Now, let’s assume the obvious here – that Anne Graham Lotz is her own flavor of lunatic – so we can move on, to the the greatest atrocity in the history of our rebellious and unworthy species. I speak of course, of the Great Flood.

From Gustave Doré’s Illustrated Bible, the Deluge depicts humans and a fucking tiger (holy shit, random) trying to save themselves and their young from God’s wrath. Which is suspiciously close to the plot of Life of Pi,  come to think of it.

Now Lotz herself may be (is) full of shit, but the Flood happened, right?

All the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

And:

All flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: and all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

The story of the Flood as recounted in Genesis 6:9-9:17 isn’t the fanfic of some conservative bigot, this genocide is depicted in a Holy Book, as committed by the Almighty God. Leaving aside the tigers and so forth – which, man that’s cold – how many human beings perished in the Flood? It’s hard to get exact figures on an incident that obviously didn’t happen, but I did look it up, latching onto the first number I saw cause it made as much sense as anything else: between 10 million and 10 trillion people.

Whaaaat?, you say. That’s way too many people. And I agree, it is, if you catch my drift: God should definitely not be killing that many people, is what I’m saying.

No, you say again, that’s just way too many people to be alive in the first place, and I’d be inclined to agree, but the Bible Science Guy – who’s blog I linked above – has some pretty convincing numbers. Longer lifespans (Noah is said to have been 600 years old at the time of the Flood), plus shorter generations (people banging like rabbits and at a younger ages than would today be considered proper), plus greater available landmass (apparently when the waters receded they left a lot of previous land underwater) leaves us with an impossible number of people.

So let’s assume it’s the lower figure, then. We’ll go with that. 10 million people is a drop in the bucket, said no one ever, and if it were true – and there’s no way it is – it would still represent the greatest mass killing in human history, up too and including the Holocaust.

No, wait, I just looked it up and apparently 11 million died in the Holocaust, so I can definitively say that God is not worse than Hitler.

Still the Best at being the Worst.

But is God worse than Spider-Man?

Well, Spider-Man isn’t real. Dummy. But like another entity who may or may not (probably not) exist, we do have a written work we can turn to that recounts his various doings, codifying his moral philosophy within its pages.

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Like that time he struck his pregnant wife.


Like that time he made a deal with the Devil.

I would definitely say there’s been some lapses along the way, but that on the whole, the morality espoused in the pages of Spider-man trumps that of a book of dubious authorship and origin. From power and responsibility-

– to dealing with guilt –

–  to duty and destiny –

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In the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, you could find a reasonable and achievable template of heroism, and live a better life based on the lessons within. I’m sure an argument could be made for the Bible as well; both works are long enough that examples can be cherry-picked to support either side. Like this little gem from Leviticus:

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

And I would be amiss in my slander if I didn’t include this one, from First Corinthians:

“Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

I’m quite fond of that last one, as I stumbled upon it in my own Journey with Christ, like 20 years ago or so. It was a bit of a red flag, to say the least, and the Church and I parted ways not soon after.

But it is the book of Matthew, I think – good, rock-solid New Testement – that gives us the clue to solving this eternal riddle: God or Spider-Man?

Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

If we cannot judge God by the Bible, nor Spider-man by the comics – because both have been tainted by mortal interference – then at least we can judge the effects they’ve had on the world at large.

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Spider-Man window cleaners at a Children’s Hospital.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. The worst thing Spider-Man ever gave to the world was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and even that movie still made a profit while gainfully employing thousands of people. I don’t even know what the worst thing Christianity ever did to the world, but it’s a pretty long list to choose from and would naturally include numerous Crusades and Inquisitions, Residential schools, missionaries, Conversion therapy, sexual scandals, Pilgrims, Mormons, denying access to abortion, and so forth.

We judge them by the fruits that they bear. Now, I have personally been on the receiving end of Christian charity, and I’m not insensible to the good work that has been done on Earth in the name of Jesus. I’m not. But it can’t help but be overshadowed by the bad – which persists to this very day – as people(?) like this Anne Graham Lotz, uses her faith as a club of oppression.

Whatever value religion may have had in the past, more and more it has become an anchor, shackling us to superstition, dividing our focus at a critical time for our species. And that’s not even counting Armageddonists, the people who believe the Return of Christ is imminent; so rather than work toward solving the world’s problems, would prefer to hasten it’s demise.

Contrast this with the message of Spider-Man, one of redemption, and sacrifice, and heroism and I think it’s clear which tree has born good fruit, and which has given us poison.

“We’re not just our failures. As much as they hurt, we learn from them. Then we go out there and do our best to make up for them– Even though we never will. We save people. We save as many as we can to make up for the ones we couldn’t. That’s all we do.”

-Peter Parker, Spider-Man

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