When I was four, my mom took me to see Superman II at a drive-in theater. Neither the awesomely bad, late-1970s special effects nor the tinny audio from a speaker hanging on the car door could stop this enthralled little boy from wanting to be Supes.
I jumped off the living room furniture wearing a red cape for the next several years. In spite of new incarnations, to me, Christopher Reeve is still the real Superman, and I’m sure somewhere deep in my psyche there still lives a four-year-old boy ever-aspiring to be a superhero.
In Superman II, the plot thickens when Superman, determined to love Lois Lane as a normal human, steps into a mysterious, clear chamber in the Fortress of Solitude and surrenders his superpowers. He emerges as a very human Clark Kent, but even more vulnerable than he realizes, as he now overestimates his strength. Having only felt super-human confidence his entire life, he fails to realize how weak he really is. On a subsequent dinner date, forgetting he is no longer the Man of Steel, Clark sticks up for Lois and gets bloodied in a bar fight.
Trying to make authentic disciples through a theocratic government
Around the time Superman II was filmed, conservative Christians began enjoying political power in the United States. The Moral Majority (also known as the Religious Right, Values Voters, Christian Right, etc.), led by televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, attempted to legislate their Southern Evangelical version of Christian values. Recently defeated in his support for school segregation, Falwell led others to build a coalition united against women’s rights and gay rights.
You read that last sentence correctly. In 1967, Falwell started a whites-only “Christian” school named Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Virginia as an alternative to the recently desegregated public schools of the South. Ten years later, he blamed born-again Christian President Jimmy Carter for making it harder for these “Christian” segregation academies across the South to remain tax-exempt. Throughout the 1980s and all the way up to the presidential election of 2004, conservative evangelical Christians wielded impressive political power.
That level of political influence is now gone, and the memory of it seems as outdated as the Superman II special effects. When a favorite of Christian conservatives, Indiana governor Mike Pence, endured that humiliating press conference last month in which he sheepishly stated that he never expected such a backlash following his signing of Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he was probably telling the truth…