It seemed like in the 90s, nearly all Marvel characters had a show. I can remember watching Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, and Iron-Man on Saturdays. Similarly, even DC superhero shows were great like the illustrious Batman animated series or Super Friends caught my attention.
Growing up in the 90s, I always viewed the X-Men as the greatest comic book superheroes. Everything about the uncanny mutants seemed entirely bizarre but cool. That’s why when the live action film came out in 2000, I had to see it! This film, in my opinion, catapulted the dull and repetitive Batman film series of the 90s and gave the viewers an entirely fresh bunch of heroes.
With that said, X-Men comics transcend the typical “Good vs. Evil” mantra but highlight ills in our society. The growing frustration of the “mutant problem” intensified by figures such as Senator Robert Kelly really portray bigotry based on biology. He and a large part of society view mutants and the x gene as a threat that must be dealt with. In the process, those who adhere to this policy embrace a sorta eugenics style philosophy that sees mutants as undesirable and unfit in society.
I recently purchased the classic graphic novel about the X-Men called God Loves, Man Kills published in 1982. This novel influenced X2: X-Men United, the second live-action film, and is one of the most popular in the comic series.
God Loves, Man Kills is about a fundamentalist Christian Reverend, William Stryker, who leads crusades to influence public opinion about the threat of mankind coexisting with mutants. In addition, Stryker has a task force designed that has one goal: eradicate the country of mutants. As a result, William Stryker kidnaps three of the X-Men (Professor Charles Xavier, Storm, and Cyclops), and hopes to use Xavier’s ability to ultimately kill all mutants. Thankfully, the X-Men eventually triumph over the task force and expose the powerful preacher and his ideology at a large scale televised crusade.
The antagonist, William Stryker, draws inspiration from many popular figures that were popular during the 70s and 80s like Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. Even the “crusades” that Stryker performs are very reminiscent of Billy Graham’s Crusade that was highly influential during the 40s and beyond that attracted large stadium-sized audiences. In addition, Stryker’s obsession with espousing a literal interpretation/ “Us vs. Them” approach of the Bible plays off the growing fundamentalist evangelical tradition of the 20th century that viewed people and ideas that didn’t fit the Bible as an “abomination” to God.
William Stryker’s eugenics-based approach to obliterate the mutant race is reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and his attack on the jews in Germany with his novel Mein Kampf. This novel radically influenced Hitler’s political rise in Germany. Not only do mutants recognize his marginalizing rhetoric, but humans do too. However, some, like the Stryker Task Force, are numb to William’s intolerance and go along with it. Much like many of Germans and Nazi soldiers who remained silent during Hitler’s massive sweep of gathering Jews and placing them in concentration camps.
As a Catholic, the biggest takeaway from the novel is how religion can be a medium for hate. I know many will claim, “religion is the source of all wars”, but that’s far from the truth. Land, money, corruption, natural resources, and tribalism have been bigger causes of global unrest, but all, including religious extremism, could be responsible for hate.
In fact, we don’t have to look far to see examples of people of faith being attacked unjustly because of their religion.
-Christians in Africa killed by Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group in West Africa.
-Christians in the Middle East being persecuted by extremists groups.
-Xenophobia against Muslims since 9/11.
-The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018.
Sadly, adherents of Protestantism and Catholicism have used their beliefs to advance racism in the past. Generally, this is a complex issue to speak about in many circles today. It’s not something we have to look far in history to discover; its actually very close to us today. Thankfully, intellectual figures of the past 20th century such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope St. John Paull II demonstrated an unwavering acknowledgment of human dignity and love with the Gospel of Jesus Christ against the opposition.
This is pure religion.
St. James told us (bold is my emphasis), “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. A religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world (Jam 1:26-27).
Pure religion is linked to care, concern, and advocacy of others. By doing so, this is the epitome of fulfilling the two greatest commandments (Matt 22:37-40). Jesus gave his life as a sign to be a servant and we must be representatives of Christ infused love toward others, especially the marginalized and oppressed.
In contrast, unrestrained religion that’s worthless mimics William Stryker, a hateful soapbox of malice toward our neighbor.
From William’s perspective, mutants were omitted from God’s plan of the human race, therefore, they don’t belong. This is precisely the same rhetoric used to justify slavery!
Christians should be mindful of labeling or stigmatizing others. Unfortunately, today’s many hot-button issues such as the transgender movement and the growth of Islam in the West have really turned some Christians into miniature William Strykers. You don’t have to look far on social media to notice disgusting comments about an entire group of people. I find it utterly despicable to see Christians refer to Muslims in derogatory ways. Yes, we can have substantial disagreement on religion or the underlying ideology driving things such as transgenderism but they’re still human beings.
Jesus was right when he said evil comes from the heart (Matt 15:19). This is why we need a heart transplant! True religion liberates our sinful nature that thrives on hatred for our neighbor into one that helps us become charitable and kind-hearted. True religion opens our heart to a life-changing experience with the Creator to help us become ambassadors of His benevolent love. No one, including Wiliam Stryker, is excluded in this invitation.
The X-Men’s God Loves, Man Kills, with its powerful plot and realistic approach to a societal issue, reveals why authentic religion must triumph over false self-righteousness and extremism. True religion encompasses the greatest virtue of all, love!
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