The Amazingly Universal Appeal of God and Spiderman


Yes, in case you were wondering, the comic book-like title was on purpose.

The reason? Marvel’s superhero Spiderman is back in theaters … again… with a story that’s a remash-up of it’s most recent, er, remash-up.  And for my sweet, un-tainted toddlers, viewing but a single trailer for the film (with their father, I might add) and they were instant causalities to the web-shooting franchise.

Well played, Marvel.  How did you know that the same generation of young adults that watched Toby McGuire’s abs mutate into their own zip code as he played Spiderman during their college years would, a decade later, have children whose limited phonemic vocabulary wouldn’t hinder them from exclaiming ‘Piedooman!” every chance they got?

Oh, believe me, my kids weren’t the only ones sucked (webbed?) in.  We were happy to run out and purchase them Spidey action figures, t-shirts and books. My husband and I have spent time reminiscing about our mutual childhood fascination with the comic book character.  I can still remember the theme song from my favorite Spiderman cartoon.  My mom, this would be my children’s grandma, keep in mind, remembers it with fondness as well.

What is it that makes this blue and red spandex clad, uber-flexible figure, so universally appealing to everyone?

And where does God fit into all of this?

Well, there are some similarities between the whole Spiderman story and the Almighty.

The first is a spider.  Peter Parker owes his literally ‘gripping’ career to a radioactive-spider whose bite enhanced his physique, gave him a his famed danger-detecting sixth “spider” sense, and his trademark web shooting ability.

Concerning God, according to legend, one spider played a significant role in the Nativity story by spinning its silvery web to disguise the birthplace of Christ to the Roman Soldiers. Today some commemorate this story by hanging a spider on their Christmas trees. As a complete spider-phobe myself, that idea creeps me out but the legend itself is still pretty cool.

The second is heroic virtue.  As Spiderman, Parker could have used his powers for evil.  “With great power comes great responsibility,” Aunt Mae to pronounces to both Peter, readers and movie goers throughout the various versions of the story. It is the ultimate moral lesson of Spiderman.

Similarly in Gospel, we have an imperative to virtue from Christ who tells us, “10 “ He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”(Luke 16: 10).

God, of course, is the first one to live the axiom, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” He is powerful and trustworthy in all matters, great and small.  He could end all existence in a milo-second, but in His goodness, and for no other reason, He doesn’t.   And He is the inventor of virtue, if you will and unmatched in His displays of mercy, the greatest of these being the sacrifice of His Son.

The third is the suit.  Well, not really.  My daughter pointed this out to me.  She ran around telling me that Spiderman was ‘cool,’ to which my Catholic spider-mom reflexes caused me to ask, “Abby, is God cool, too?”   She unflinchingly retorted, “No, mommy. He doesn’t wear a cool suit.” Okay, She stumped me there.

As I thought about it a little more, I realized that one day I will have to tell her about the ‘cool’ armor of God that St. Paul spoke of in Ephesians:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil… Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6: 11, 14-16)

For my kids the ability to shoot webs would certainly complete this divine ensemble.  Now all that remains is for theologians to rename the vices after Spiderman villains where envy is the Green Goblin, pride is Doc Ock etc.

For me and for many, it would seem that God and Spider man do have a shared universal appeal, and overlapping in the stories of both is a spider, keen sense of justice and a suit.

And I haven’t gotten to the best part: one less spider in the world.  The eight legged creepy crawly that got Parker thankfully, met its end never to bite again.  That’s as happy an ending this spider-phobe, Spiderman and God loving mom can ask for.

Copyright 2012 Marissa Nichols


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