Wonder Woman a social commentary

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I finally got my act together and went to see the long awaited and much anticipated film, Wonder Woman.

The DC franchise is my favourite. ‘Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice’ raised the bar, it was superb and had several philosophical and theological themes under the narrative that I discuss in more detail in the link above (for those that are interested).

I think I am the last person in the world to have seen Wonder Woman, so a “spoiler alert” is probably not necessary.

Wonder Woman (played by the phenomenal Gal Gadot), is Diana, princess of the Amazons, who lived a privileged and protected life on a tropical island created by Zeus, where despite (her mother) the queens restraint, trained to be an unconquerable warrior.

An American pilot (Captain Kirk – Chris Pine) crashed into this closed ecosystem by chance whilst escaping from ‘ze Germans’. He then informs Diana of World War 1. Convinced that Ares god of war is behind the atrocity, she feels it is her destiny to stop the threat. Diana leaves her home for the first time, fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, where she finally discovers her full potential and true destiny as the “god killer”.

David Thewlis is one of my favourite actors and I was surprised to see him in the film. Knowing his type cast, it sadly made the “twist” predictable. He played the aging freedom fighting politician and supporter of Wonder Women’s crusade – but he turns out to be…….you guessed it!

The film was excellent, but I did leave disappointed as the obvious plot made it somewhat slow. (It still gets a 9.5/10).

There were some idiosyncratic moments where Wonder Women questions the American pilot during a bathing scene on how “men are governed by such a little thing” referring to his watch and of course the obvious “no-man’s land” triumph. But there was a more profound theme (outside of the justifiable women’s lib comments) that I would like to discuss.

The film is about Wonder Women’s personal journey to find out her destiny. She embarks leaving the protection of the island to save mankind from evil (echoes of Christ’s condescension). Wonder Woman fights in a ruthless war alongside a band of misfits (an Apache Indian an Arab and a Scott) and learns about the reality of evil. To her surprise it does not simply come from a single source (Ares god of war) but is innate to every single human being. (Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10).

Wonder Woman quickly learns the tragedy of the human condition. Those fighting against the evil of ‘ze Germans’ are also the very same people that were committing awful genocide to the Apache’s kin. She witnesses geopolitical effects of evil in the gassing of a town and the ramifications of evil to self, in the deceit of Sameer (Arab) and the social problems of Charlie (the Scott).

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Throughout the journey Wonder Women witnesses the total depravity of mankind, but during this turmoil experiences love from the pilot, charity from the Apache, sacrifice from Sameer and a chorus from Charlie. She learns that these uniquely human qualities are worth saving despite our innate evil. This realisation drives her on to battle Ares, who takes the opposing view that creation would be far better off without the human race. Wonder Women wins the battle, but the fight for evil continues!

As a viewer I was bought in (momentarily) to Wonder Woman’s naive view of evil and faced the same dichotomy shared by all humanity. That evil is not simply from a single source but innate to every human being, even the best of us.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn puts this innate sickness of man perfectly in his book the Gulag Archipelago.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

The film reminds us of the truth of our total depravity which contradicts our capacity to love. This paradox is beyond our comprehension so as a species we deal with it in mythology, telling stories that try to articulate the spiritual truths of our very being in a digestible way.

This is why millions of people flock to the cinema’s to see such tales unfold, because they express the reality of the complex battles within. Battles that secularism does not and cannot answer, as they are beyond the empirical, they are metaphysical. Which is why when we (as a society) face the reality of such paradoxes, during times of crisis, where good meets evil, it is the church that is often turned to, and prayer that is requested, because secularism does not have the answer. The atheists worldview of existence being time+matter+chance cannot explain love and grief.

The truth of our inner conflict between; the physical and spiritual, determinism and morality, love and hate and our fight for justice cannot be justified without divinity, a being who created existence for a purpose. For if there is no creator, there is no meaning, so concepts such as justice, morality, love, fear and grief do not exist, they are as much fiction as Wonder Woman herself, meaningless conditions evolved from the complex neurons of advanced apes.

So why adhere or uphold them? Why pay to see such concepts materialised in film?

Like all superhero films, Wonder Woman conjures up such mythology and audiences have rushed in to see it because they are based on a truism. Yet our churches who battle with the very same story of good versus evil each week will remain empty this Sunday….why?

One of our countries greatest academics (and former atheist) C.S. Lewis answers this question.

If I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story (such as Wonder Woman) I didn’t mind it at all: If I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself/herself. . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: the idea of a dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) moved me, provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

What C.S. Lewis was saying is that the fiction of Wonder Woman is enjoyable because it demands nothing from you the viewer, you simply pay your money and be entertained by her victory against immorality (portrayed to be beyond your grasp), meanwhile the truth of her battle (good vs evil) lives on in your personal journey and in the world around you.

In contrast the reality of the historical person of Jesus the Nazarene and His real defeat of evil on the cross requires you “the viewer” to grasp this battle (Matthew 16:24), you have to change, you have to love your enemy, you have to commit yourself to helping the poor and sick, you have to live a life of faith, go to church and worship, you have to be a force for good in your world – which seems to be too much effort, especially on a Sunday morning for the masses!

Wonder Woman highlighted the propensity of evil in mankind, an undeniable truth that can only be logically explained (in light of the paradox of our ability to love) by humanities transgression from a loving creator, an explanation given clearly in the Bible.

In the final clash Ares god of war tempts Wonder Woman with the beauty of a world without humanity (echoes of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness Matthew 4:1-11). This was a final attempt to convince her that our innate evil warrants our extermination. As Wonder Woman delivers her final blow she says “only love can save the world”. This is a truth that we all embrace and know deep down, it is not based on fiction, love does conquer all. And I can tell you in light of this reality that love did save the world!

Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this,that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

It is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:17-18)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)

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Eastern Valley Superhero Holiday Club

But Jesus said,Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

The Gospel witness in the Eastern Valley is close to extinction, in our own community of around 10,000 people it is safe to assume that less than 100 of them attend church regularly (1% of the population). The majority of which are elderly in small congregations (I hear as low as three people) across a handful of churches. Without God’s intervention, we can assume that most of this witness will not be with us in the next ten years. Now is the time to Sow with Tears!

When the Lord brought my family and I to Abersychan just two years ago, Noddfa seemed to be coming to an end. It had just fifteen members, all (bar five) were in their 70’s and over, some were even too frail to make church on a Sunday.

Regular readers will know that since then the Lord has blessed us. Last year we had six baptisms and the congregation has grown significantly made up of all ages, matching the demographic of where God has called us to serve.

The auxiliary ministries have also grown; Sunday School, Monday Club and the Mothers and Toddlers have welcomed a five-fold increase. By God’s Grace we are now in a healthier position.

We have tried many different activities to reach out to the community over the last two years, all with mixed results; family friendly services, BBQ’s, Firework nights and this week we put on a holiday club for the children.

Unlike the other evangelistic meetings (that I have forced onto the community), the holiday club was different, we were asked by the community (at the school gates) to run it, so we joyfully obliged.

The theme was a Superhero Training Academy and the lessons were based on Ephesians 6, the Armour of God.

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The children would register each morning before starting a ten minute sing-a-long. The groups were then split into two. One would stay in the chapel to learn the memory verse (Ephesians 6:11), then hear a story (relevant to the days piece of Armour). Then the children would take part in a treasure hunt, quiz, word searches or colouring in.

Meanwhile group two would be in the back hall building craft (the Armour of the day) and enjoying a drink and biscuit.

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Then after 45 minutes, the two groups would swap (via a conga line) and we would repeat.

For the younger children, we provided a crèche area for the parents who wanted to stay.

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At the end of each day we asked the parents to join us for a recap of what was taught and gave out the worksheets and prizes for the children to take home with them.

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(To avoid copyright issues) Monday was ‘flying-black-rodent-man’ utility belt of truth, Tuesday was ‘Viking-Thunder-god’ helmet of Salvation, Wednesday was Sword of the Spirit (there is no Superhero I know of with a Sword, so I wowed the children with a perfectly safe replica). Thursday was ‘Captain star spangled banner’ shield of faith and we finished on Friday with ‘Ferrum-man’ Prayer in the Spirit.

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On Friday the children all went home with their Armour of God (modeled below) and a keep sake book with all that they had learned this week.

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I have to admit that I did very little towards this week. I currently have to balance the ministry with secular work, so I could only be there on the Wednesday. All the hard work was done for God’s Glory by church members and some of the mum’s (you know who you all are – thank you so much).

The Wednesday Team

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I also want to thank Councillor Giles Davies for his support and promotion, Emmanuel Newport for their prayers and Ebenezer Cwmbran for all the Superhero decorations – the church looked great!

My wife is now looking forward to putting her feet up for a day or two after a busy week, but the fun has only just begun! We welcomed over 30 children over the course of the week and now we seek to build on these relationships with them and their families, so they can feel welcome to join our other activities and ministries and Noddfa.

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When we were planning this week, we wanted to get the parents involved as much as possible. We did not want to fall into the trap  of providing a drop off centre for children but give ourselves the opportunity to interact with their wider family as much as possible.

Teaching the Gospel should never be reduced to simply a children’s activity, parents need to hear about Jesus to, so we worked very hard to invite them in and get them involved as much as possible (even if it was just at the end). All in the hope that they will see that church is not just for the very young or for the very old, neither is it boring, but it is a welcoming place of learning and of family that radiates the love of God.

As fun as we tried to make this week for the children we need to remember that what we are teaching them is not simply moral lessons, but serious truths that have eternal consequences.

Our Valley is arguably ‘post-Christian’, we are back to an Acts situation. We can no longer rest on society to bring people to us, neither assume Bible knowledge on those outside the church – the Gospel is simply not getting taught anymore.

People need to hear afresh that there is a God and that He loves them, He is worthy of their time and worship, His Word is truth and that the Bible is not simply about good moral teaching but an important message of Grace needed to be heard by all, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  1 Tim 1:15.

A super huge big thank you for all those who helped and came along, you made it a very special week for us all. (We are hoping to do another in October).

We run a similar ministry every Sunday Morning during the service (11am-12noon) for the children feel free to come and join us for some quiet time under the teaching of God’s Word.

For more information visit our website: www.NoddfaBaptist.co.uk