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Finding Christian Themes in Today’s Superhero Sagas

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A beautifully woven tapestry with nearly equal parts faith and culture, “Comic Con Christianity” has something for nearly everyone. Contributor Ryan Langr, admitted lover of all things nerd, reviewed “Comic Con Christianity” by fellow contributor Jen Schlameuss Perry.

by Ryan Langr

Faith and Culture Beautifully Woven Together

As a lover of all things “nerd culture,” I jumped at the chance when author and colleague Jen Schlameuss-Perry asked for a review of her book “Comic Con Christianity.” A passion of mine has always been combining the faith with points of secular culture. I was not disappointed.

Before I read, I wasn’t sure if I would encounter a predominantly faith-driven info dump with a few examples of superheroes thrown in, or if I would find a book full of fantasy with just a few mentions of the Church.

The book is a beautifully woven tapestry with nearly equal parts faith and culture. It features nearly all of my favorite characters from Batman to Frodo and Samwise Gamgee. It never failed; just as I found myself wanting to switch to the next point, I was rewarded with either a cool superhero story or an applicable Bible verse.

Riveting and Relevant Content

I will admit, as a “more educated” Catholic person, and one who has worked in the Church and has been catechizing for years, there were a few sections or points where I skimmed over thinking, “yeah, I know that, already.” Even still, at many points I was riveted by applicable points and even thoughts of “I never thought of it that way.”

But most of all I felt a sense of comradery with Schlameuss Perry, two evangelists united by common ideas. I felt solidarity with her points, and in a sense, nourishment in her advice and perspective.

My favorite chapter, and probably the most prescient for me, was the chapter on “Batgirl: The Church in Democratic Nations.” If you read nothing else, read this chapter. The political climate sometimes makes us want to disengage with the world, at other times it may make us want to burn it all down and start over. But Schlameuss-Perry suggests the value of the fight itself:

She writes, “The Hobbits liked to live in their little Shire bubble; they didn’t want to know what was going on in the rest of Middle-earth. They weren’t interested in having company from the wider world, and didn’t look kindly on any Hobbits who got the mind to travel. They wanted to remain insulated so that they wouldn’t be touched by the world’s troubles. They found that you can do that for only so long — eventually the world’s troubles will come to you. … if … we wait for the fight to come to us, we’ve waited too long. The poor and victims of violence are our concern. Jesus told us that we *are* our brother’s keeper. He reiterated the Jewish teaching to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ reminding us that *everyone* is our neighbor.”

She also reminds us that, though our leaders are sometimes the cause of scandal and crises of faith within in the Church, they are not the Church itself. At many times, this book is a breath of fresh air.

Is It For You?

There are many types of people that would benefit from this book:

  • The “Unsure/Curious”: This book is great for anyone who is a “nerd” and is already a Christian but wants to know more, or who is genuinely curious about the faith, but maybe hasn’t taken the “leap” yet.
  • The “Knowledgeable Nerd”: Someone, like me, who is immersed and knowledgeable about both fantasy and faith could benefit from this book as a “refresher” or relatively light and quick read they can use to add to their “evangelization toolkit.”
  • The “Fantasy-Skeptic Christian”: Any Christian who is skeptical of the value of superheroes, fantasy or cultural narrative in enriching the faith should read this book. Sure, some fantasy is awful and in contradiction to the faith, but this book could change minds about the value of superheroes as more than a “passing fad.”
  • Parents and Youth Leaders: My daughter (3 years old) is too young to really benefit from this book, but you can bet it will be our homeschool curriculum when she’s older. Already we have started telling her that superheroes act with honor, bravery, love, and sacrifice. Because of the immense popularity of superheroes and nerd culture especially among teenagers, this book can hold incredible potential in the hands of a parent or youth minister. The questions at the end, meant to help process the ideas in each chapter, are the perfect small-group discussion tool. If used for confirmation preparation, this book could supplement teachings on anything from the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the seven themes of Catholic social justice.
  • My one critique is that I do not believe this book would be great at converting nerds who are hostile or very ignorant about what the Church teaches. The amount of Bible verses and Christian teaching make at least a curiosity in the faith an important prerequisite for reading.

Highly Recommended

I highly recommend this book if you fit any of the above demographics, or even if you just need a good, entertaining, read. With concepts ranging from “The Body of Christ” to “Our Pilgrim Church,” there is something for almost everyone. Schlameuss-Perry has crafted a wonderful work here, and my faith life is better for having read it.

Comic Con Christianity” can be purchased online from Amazon or directly from Paulist Press

Follow Ryan Langr:
Langr is a former faith formation coordinator, youth minister and music minister. Currently, he is a full-time stay-at-home dad to a preschooler. He has a wife, two cats, and growing little girl. He enjoys reading, writing, games of all kinds, spending time with his family, and cooking. He primarily contributes to Cooking with Catholic Kids. Occasionally, he blogs about parenting at Caffeine and Grace.

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