What if Superman was gay?
Apparently, he is. Well, sort of.
DC Comics announced today that the latest iteration of Superman—Clark Kent’s son, Jonathan Kent—is bisexual. DC illustrated the news with a panel of the younger Superman kissing another young man. That story is playing out in the pages of the new comic Superman: Son of Kal-El, which launched in July.
That part of the new series’ storyline is just one element that feels as if it could have been pulled directly from today’s progressive social media blasts. Jonathan has also fought wildfires sparked by climate change, stopped a school shooting and joined protests for immigrants being deported, according to a summary of the comic book in dynuz.com.
Superman—at least his younger iteration—is hardly the first super-powered comic character to come out. Marvel’s Northstar did the same thing all the way back in 1992. And many others have followed since then, including, most recently, Tim Drake (aka, Robin) in the August issue of Batman: Urban Legends. Ditto Batwoman, back in 2006 and more recently on the CW show of the same name.
But Superman’s LGBT reveal is bigger. Superman—even if it’s not Clark, but his son—feels different. Superman is the icon, the template, the archetype for the entire genre. To make Superman gay in the comics illustrates the depth to which the LGBT worldview has permeated and infused popular culture.
“It is not Northstar, who your aunt has never heard of,” Glen Weldon, author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, said. “It’s not Hulkling. It’s not Wiccan. It’s not Fire and Ice. It’s not Tasmanian Devil. It is Superman. That counts for something—just in terms of visibility, just in terms of the fact that this is going to attract attention.”
Indeed, I can’t argue with Weldon’s logic here. “Superman Is Gay” is the kind of headline that gets attention because it confronts us with the reality of an icon from an older era fully embracing the ethos and mores of the current one. This is a big deal because Superman is known for pursuing “truth, justice and the American way.” And the man holding the title Superman now is gay.
Many in mainstream culture have celebrated this culture shift. Those of us who maintain a traditional, orthodox biblical conviction with regard to sexuality increasingly find ourselves on the defensive, especially when it comes to raising children in this confusing age. So how should we respond?
First, and this is hard for some of us, realize that the proverbial genie isn’t going back in the bottle. We may wish it was 2005 or 1985 or 1955 or earlier, as if that would solve the problem. But it’s not, and it won’t. This is the cultural moment in which we find ourselves, a moment that is desperately looking for transcendent purpose and meaning in sexuality—not unlike the cultural environment that the Apostle Paul faced in cities like Corinth and Ephesus. We might wish that the culture was more in line with what we believe, but it’s not and it’s not likely going back.
Second, it’s important to understand how we got here. This cultural shift hasn’t happened overnight. Rather, the seeds for our current moment were planted, in different ways, in the Enlightenment and Romantic Age. They were watered and fertilized again by modernism and the rejection of God in the 20th century and especially the 1960s. And they have now born fruit in today’s anything-goes, radical individual sovereignty that defines our era. It’s more than a simple embrace of all things sexual; that stance itself is merely a symptom—albeit an important one—of the fact that we’re built for a transcendent experience with God but have largely rejected the possibility of His existence or a meaningful relationship with Him.
Third, we must recognize what’s at stake and commit to engaging in this philosophical and theological war for our children’s hearts, minds and souls. The world’s self-oriented perspective on sexuality permeates so many of our entertainment stories today. And if we hope to equip our children with a worldview that can resist our culture’s constant catechism in this area, we have to be ready to talk and teach. Gone are the days when perhaps one uncomfortable conversation or two about sex would suffice to set our children on the right path (if those days ever existed in the first place!). Our culture is having a conversation with our kids every day in this area. And we must be ready and willing to wade into it, too, as parents.
Fourth, our conversation with our kids, as uncomfortable as it may seem, must be built on a theological foundation that understands the purpose and place of sexuality as God has designed it. These two questions are critical: What is the purpose of sex? And who gets to decide? As Christians, we believe and embrace the idea that God created us, male and female, in His Image. A man and woman’s sexual expression in marriage reflects that image, unifies that couple in an incredible marital bond and yields something profound: new life. That’s God’s design. His intent. Our culture, in contrast, believes that sexuality is primarily about pleasure. It’s not about God, marriage or children at all—but about self-fulfillment and actualization. To instill a lasting, Christian ethic in our children will require engagement with these issues at a level that goes past a “birds and bees” talk.
Finally, those philosophical cornerstones lead to practical and concrete considerations.
Some stories are simply toxic, in both their imagery and their worldview. We will avoid those, even as we look for opportunities to teach and critique the culture’s worldview in other areas, embracing what is true, noble, beautiful and good (see Philippians 4:8) and teaching our children to recognize distortions of those virtues.
So … Superman has come out. Surprised? Don’t be. But at the same time, realize that you, too, have a chance to be a superhero in your family as you help your children to learn what God had in mind when He created male and female, gave them to one another in marriage, and declared it very good.