He’s saved millions of lives, thousands have read his word, and he’s even been resurrected from the dead. I’m talking about Superman of course. The Man of Steel may be a miracle worker, but he’s no Messiah. However, this doesn’t stop some individuals from worshipping his likeness. Working in Hollywood, Christopher Dennis always aspired to be an actor. Between being unsatisfied with roles offered to him in auditions and being unable to take time off from work, Dennis’ frustration began mounting.
One day Dennis decided to don a Superman costume and strut his stuff on Hollywood Blvd., making $500 in his first outing as Krypton’s last son. Dennis, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve, has reprised his role as Superman for the past 21 years.
“Comic book fans read their comic books like it’s the Bible,” said Dennis. “Each character has been given a background and a story. Some people are into it for the alter ego, like Clark Kent, and some people like the Superman side.”
The line between religious parable and comic book story has been blurred significantly as more and more Americans look to superheroes as role models; but are students really worshipping superpowers?
Gabriela Melara, a Kinesiology major, tries to make equal time for going to church and watching her favorite Batman television show in her free time.
“I like the fact that he has no superpowers; he’s an ordinary man doing amazing things,” said Melara. However, caped crusaders are not what Melara entrusts her faith to.
Being a devout Christian on campus isn’t always easy. Melara has trouble relating to her fellow students when trying to comprehend their religious beliefs. “You are going to find out it’s real, even if you try to search for it,” she said. “It’s all about faith.”
Brandon Jackson, an Advertising major, was raised Catholic and uses faith to keep a positive outlook on life. Jackson, who models in his spare time, thanks his church and religion for sheltering him from evil.
“At the end of the day I know God is watching me, looking down on me,” said Jackson. “If I’m having a bad day, it makes it better; it keeps me motivated to keep faith that something good will happen.”
“I always tell people to keep their faith,” said Jackson.
Claudia Fuentes is a Photography major who has struggled with faith her entire life. Throughout the course of her life she, at one time or another, considered herself a Catholic, a born again Christian, a Mormon, and even gave being a Jehovah’s Witness a shot. “A lot of the values are the same; it’s all about family, respect, and doing good.”
Fuentes – a woman who questioned what lies beyond this life – committed to faith after tragedy.
“At one time, I had a hard time believing in God—I had some faith issues,” said Fuentes. “I lost my faith, and I got it back when I lost two nieces, one in 2005 when she was 15, and one last year; she was 26. Those two people were so important to me—it changed me.”
“When you lose someone you love, it does change your thoughts about religion,” said Fuentes.
There was no divine intervention or a man in a mask to save either of Fuentes’ nieces, so she turned to spirituality. “You’re either a cold-hearted believer or you’re confused and you don’t know. I’m thankful, I’m a lot happier now,” said Fuentes. “I’m more forgiving.”
While some students discover newfound faith, others reject the faith they previously placed in religion.
“I feel like if I was in massive trouble, it’s more likely I’d be saved by a man in a Spiderman costume than Jesus,” said Santa Monica College student, Roxanne Friedmann.
“I grew up in a very religious house. I never missed any church. I went to church at five in the morning on top of going to school for four years,” said Friedmann.
Friedmann, a reformed Mormon, who attended Brigham Young University briefly after finishing high school, began doubting her faith as a teenager.
“I’m an atheist and have been since I was 16. High school was funny because, although I had decided I didn’t want to be Mormon, everyone already knew,” said Friedmann.
“God is all powerful, and there are consequences for not following him,” said Friedmann. “You can’t make other people follow your religion.”
“The difference between someone who reads comics, and someone who believes in God, is the person going to church hasn’t figured out it’s not real,” said Friedmann. “Sometimes people get so caught up in worshipping, and their soul, that they forget to live.”
Religion and superheroes teach us about camaraderie and bravery in the face of crises and disaster. “The only thing I’ve seen positive in a church setting is you have a community to rely on for the elderly, new families and the downtrodden,” said Friedmann.
Whether you place your faith in superheroes, religion, or neither, if you find improvements in your life, inner peace and strength, then your faith is well placed. “I think, because we live in such a liberal area, people are less likely to judge you for your beliefs,” said Friedmann.
Human beings are fragile creatures. We age, we break, we worry and we die. Whether it’s a spiritual deity overseeing our day-to-day activities, the government, or the Watchmen, as a species we like to hope that something is protecting us, and our loved ones, from harm.
*Amy Gaskin contributed to this report.