X-MEN (2000) and Fighting For a World That Hates and Fears You
NOTE: Originally published in The Superhero Gospels (2017). Photos added.
“Are you a God-fearing man, Senator? Such a strange phrase. I've always seen God as a teacher. As a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding. No, I think what you really are afraid of is me. Me and my kind.”
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: David Hayter
Runtime: 104 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
After a decade of Batman sequels, each progressively worse than the last, as well as failed attempts to launch new franchises like Steel and Spawn, 2000's X-Men reinvigorated faith in both superhero movies as well as Marvel Comics. In 1998, Marvel had a hit with Blade, but X-Men brought the publisher a mainstream success that R-Rated movies such as Blade could not. Not until 2016's Deadpool, anyway.
X-Men is about a race of people called mutants who live in hiding because they're born with an X gene that gives them special abilities, making normal humans fearful. The movie begins at Auschwitz, reminding us what prejudice can lead to, as a boy named Erik Lensherr watches Nazis take his parents away, awakening his powers over magnetism. Years later, he runs into Professor Charles Xavier, a former ally, at a senate hearing concerning Mutant Registration. There are three perspectives regarding Mutant Rights; Xavier's, who founded a school where he teaches mutants to defend a world that fears and hates them; Magneto's, who thinks that no harmony is possible and that mutants must replace humans before they are put in chains; and Senator Kelly's, who campaigns for Registration because he fears that giving mutants rights will impinge his own. As it happens, these men also represent three points of view in the Church.
Kelly's desire to regulate how others live is not unlike those who support legislating from the pulpit. For them, it stands to reason that if our morals are correct, then everyone should live by them. But forcing nonbelievers to live by our standards does not save them, it only perpetuates the lie that 'being a good person' is enough to get into heaven. Our goal should be changing hearts, not lifestyles.
This brings us to Magneto, whose radical solution is unleashing a machine on a summit of world leaders that will turn them into mutants so they'll become sympathetic to his cause. His first test is on Kelly. Rather than doing the hard work of persuading others, he plans to force conversion, not unlike medieval Inquisitors who used machines of torture to pressure converts. Modern Magnetos don't have conversion machines but manipulate people using tools like guilt and fear. Such efforts do more harm and, just as Kelly dies as a result of Magneto's efforts, don't usually stick.
In today's passage, Jesus says to love our persecutors and show mercy to our enemies. This is also Xavier's stance, who founded the X-Men on that principle. Paul expands on Jesus' directive in Romans 12:20, in which he tells us to feed and clothe our enemies; doing so heaps “burning coals onto their heads.” A strange phrase, it means to purify. We turn enemies into brothers, not by force but by kindness.
Magneto appears to understand this when talking to Kelly, saying that he thinks of God as a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding. Specifically, he pictures God as a teacher. Magneto's image of God is Professor Xavier; yet, rather than following Xavier's teachings, Magneto proceeds with his plan, proving Kelly right that mutants are a threat.
How often do our actions confirm others' disbelief? 1 Peter 2:12 instructs believers to live honorably so that our antagonists have no choice but to glorify God. In addition, 1 Thessalonians 4:12 teaches that living a quiet life of hard work and minding our business is how we win outsiders. We can prove our persecutors right by responding to their hate with more hate, or we can prove the gospel right by turning the other cheek and showing that our way works.
You can be like Kelly and sanction people, you can find brotherhood with fellow Magnetos and force your will on your persecutors, or you can be X-Men. The 'X' doesn't stand for the mutant X gene in our case, though; the letter X comes from Chi, a Greek character used to represent Christ when typefacing was expensive in the early days of print. The best example? Xmas. Some find it offensive, but the 'X' in Xmas literally stands for Christ. What do you stand for? Do you stand for humility? For mercy? For loving your enemies? If so, you are an X-Man; Christ's man.
- What group do you have the hardest time understanding?
- How can Mutant Registration apply to real life issues?
If you enjoyed my comparison to Avengers: Endgame, you might like my book, The Superhero Gospels, a devotional of spiritual lessons we can learn from 25 of the best superhero movies ever made. Get your copy here.
A Queens native, Jason grew up in Lakeland, FL and attended Rochelle School of the Arts before moving to Florida's Nature Coast, where he resides. He always dreamed of being a storyteller, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Religion. He has been a professional guest speaker for thirteen years, talking at churches, graduations, and as a guest lecturer at Pasco-Hernando State College.