God in the Movies: “Wonder Woman”

wonder woman

In keeping with my last post’s decidedly war-like theme, this next installment of “God in the Movies” takes a look into the world of “Wonder Woman”, yet another product of DC Comics’ stellar storytellers. This 2.5 hour-long epic adventure begins in the fictional amazon (no, not the perpetually rainy south american forest, though I used to think so!) where a warrior race of women live in peace far from the outside world – or so they think. There, Princess Diana(Wonder Woman, not the late UK royal) grows up in a decidedly dangerous environment where day to day life among training amazon soldiers inspires her to seek to become a great warrior herself, but her mother denies her that right, declaring that there is no need for such things for a princess. Like all parents, the queen does not wish to see her daughter come to any harm, but, in attempting to control her child’s life, she is getting in the way of destiny. This, perhaps the most intriguing theme in any story, is the golden thread running through practically every scene in “Wonder Woman”. Hers is a story of identity, purpose, and fulfillment.

Despite her mother’s best intentions, Diana will not be denied her inheritance as a world-renowned warrior, and she undertakes a journey of rigorous physical battle training with the aid of General Antiope, who does not share her queen’s views of the young princess. The general understands that there is a destiny awaiting Diana that is beyond all of them, and none of them have the right to stand in its way. There is a moment towards the end of Diana’s training as she has become a mature fighter where she challenges the general herself, who appears never to have been beaten. At first, she is clearly losing the battle, and the general goads Diana to get her to show her true ability. Then, out of nowhere, Diana swings into action in a flurry of moves culminating in a block where her golden wristbands collide, and, with a blinding flash of light, the general is flung to the ground several yards away. Everyone stares in stunned disbelief. In that moment, they know – this one is special, and not just special, but dangerous.

This is a moment that each and every one of us can connect with in a deep, meaningful way, as we look at our own lives and yearn for a sense of recognition. We applaud the unveiling of Diana’s identity as a unique, valuable asset to her people, because all of us yearn to feel valued for who we are and what we can do. This is a desire that is built into the fabric of our being. It is part of who we are, made in the image of the God of the universe. He, too, is valuable simply by his being. Nothing has to assign Him value for it to be so. He just is. Then, He makes mankind through His own words and breathes His spirit into us, declaring that we are made “in His image”, and that we are “good” by our very nature (Genesis 1). So, we have this innate need to know that we are good and have it recognized by others as God once recognized it in the beginning, because it is right for us to be declared valuable, just as it is right to give God praise for His good nature.

Think of the moments in life where you felt the absolute best about yourself, where you felt happy. I’d hazard a guess that most, if not all of these moments, were directly connected to something that someone said to you or did for you that told you that you were valuable to them. This is not wrong, but it is incomplete, because – unfortunately – people do not always recognize our value. So, we feel the need to prove it so that we can gain that feeling yet again, that sense that we matter.  Thus most of our lives are spent in a fruitless search for value, the result of which is at the mercy of other flawed creatures as miserably uncertain as ourselves. The good news is that there is always value in us, and it cannot be taken from us. It is the value that God Himself placed upon us when He allowed us to enter this world as His image-bearers. Every one of us is inherently valuable because we come from the source of all values, the God of the bible. What’s more, we are not yet all that we will be…and that is yet something else that Wonder Woman can teach us.

As the movie progresses, an american pilot spy stumbles upon the amazon as his plane goes down near them, flying through an invisible forcefield. Behind him are Nazi forces in hot pursuit, because, despite the tranquility of the island, the world outside is caught in the midst of World War II. It is at this point that Diana’s destiny takes a leap forward. Realizing that she is different from the rest of the amazon people, that she is, somehow, special, she jumps at the chance to fulfill her destiny and takes off with the American Pilot to find the god of war, Ares, whom she is convinced is directly responsible for all conflict on the earth. She believes it is her fate to find and defeat this adversary at any cost. Days go by and a team eventually forms around Diana and the young pilot. Together, they embark on a rogue mission that will assure the defeat of the Nazis once and for all.

Shortly after the mission begins, the team stumbles upon “no man’s land,” a battle-front where the situation is impossible. The land is under siege and the people are suffering terribly. Overcome with a deep need to do something, anything to alleviate their suffering, Diana proposes that their team should rescue the populace, defeating the Nazi forces themselves. Distressed at the preposterous notion and anxious to get them moving towards their intended goal, Chris Pine(the pilot) says “This is not our mission. We have to go,” to which Diana responds “It is my mission,” and leaps over the barrier to begin a death-defying single-handed assault on the Nazi forces. It is at this moment that her identity takes a leap forward. Crashing through enemy forces like an avenging angel in the face of a devastating barrage of gunfire, she overwhelms the enemy with the sheer weight of who she is, something that the audience feels tug deep at their souls(or at least I did). It is perhaps at this point that she comes to be called “Wonder Woman”. In this battle and leading up to the final battle where she defeats Ares, she is becoming who she was made to be, fulfilling her destiny.

What’s more, she understands that because she is able to change these people’s lives, it is very much her mission. It is her destiny to be there at that moment to rescue the innocent. I believe all of us, however selfish or hard our exterior, have buried within us a deep, unquenchable urge to help those in great need when we find ourselves able to do so. This is part of the image of God in us, a fragment of good in a broken, stained mosaic fraught with all sorts of misguided passions and flaws. These broken things in us all stem from one place, what the bible would call “the flesh”, though it is not a reference to God hating the physical realm. He made us physical, spiritual, emotional beings and there is good in all of it! Yet, there is this “flesh” where the sin nature resides, that part of us that strives to protect ourselves and our sense of security at any cost – even murder, slander, theft, and a thousand other less-sinful-sounding issues that all stem from selfishness(self-worship). This is what drove the Apostle Paul, arguably one of the greatest men of all time, to say “… I do not understand my own actions.  I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out…Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25)

This idea of the deep flaw of humanity is the same theme that the movie drives in hard at the end of the film as Wonder Woman is having to choose whether people are worth saving.  She sees how the violence doesn’t stop even though she accomplished her mission, and she struggles with the violent tendencies of mankind, shouting “Why don’t the people stop fighting?” The pilot character responds “maybe it’s them! Maybe, maybe people aren’t always “good”” struggling to communicate his sense of people to this god-like character. She, still unable to forgive humanity’s foolishness, says “They do not deserve our help,” and the pilot answers “Maybe we don’t. But it’s not about that. It’s about what you believe,” implying that if Wonder Woman decides to give people mercy despite not deserving it, that is what matters. I, too, agree with Chris Pine, that when it comes down to it, it matters what we believe, but we have to throw aside the foolish notion that simply believing something to be true makes it true. This is not the case, no matter who may wish it. But what we believe does matter – because when it involves putting our faith in Jesus it can actually change our world. Jesus offers Himself as a sacrifice, the perfect man in the place of flawed humanity, to make it possible for all who believe in Him to become everything that they were originally created to be. He makes a bridge to get us from a self-condemned, irreparably selfish life to a place of renewed identity and hope, where we can know why we are on this earth and be a part of God’s mission to further transform this world, fulfilling our own destinies as Wonder Woman fulfilled her own. Through Jesus, people are “born again” into the identity that we all yearn to own, that of God’s children.

Back to the movie: In the final battle with Ares, Wonder Woman is struggling to defeat her archenemy, and her weapon that she calls ‘the god killer’ breaks. For a moment, she is desperate, but she then comes to a realization: her belief is what is holding her back. She doesn’t realize just who she is. She discovers that in this story she is a god, and is more than enough to defeat this challenge and any other. She was made for just this moment, and she will succeed in her quest. So, in a blaze of glory, she overwhelms her enemy, destroying him once and for all, winning the war for the entire world. I submit to you that this moment is the one that we all are waiting for, the moment where we discover who we are, and go forth in triumph towards a new life as overcomers. This is the hope of the true, biblical Christian faith, the hope that because of Jesus, all of us are not yet what we will be. “Dear children, we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared…”(1 John 3:2)…”All creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons(&daughters) of God” (Romans 8:19). Through His resurrection that brings new life to all who believe, we can all find glory and fulfill our destiny. “We all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

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