SpiderVerse tells the Christmas Story better than the Church

Into the Spiderverse, the newest Sony cartoon flick, “proclaims” anyone can be Spiderman; you don’t have to a man to be a Spiderman (say hello to the coolest ballet-inspired teenage girl, Spider-Gwen, and to inclusive language to fit this new reality) or American (Penni Parker is Japanese, fluent in Japanese, English and mech), or even a human being (ever heard of Peter Porker?). So, then it goes without saying that Spiderman doesn’t have to be White. How can you not root for Miles Davis, a mixed-race pre-teen whose voice cracks every three syllables, a product of Brooklyn, snacks on physics, a damn good graffiti artist, and whose adolesecent coming-of-age identity journey has been complicated with becoming the newest Spiderman?

So Spiderverse and the world have embraced the weird (at first only) and beautiful truth that there are many diverse (so different that it can get weird) Spiderman origin stories! Meanwhile, American Christianity insists on one story for Christmas, and it’s got to be a “White Christmas,” i.e. a White infant Jesus. Put a Black infant in the creche, and evangelicals will trash it as unhistorical (oh the irony!) while liberals will pull at the fraying wool of their reindeer sweater and whisper “Jesus was brown,” but what he’s really feeling is the discomfort of Jesus who is not white (just as the mainline liberals love people of color as long as they don’t join their congregation and start changing things). The JJ Abram’s Star Wars trilogy was trolled for poisoning the purity of the Star Wars mythology by peopling it with Asians and blacks; Imagine the backlash if Joseph looked like someone you would call the police on. Actually, you don’t have to imagine; just look at the American Christian history and media.

Miles Morales in Sony Pictures Animation’s SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

Spiderverse tells the Christmas story better than the Church. In fact, skip Christmas Eve and watch the visually stunning adventure of Miles Morales growing into his new identity — and his literal “leap of faith” into that identity scene with the rousing What’s-Up-Danger soundtrack beats Rocky’s Eye-of-the-Tiger scene by miles — and you will get a stronger/truer dose of the gospel.  

For one thing, Spiderverse gets the implication of incarnation. That eternity entered time is to say that the eternal can be found in any time (or dimensions in the case of Spiderverse). If a Jew can be a child of God, then so can a Greek who eats pork (sorry Spider-Ham). This is the gospel, the gift that continues to surprise Paul with every unwrapping, that in Christ, anyone can say “Abba!” (Romans 8). And watch out when the children of God are revealed, when all the God-people (Spiderpeople) come together, then the whole cosmos is getting rescued!  

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed ….that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Romans 8.19-21

Yes we are all Christ because we carry the divine spark in us; we are all Spider-person, or rather, little Christs, which, by the way, is what Christian literally means. Ethnicity, and any other categories we erect to exclude (racism, sexism, border walls), are not requisites to have your own origin story of how God chose you to be the friendly neighborhood “Emmanuel.” For Miles Morales, Gwen, Peter (and all the other spider-people) it was a radioactive spider. For us, it’s the Holy Spirit injected into our blood by Word and Sacrament. When Peter sees Cornelius, a hated Roman occupier, speaking in tongue (sticking on walls), well who can deny him an identity that is already his! Splash water (make him a web-shooter), he is one of us!  

“God became human and poor for our sake, to raise up our flesh, to recover our divine image, to recreate humanity. We no longer observe distinctions arriving from the flesh, but are to bear within ourselves only the seal of God, by whom and for whom we were created. We are to be so formed and molded by -Jesus that we are recognized as belonging to his one family. If only we could be what we hope to be, by the great kindness of our generous God!”

Gregory of Nazianzus, 4th century monk & theologian

In New Testament, we have two origin stories of Jesus and they can’t be reconciled, no matter the creative gymnastics of scholars. Luke and Matthew would get a good laugh at all the contortions we have come up with. The real problem is not that we have two origin stories, but that we don’t have more to show that we get it, the deep meaning of the Nativity. Any neglected peasant can be God! And just in case scholars come up with highfalutin mumbo-jumbo to dismiss this fact by saying there is Paul-gospel and then there is Jesus-gospel, we have it directly from the lips of Jesus that when we eat with the poor, hang out with the homeless, visit the prisoner, we will be meeting little Christs. So, Church! Tell the Christmas story with as many cultures/dimensions we have. And Christians, don’t forget to tell your origin story. You’ve got a neighborhood to save.  

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