Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walking by the (green) light

(Today's Spiritual Sci-Fi Friday is a guest post by a good friend Tom Speelman. I met Tom a good 4 or so years ago and can tell you he's more Geek-tastic than me.)

This summer, one of the things I’m looking forward to is the Green Lantern film. GL’s one of my favorite superheroes and hopefully he’ll become a favorite of a lot of others.

For the uninitiated, Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, an Air Force test pilot who’s brave, reckless, and cocky—pretty much every pilot/astronaut stereotype in existence. Anyway, one day while flying a simulator, he was summoned by Abin Sur, an alien whose spaceship had crashed in the California desert. The dying visitor gave Hal his power ring and told him he was now the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 (AKA our solar system) and would patrol this sector of space as a member of the Green Lantern Corps, the interstellar police force controlled by the Guardians of the Universe on the planet Oa. For about 40-some years, Hal did his duty as a member of the Corps (as well as the Justice League) and all was fine. Then came the day when Superman died.

A lot of you may remember Supes’ death in 1993. Some of you may even remember how he came back a couple years later. But in between, something happened that made Hal Jordan lose everything. In the wake of Superman’s death, 4 different heroes sprang up, each bearing a variation on his costume. One of them, a cyborg, was actually Hank Henshaw, a former astronaut who had been irradiated and could transfer his consciousness into anything metal. He masqueraded as “Cyborg Superman,” paving the way for an invasion by the alien warlord Mongul, who, with Henshaw’s help, blew up Coast City, Green Lantern’s home, and used it to construct a giant engine as part of a world domination scheme. Henshaw’s plan ultimately failed, but Coast City was gone.

Hal tried rebuilding Coast City with his ring, but was chastised by the Guardians for breaking a key tenet of the Corps: using the ring for personal gain. Enraged, Hal flew to Oa to absorb all the power from the central battery that fueled the rings of every GL, killing virtually every other Corps member who tried to stop him. He sucked all of the central battery’s power, becoming the villain Parallax. Years later, Hal temporarily broke free from Parallax, dying to save Earth. Afterwards, his soul played host to the Spectre, an old DC hero who is God’s Spirit of Vengeance. Hal pretty much vanished from comics after that until 2004, when writer Geoff Johns brought the character back to life and back to being Green Lantern in the 5-part miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth. It’s a fun story that I decided to reread on Easter. As I read my little trade that afternoon, I couldn’t help notice the various parallels with Christianity.

Besides the obvious good v. evil/light v. dark leitmotif throughout, there’s a very insightful examination into fear. See, the rule with Green Lantern has always been that his ring couldn’t affect anything yellow. Rebirth reveals this is because “Parallax”, the name Hal gave himself as a villain, is actually the living (yellow) embodiment of fear. Basically a giant lizard, it was imprisoned by the Guardians in the Central Battery. Because of that, the GL Corps had a problem with yellow because Parallax weakened the ring’s power over the spectrum. Parallax was later awakened by the villain Sinestro and was able to affect Hal Jordan, bonding onto his soul. That kinda reminds me of the demon-possessed man called Legion Jesus met, who cut himself with stones and cried uncontrollably. But when that man was freed by Jesus, the demons left him and went and drowned some pigs. The man himself returned to normal. But the locals, Mark tells us, “were afraid.”

In Rebirth, even after Parallax is conquered and trapped by Hal and other Green Lanterns, many other heroes still don’t trust him, Batman being the most vocal. He repeatedly tells the other heroes about how Hal was always cocky, never planned things out, and, as John Stewart, another Green Lantern reminds him, “didn’t buy what you’re selling. Hal was the man without fear.”

It’d be nice to live without fear, wouldn’t it? That way, you wouldn’t be afraid of what school to attend, what job to take, who to marry, and how to raise your kids. You’d just know what was right.

But the simple answer is that we don’t know what the right thing is. Only God does. He knew, over 2,000 years ago, that the right thing for Him to do was to send His own son to give up His life for us.

Due to that sacrifice, we can all experience our own Rebirth.

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