Superheroes and Mermaids

July 20, 2022

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.” Luke 13:34 CEB

This week’s summer camp theme for up-and-coming kindergartener Hélène is Superheroes and Mermaids.  Last night during our video call, she showed me the Captain America Shield and Mermaid Tail she made during arts and crafts. In this grandmother’s opinion, they were both amazing and cute. But I had to wonder why the children created Captain America shields. Why not Wonder Woman’s bracelet, Spider Gwen’s spider web, or Captain Marvel’s infinity stone? I hope she will grow up knowing that she can be not just a Disney mermaid, but also a Superhero.

I am not the superhero aficionado in the family. My spouse keeps me up to date on all the newest movies, characters, and plots. What I’ve learned in the past decade is that superheroes are not limited to white males, but to an ever-broadening diversity including gender, race, religion, nationality, age, and mental health issues.  

Those characters and the words and the images that they elicit are important. When I learned the Lord’s Prayer in Hawaiian, I discovered that it begins, “E ko makou makua” (our parent), rather than “e ko makou makua kane (a male parent in Hawaiian) or makua kane (a female parent in Hawaiian).  

I grew up with the King James version of the Bible. It was and still is the language of my heart and my Biblical mother tongue. Words like thy, thou, shalt, maketh and father roll off my  tongue without even thinking about what I am saying, much like Pittsburghese does when I am tired.

I am grateful that over the years I’ve discovered more images for God in the Bible, like Jesus’ desire to gather the people of Jerusalem like a mother “hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” (Luke 13:34)  God is said to “hide us in the shadow of God’s wings,” (Psalm 17:8). God comforts as “a mother comforts,” (Isaiah 66:13). God is like a housewife who has lost a coin, and “lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until it is found. (Luke 15:8). There is something freeing and affirming in knowing that the Holy One, the Creator, God who is beyond understanding, is described with images that are as close to my heart as those deeply embedded King James words are.

Our heavenly parent, for your nature that is beyond all language and yet as close as a mother hen, I give you thanks. ~ Anne

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