In Superman #41, in stores last week, the Man of Steel discussed his belief in God — and just like every other time that has happened, it has become news inside and outside of genre circles, so let’s take a little peek at what is driving the discussion.
Writer James Robinson, filling in for regular Super-scribes Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, brought Superman and his son Jon to witness the end of a dying world, experiencing something not entirely unlike what happened to Superman’s birth world of Krypton.
(Ironically, Superman witnessed the destruction of Krypton firsthand in an unrelated Action Comics story this week.)
Along the way, Jon asked his father whether or not he believed in God.
“Honestly, Jon,” Superman says in the issue, “I’ve seen too much not to believe in ‘something.’ But this is the important part…’something’ isn’t everything.”
The implication, of course, is that it is not belief but behavior that truly matters.
“Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth,” says 1 John 3:18, in a Bible passage that would back up such an interpretation.
Superman, of course, is friendly with The Spectre, created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel with artist Bernard Baily. The Spectre, it is generally accepted, is the vengeful hand of God…which of course implies that God is a thing that exists.
At the same time, there are pantheons of gods both old (just ask Wonder Woman, whose dad is Zeus) and New (see Mister Miracle about that) wandering through the DC Universe.
As suggested above, this is hardly the first time the question of Superman’s spirituality has been addressed. Superman, who was raised on a farm in Kansas, was likely brought up in an environment where God’s existence is a matter-of-fact thing. The Kents have been shown as regular churchgoers in several of their iterations over the years.
In Action Comics #850, this was made explicit, in a story that discussed Clark’s family history fairly openly. He was raised Methodist, according to that story, and he and Martha both attended church fairly regularly. Jonathan Kent was not a regular churchgoer, but did not appear to have any reservations about God or his son’s church attendance.
In John Byrne’s The Man of Steel, Jonathan told Clark that he had prayed for him during then-recent struggles.
In his adult life, Clark Kent no longer regularly attends church (although he and Lois were married in one) and does not seem to identify specifically as Methodist, adopting a more broad-spectrum approach to spirituality as seen with the “something isn’t everything” observation.