I hope you enjoy Winston Crutchfield’s guest post and will check out his Kickstarter!
The “X-Men” franchise has a long history of social commentary, using mutants as a blanket stand-in for groups historically or presently suffering persecution. Perhaps the strongest and most consistent social commentary addressed the Holocaust perpetrated upon the Jewish population of Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied nations, a theme that has persisted throughout the life of the title. In the 1960s, Stan Lee included stories about prejudice and racism as a response to the equal rights movement of the time. The popularity of the franchise flagged, waiting until Chris Claremont and John Byrne took the reins in the 1970s to really take off. Claremont and Byrne routinely addressed issues of intolerance and hypocrisy, eventually culminating in a story I consider to be the magnum opus of the series: “God Loves, Man Kills.”
Resisting the urge to delve into a literary breakdown of the story, I’ll say only that my reading of the story and the characters reveals the ultimate motivation of the antagonists to spring not from hatred or fear but from selfishness and pride. That in fact hatred and fear are themselves the products of both selfishness and pride. Claremont uses the speculative fiction format to address in a poignant way the results of these cardinal sins and the contrast between selfish and selfless actions. In Claremont’s story, it is not the origin of the people that determine their status as hero or villain, but the actions which they undertake.
I am a mutant. I was born different. The Bible tells me so. “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5) Paul’s instruction in the letters to the Thessalonian church explains that we are not privileged to know the roster of salvation but must identify people based on their actions, that actions both determine and reveal one’s character.
In Claremont’s story, the lines between human and mutant are seldom clear. The leader of the anti-mutant agenda has a mutant son. A prominent anti-mutant senator is himself a mutant. Some people who are possibly not mutants are certainly innocent victims. Some of the mutants act in ways that cast them as the villains. Some of the humans are clearly in the right to hate and fear mutants. Actions on both sides are divisive and extreme; no one seems to be clearly in the right without ambiguity. If this story used existing racial or other subdivisions, it would swiftly result in heated opinions and accusations of intolerance, hatred, and self-superiority. But these are mutants, so everything’s okay. Right?
Stories like this are important because they give us an emotional buffer between our own situation and a clear assessment of the same. My status as a mutant does not automatically entitle me to special consideration or treatment. If I am shunned because I am a mutant, I have no right to insist that others accept me over their own objections. I must choose between peaceably coexisting with my neighbors and demanding that they accommodate my mutant status. I must remember that sometimes hate and fear are based on an entirely understandable reaction to the harmful actions of other mutants. And I must remember that in the end, they only way people will know I am a mutant is through my actions.
What kind of mutant do my actions reveal me to be? What do yours? Are we to be hated and feared? If so, our mutations will reveal themselves in a character given to abuse, hatred, deceit, greed, dissipation, selfishness, and hubris. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) If these are the marks of my mutation, I have good cause to question my character. What then is my recourse? Do these things reveal my character? Can I change my character by changing my actions? Scripture emphatically affirms that this is so, and gives clear instruction on behavioral principles.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galations 5:22-23)
Winston Crutchfield’s blog and podcast may be found at Critical Press Media, where he attempts to maintain a balance between geekery and scholarship. His project “Opposing Forces: a tactical manual and bestiary of foes for Fate Core” is currently funding on Kickstarter.