Currently, the biggest pop culture phenomenon is Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the most anticipated superhero film of 2021. The story behind this film is a long and contentious one, that I believe sheds some light on our culture. Zach Snyder has been the showrunner for the DCEU ‘multiverse’ under Warner Brothers Studio. The DCEU was riddled with high ceilings and really low floors. Having made Man of Steel (directed by Christopher Nolan) and Batman vs Superman, Zack Snyder was set to take his story to the next stage with Justice League.
However, during post-production his daughter committed suicide and Snyder stepped back from the project to grieve. That’s when Warner Brother’s decided to replace Zack Snyder with Joss Whedon. The result was a clone of Avengers with DC characters and considerably awful CGI. There came about a conspiracy theory that Zack Snyder had his own cut of the movie that was rejected in favor of a more generic film. The fan theory gained traction, with even the cast supporting it. Years later, in an effort to launch a streaming service, AT&T ordered the Snyder cut be made to capitalize off of market forces.
The result is a four hour movie. Having climbed this Mt. Everest of a film, I believe it to be a brilliant film. Despite having the same basic plot, the story was completely different. It dealt far less in bickering and instead focused on building in details that would allow the story to make sense, developing character backgrounds, and creating a vastly superior visual experience. It’s a bit self-indulgent at times and certain cast jobs remain horrendous, but overall it was a solid movie. A major emphasis in the Snyder Cut was the significance of parental relationships. Father to son. Mother to son. Mother to daughter. Despite not being a Christian, Snyder has an undoubted respect for the 6th Commandment in his films.
When people watch a DC movie, they expect a certain depth from their viewing experience that they wouldn’t get from most Marvel movies. Their movies live and die based on their ability to execute this competitive advantage. It cannot be understated, that the demand for the Snyder Cut is fueled in large part because a segment of the population wants to hear stories with meat on the bone as opposed to a generic cookie cutter template.
While this fascinating story should not be used to teach us about faithful Christian living, it can teach us about the culture in which we live. The first question I want to ask is what do people expect when they walk into church?
The carnal person will expect entertainment value out of a church experience. Some of America’s largest churches cater solely to carnal desires such as wealth, health, and even lust. I would not doubt that a number of bible believing churches struggle with not placing too much emphasis on their own entertainment value by overemphasizing music, programs, graphics, and comedy from the pulpit.
As for the Christian, our souls long for connection with the Body of Christ. The assembly of the saints must not be forsaken for this purpose. There is an expectation that we worship God, singing songs to Him, partake in the ordinances, and grow in our knowledge and maturity in God’s word.
Along these lines, there is a larger segment of the population than we realize that wants deeper, more advanced instruction from their pastors than much of the generic messages or sermons out there. I’m personally not big on devotionals (not to be confused with reading Scripture) because many if not most devotionals aren’t challenging. Growing up in the church, I heard much more intellectually rigorous sermons from my youth pastor, than as an adult in a different, more carnal church environment.
Putting aside our thoughts on the public school system, America’s youth are taught advanced mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and subjects that the average person knew little about two centuries ago. The youth can handle theology. I would even argue that they, if already saved, desire it. Thus the inward desire to know God more, to know Scripture better, will bring joy that is deeper and more fulfilling than the Marvel Churches.
But even among those who are not yet saved, the explorations of Scripture will present the gospel more honestly than attempts to lure people in by feeding carnal desires. And to this, I would argue that there is a large segment of the population of those not save that is uninterested in church trying to be entertainment for them. They already have ample entertainment options if they have a smart TV. They want to be challenged with ideas, specifically Christian ideas, like the crowds that watched Socrates humiliate the sophists. The Snyder Cut and the fan base surrounding it is proof that our society is craving more intellectual vigor than the church largely assumes or supplies.
Other examples to add to this hypothesis are the success of Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and the like, because they provide more engaging content.
This cultural phenomenon should be addressed by the church. And I believe the way to address it in the church is grounded exegesis that can connect a passage of Scripture to the gospel. So, basically what the church already should be doing.