“Yours is the battle, and from You is power, and it is not ours; nor has our strength or the might of our hands done valiantly, but it is by Your strength and by the power of Your great might; as you made known to us of old…” (The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness, Dead Sea Scrolls)
I have a confession: I want to be Wonder Woman.
When I first started seeing the promos for the new Wonder Woman movie, I knew I wanted to go see it. I can’t exactly explain why. I love stories where women are the heroines rather than those who are helpless and in need of rescue, and so there was a little of that in there motivating me to go and see it. But there was more; I’m not exactly sure I can explain it because I think I sensed a draw to the movie based on some of what I am currently studying. In July of this year, Apostolic University’s distance seminary class will be on demonology, spiritual warfare, healing, and deliverance, and it will be taught by yours truly. Since I can’t stand most of the existing textbooks on the topic, I am penning my own. As of today, I am ten chapters in to my fifteen-chapter book, which has explored every conceivable facet that covers those different topics. I am currently writing about spiritual warfare, which means there was never a more perfect time for me to see the new Wonder Woman film. I didn’t expect it to draw me into so much thought and realization as it did, but that’s what writers, bloggers, and spiritual people often do: we draw inspiration and gain insight from things we would never expect.
Let me say upfront: I am not anywhere near an enthusiast of the superhero genre. I never read a comic book in my entire life. One of the major reasons why I never read them is because I didn’t like the way women were portrayed in them. If you step back and think about it, almost every single portrayal of women in comic books is negative. From Cat Woman to Poison Ivy, women are portrayed as temptresses, vixens, manipulators and outright bitches, for no other reason than they are on the wrong side of the story. Save a few female characters in Marvel’s X Men, women in comic books have served the general role of villianesque window dressing. And to me, as a girl growing up, I had a problem with that. The general Wonder Woman image of the 70s, personified by Lynda Carter, didn’t interest me much, either, because the association of it was so sexualized by the time I came along. I believed, within my association of what I saw, that Wonder Woman wasn’t a serious superhero character, just something someone made up to further a bad concept of women that the world already had.
So I was quite delighted when I was corrected about my concept of Wonder Woman. It shocked me to learn she was originally conceived in 1941 by a psychologist who desired to create a female role model who would embody the idea of a woman who had the ability, power, and strength to rule the world. Apparently this image was changed into more of the concept of Wonder Woman that I had because people were afraid the impression of the character was somehow encouraging girls to become lesbians. I really hope we are past that now, because, a) I do not believe we can “encourage” people to be attracted away from whatever they are attracted to to begin with, and b) This is stupid. As a girl, I often say that I had such a hard time finding heroes because there just weren’t any that I could see. There was such a generation gap in many ways between the girls my age and our parents’ generations; so much had changed. There weren’t any female characters on television who were particularly notable, let alone someone who was doing something I wanted to do. Things were changing, but they didn’t change fast enough for women of my generation to see it like we needed to.
So for me, seeing this movie, I got to finally see my superhero, right at the crux of reading on spiritual warfare and battle at this stage of my life.
Spiritual warfare is one of those topics women don’t hear a lot about. That’s one of those topics the men’s conferences get, along with being strong, being good leaders, and general skills for success. Women get crap like “How to make your man happy,” “How to do way too many things in life and still keep everyone satisfied,” and “How to wear big, ugly hats while drinking tea.” OK, so maybe those aren’t the actual titles, but that’s what’s taught, or implied, or stated. When I tried to get a different kind of women’s conference rolling some years back, the whole thing literally blew up in my face as the women – yes, I said the women – wanted to bring the old with them after I specifically told them not to. We want to talk about women being “on the front lines” as long as it means spending our entire lives in warfare for our families and never daring to do anything but take care of other people. Any suggestion of anything else was considered “rebellious.” In fact, everything seems to be a contradiction for women. The concept of female roles is still so die cast in much of Christianity, and it often feels like I’m banging my head against a hard, cold, brick wall that does nothing but dent my forehead. For every one or two steps we make in trying to persevere in helping women to understand themselves better and gain a true Biblical understanding about us as women, there is always someone who wants to uphold old-fashioned interpretations of strange literalisms that don’t seem to die.
But spiritual warfare is either for all of us who are believers, or it’s not. The Bible doesn’t make a gender-specific ideal that men are spiritual warriors and women wear ugly hats while wearing white and drinking tea. Fighting on those battle lines, contending with the devil and winning, is for all of us, which is why it is such a crying shame that Christian women do not encourage their daughters to stand up and be counted in that battle. When the day of judgment comes or any spiritual battle rises up, the women do not have the option to go sit down somewhere. We should be training and receiving the necessary disciplines to do what we need to do, because there isn’t going to be gender-specified warfare. Warfare is warfare is warfare and we all need to learn how to be strong, because life is hard.
Thus, enter comic book heroes, who remind us that you can look like everyone else and still be the strongest one in the room. Even if you are a girl.
As I was penning my chapters on spiritual warfare, looking at Ephesians 6 and the War Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls, I took note of how central Rome was in their viewpoints and visions. The Roman army was the inspiration behind the Apostle Paul’s “armor of God.” In Revelation and the War Scroll, fighting Rome is a primacy in the battle of good and evil. As I was studying on these things, it made me stop and wonder: why Rome? Surely there were other armies that Bible writers had encountered, so why was Rome so special.
At that point in history, Rome was paramount to the strongest, biggest, best, and most powerful army in the entire world. There was no army that had been bigger or better, and the way they came in, took over, decimated cities, and occupied nations was unparalleled. They were so mighty, it was beyond the comprehension of anyone how this army could be tackled by natural means. It didn’t seem like any human army could compare with the mighty Romans, which made them parallel with the battle of good and evil. As a result, they were ones to watch, to take notes from, to see how they moved, because their strategies were effective, even if they weren’t the catalyst of anything spiritually moral. There were still things to learn from them, and by learning from the enemy, God could move supernaturally and topple them, right then and there.
Our superhero genre is rooted in the same mentality. Most of the comic book characters were inspired by war time, because the enemy forces seemed so invading, so horrific, so larger-than-life, it didn’t seem like they could be defeated by natural means. Whether it was the Germans during World War I, the Nazis during World War II, the Russians during the Cold War, or ISIS and other rebel groups in more modern times, it seems like they are so powerful, so effective, and so never-ending, it is going to take a superhuman characteristic to come in and invade such forces.
That’s the same principle behind spiritual warfare. The Wonder Woman movie acknowledged the concept of spiritual behind-the-scenes forces influencing the movements of mankind. Yes, the conflict of good and evil takes the form of Greco-Roman mythology and is not particularly Christian in its approach (I’m waiting for someone to compare Aries to Baphomet…I am just waiting…), but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from it. Spiritual warfare is about more than just what we see; it’s about what we can’t see, and about the realization that the battle is not ours, it’s not about us, it’s not about getting what we want out of the battle…it’s about being a part of something bigger. Just like Wonder Woman, who above all, shows us that girls and women can battle just as good as men can.
If you see the movie, the attire is completely reminiscent of that of Roman soldiers, right down to the details that indicate rank and file. If you want to get a great impression of the concept of the “shield of faith,” the “belt of truth,” the “sword of the Spirit,” “the breastplate of righteousness,” and even the disciplines it takes to become a great warrior – you will see it in this movie. Diana Prince’s role proves to us that decisions are not always easy, and we often walk into things quite naieve, without proper knowledge of what we will find, because we are driven by something greater. She knew she had to fight, but she didn’t know why, and she was a woman in a male-dominated world, completely unprepared for what she would find. She still had to stand there, she still had to do what she needed to do, because that’s how spiritual battle works.
There were points in the movie that also proved that happy endings don’t always come the way we want them to. We’ve tried so hard to avoid the reality that life bears choices and we can’t always get what we want in church, we are chasing after things with a pursuit and a vengeance that is leaving us confused and frustrated. Yeah, she had the power to save the guy, but the choice was save the guy or save the world. He, too, recognized that there were sacrifices that had to be made, but it didn’t mean either one of them was thrilled about what had to be done. That was the real life aspect of battle: we can have what we want, or we can save the world. We can’t always have both. Maybe we are lucky enough to get parts of it here and there, but in spiritual battle, there’s a bigger picture.
And it’s that bigger picture I think we need to look more into, especially as women, when it comes to life and spirituality. I recently read a story about a female blogger whose whole blogging experience was about her life – and her life was figuring out her family and how to pick up crayons and toys, not to mention forgiving her philandering husband. After her divorce and marrying a woman, her entire scope has changed, embracing and looking at women’s issues around the world and raising money and advocacy for different causes. As I read the story, I wondered why it is that women in the “standard” situation of kids and husbands can’t seem to see past that, as it overtakes and engulfs them, but these other women seem to want to help the whole world. I’m going to say something that others will probably say I shouldn’t, but I feel we are trying so hard to “prove” something about ourselves through our families that we’ve stopped making family just a part of life. We’ve turned it into a “calling,” something that is going to demand our entire lives and consume us until there is nothing left. Can I say, this isn’t God’s plan for any of us, that we get so lost in concepts we lose sight of the bigger battle, the bigger needs, that exist in this world. Marriage and family were never meant to be all-consuming, whether you are married to a man, a woman, however a person identifies as themselves. Marriage, family, kids, are all a part of life. Sometimes we need to make choices. Sometimes it’s time to say the kids are old enough, my spouse can take care of himself/herself, and step out, and do what we need to do.
Let’s start to love our girls, our children, for who they are, instead of as extensions of us. Let’s want more for them. Let’s want more for ourselves. Let’s be better role models. Let’s all be Wonder Woman.
We need to make up our minds about the message we want to give to our girls. We can’t keep telling them they can do anything they want and then lecture them on outdated marriage roles and principles of submission and sexual identity that just don’t fit as answers anymore for the world we live in. We can’t keep telling our girls to do better and then give them the idea that there’s nothing out there for them.
We can have what we want, or we can save the world. We can have perfect children (who won’t be, but anyway), or we can save the world. We can fight for our families, or we can save the world. We can idolize our families, or we can save the world. We can keep pretending to be the perfect woman (which we’re not), or we can save the world. We can do any of these things we’ve been doing forever, or we can save the world, but we can’t do both because one end presents themselves as a part of control, and the other presents as part of freedom.
Diana Prince wasn’t perfect. She didn’t know everything. She wasn’t real familiar how to handle herself in a war full of men. She wasn’t acclimated to culture, and lacked some basic socialization skills. She was smart; her smarts were just as important as any other aspect of her, and she didn’t hide them. She was who she was because that’s what was needed to save the world. Steve saved the day, but Diana saved the world.
In this day and age, Diana Prince needs to speak to us, because we’re in a time where we need to be willing to go our and save the world. Bring your daughters to the movies. Show them what a strong woman looks like. Let them believe they can too achieve anything through love, even overcome evil.
I want to be Wonder Woman. Not because she can do everything, but because she can do what she is supposed to, and do it better than anyone else.
Want to be Wonder Woman. Be Wonder Woman for your daughters. Heaven knows, we need some good women to go out and save the world from itself in a way that only we can.
(c) 2017 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.