Religion And The “Mutant Menace”
If you are familiar with any of the comic series involving mutants (the most common being the X-Men), then you are probably familiar with their most common dilemma; in a world filled with heroes and super-powered individuals, mutants are unnecessarily hated and feared because they are genetically different from society. This has been a theme for decades and one that has always been prominent. Recently, I have taken to reading New X-Men and, as I was reading it, I noticed they portrayed this fundamental theme in a new light. No longer was the menace the general population, it was religion. A religion led by Reverend William Stryker.
I found this interesting, not just because it was nice to see a variation in theme, but because this is relatable for today’s society. Before I continue, I am religious and do not write this article to bash on religion; I do believe in religion, but likewise, I understand the writer’s intents and understand the beliefs of near all sides of the religious argument. I was disturbed to see a religious group preach racial hatred and to call for an end to the “mutant menace”; however, this same situation was believable. We live in that world of close-minded individuals where hate is approved under “just ideals”, where people are led to believe that non-believers are the spawns of Satan, where “acts of God” are pointed out by religious zealots to approve immoral actions.
This comic arc was disturbing at times. Reverend Stryker took the events of M-Day, the near-complete decimation of the mutant race as a result of the Scarlet Witch’s reality warping powers, as a sign that God was calling for the end of the mutant race, stating “He made the first step and now we have to take the rest”. People in the comic society were cheering and rallying around Stryker, all with strong anti-mutant sentiments. What was scarier was that Stryker was able to predict events outside of control, claiming that “God” spoke to him. To think that a God of any sort would allow such things is terrifying, yet Marvel wrote this not purely from their own imagination, but from events that the writers witness on the news.
This arc was also ironic sometimes. The mutants are not just “mutants” in terms of characters, they are complex characters from different ethnicities, places, and some holding different religions than others. Nightcrawler is a devout Catholic and has been shown in several series to be reading or quoting the Bible: the same Christian faith as Stryker. Dust, a new mutant, is, on the other hand, a devout Muslim. I found this ironic since in today’s society, some have an unnatural fear and hatred towards Muslims, but in the comic, the roles are reversed and it is the Christians who are committing atrocious crimes and the Muslim is purely innocent.
What is most important though, is what this all means; that hatred and violent acts cannot be justified, even by long-standing principles, no matter how justified we may feel. We may not agree nor feel that others are following the path of God, but we cannot condemn them nor strike out against them. People are people and that’s the message Marvel has been sending for years. Most mutants are persecuted for being genetically different; some are persecuted, as well, for being gay, for being a different religion than others, or for some other reason a person can have to hate another. To me as a comic reader, I was touched by this message, and I firmly agree with how Marvel wrote their story.
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