The Games of the 30th Olympiad begin this evening in London, so the world will once again pause and reflect on the heritage that the ancient Greeks bequeathed us. The funny thing is that the ancient Greeks probably wouldn’t recognize these games. Lots of time has passed since Greek athletes last converged on Olympia to celebrate their quadrennial games in honor of Zeus. Our modern Olympic games probably tell us more about the values of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century than they do about the ancient Greeks. The ideals of the modern Olympic games are the values embodied by the progressive spirit of the post-Enlightenment. Both of these models of Olympic virtue, however, are problematic for Christians.
When I mentioned to my wife that the new Batman movie comes out tomorrow, she responded, “What? Another superhero movie!” Those four words managed to express a perfect blend of astonishment and disgust. Her outburst reminded me of something Ross Douthat wrote earlier this year on the New York Times website. Douthat was bemoaning the fact that The Avengers was going to be a great movie. Since The Avengers was to be so successful, studios will make more superhero films to follow up on that success. Add that to the superhero movies that led up to The Avengers, and we find ourselves with too many movies based on comic books. Douthat thinks this is such a tragedy because all the time and money that studios invest in superhero movies ensures that resources won’t be invested in fresh movies with new concepts and themes. With The Dark Knight Rises on the horizon, I’d like to argue, however, that the superhero movie ought not be disparaged but should be celebrated as consistent with our Western Tradition. Continue reading