Gods of War

This is another article that never made it into the Costume Chronicles.


C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity is the myth that came true,” implying that all myths in some way pay homage to and point toward the coming Christ. There is no more apparent contrast between mythology and Christianity than in the remake of Clash of the Titans. Gods now rule the earth: Zeus in the skies, Poseidon in the seas, and Hades in the underworld. While there are still those on earth who are faithful in worshipping them, others have chosen defiance. Zeus, the creator of mankind, loves his children but will not stand for their rebellion and permits Hades to show them his wrath, striking fear into the hearts of the people and giving them an impossible ultimatum —sacrifice Princess Andromeda to the Kraken or be destroyed.

Perseus, a local fisherman who lost his family due to Hades, vows to find a means of defeating the Kraken. This takes him on a quest of self-discovery and peril as he encounters Witches, the Boatman of the Dead, and even Medusa. Although this interpretation of ancient mythology takes many liberties with the original, it presents an interesting twist on the material and further emphasizes the similarities and differences between mythology and Christianity.

Demigods are a popular topic in Greek Mythology, revolving around stories of gods impregnating mortal women and bringing forth sons of great significance. The child is raised by a humble family (in this case a fisherman and his wife) with no idea of his origins and later accomplishes a great task. Perseus defeats the Kraken and casts Hades into the underworld, effectively saving mankind. If one chooses to look at the tale as C.S. Lewis suggests, it is impossible not to see the symbolism of an early representation of Christ, who came to fulfill all myths and prophecies (not just those within Judaism). If you approach mythology with that in mind the ramifications become astonishing but also illuminate profound and in many ways important differences, particularly when it comes to mankind’s view of God. The overall concept of God according to the Ancient Greeks is of tyrannical, unforgiving forces: most of the gods are vengeful rapists bent on destruction and punishment for misbehavior. Even the goddesses show no mercy, as the film reveals when Io tells the story of Medusa, who was violated by Poseidon in the temple of a goddess. Rather than show her mercy as she pleaded for compassion, the goddess transformed her into a beast so hideous that no man would ever gaze on her with desire again and one look into her eyes would turn him to stone.

Zeus created mankind not to love them but harvest their love and relies on their worship to strengthen his influence. He is not interested in free will and when a loss of faith spreads through the world, he permits Hades to punish them and remind them of his existence, hoping it will cause them to return to him. Zeus is at first unaware of his son’s existence, for he took Perseus’ mother out of lust rather than for a divine purpose but when learning the truth offers him a place of safety in Olympus. Perseus refuses, harboring a grudge against the gods for the death of his family; Zeus then gives him tools to assist him in defeating the Kraken and Hades when it becomes apparent that his brother is more interested in ultimate power than restoring the faith of the masses. In the end, Perseus wins Zeus’ approval and chooses to live among the mortals. Zeus resurrects the woman Perseus loves from death as a reward. When Perseus asks why Zeus assisted him in defeating Hades, his father answers that he could not sacrifice his own son for mankind.

Where this myth differs from Christianity is in the details rather than the overall concept. Christians believe God created man with free will and does not need affirmation or worship in order to maintain power. God chose to give mankind a chance at eternal life through a blood sacrifice of His son. He chose a virtuous girl for an immaculate conception (there was no deception involved, unlike Zeus) and His son grew up with total awareness of His true purpose. As a “demigod,” Jesus went on to defeat Satan (Hades), providing salvation for the masses, and ascended into the heavens.

Andromeda is a representation of Faith and is even referenced as a “missionary” by her mother, who is full of scorn for her beliefs. Perseus’ intention is to save her, and in doing so, he saves mankind. It could be said that Andromeda is a symbol of the Church: a collection of believers who revere and worship God, and whom Christ (Perseus) came to save from eternal death. The original myth supports this theory even more, since Perseus weds Andromeda, as the Church is believed to be the Bride of Christ.

The difference between the myths of other cultures and Christianity is that ours is the only God of Love. The gods of Ancient Greek and Roman mythology are deities of vengeance and tyranny; none of them offered salvation to mortals and certainly were unwilling to sacrifice a son for the good of mankind! But the sheer existence of these deities further reveals mankind’s deep belief that we have a higher purpose and a Creator. Even the isolated tribal nations believed in gods and goddesses, implying that deep in all our origins is a collective understanding of a divining, intervening force in our lives. All other faiths explore these deities and life after death from a perspective of fear; Christianity is the only one that requires nothing more than acceptance, and provides eternal life for mortals through the sacrifice of a “demigod,” in the belief that God is ultimately of Love rather than Vengeance, since unlike Zeus, He could sacrifice His son for us.

And I for one am very grateful.

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