by Mark Rodgers
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. – Genesis 1:1-5
Most of us are familiar with the Biblical narrative of creation and its essential elements: God is outside of creation, is good and said His creation was good; God made man in His image, but man, tempted by a fallen angel, enabled by free will and motivated to be like God has meant that a corrupted creation has produced pain and suffering; we have the potential for great good, and extreme evil; but history has a direction, and this struggle will conclude when God restores creation, but until then evil has to be restrained for justice to be pursued.
For those of you who have seen Wonder Woman (which with a $700 million global box office return as of this writing, means most of us have), you may have heard echoes of the same story: In the beginning, there was Zeus; who created man to worship himself and his fellow gods, and saw that it was good; Zeus is a good, just Creator; he created mankind in his own image, after all, and before these creations were turned towards darkness, they lived happily and peacefully. But a fall precipitated by Ares, the son of Zeus and the author of conflict and war, has drenched the world in bloodshed, with Ares at time whispering in our ears like C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape to tempt us to choose evil over good.
This is not your father’s Greek creation myth.
The reimagining of the creation story for Wonder Woman is essential for the franchise, as it sets the metanarrative for the rest of the films that are being released over the next decade. No small investment, both from a financial and story perspective.
But it is also a reminder that myth matters, for myths reflect and shape our understanding of the first principles: who were are, where we’ve come from, our purpose in the world and where we are (all) going.
Greek myth rooted creation in chaos, with gods serving as mercurial, capricious and often cruel masters of mankind. Modern myths vary from the materialistic view of a closed universe that is slowly coming apart with little purpose for man other than to make the best of our short lives before extinction, to hopeful pseudo-religious utopian myths of progress and eventual human transcendence as man and machine evolve together and eventually become one, no longer constrained by the limits of the human condition (whatever that is, from a moral perspective).
Myths matter, because we make personal and policy choices guided by them. Reflecting on our nation’s 241st birthday, America’s remarkable stability and flourishing is due in large measure to our Founding Fathers’ creation story, which asserted that:
- All men are created equal, and that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights;
- Among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness;
- Mankind is “disposed to suffer” and that “evils are sufferable”
- We are connected to each other through “powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” us;
- Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
- And that certain truths are “self-evident”.
Shaped by the One True Myth, our founders constructed a system of governance that decentralized authority, devolved power, created checks and balances, and fundamentally distrusted human nature, understanding as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would later observe that “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”
When a modern myth reflects the One True Myth, it can be counted as “true, good and beautiful” for the consequence of its consumption is fundamentally redemptive. It reaffirms what is true about the universe, inspires us to great good, and helps us restore what was and is beautiful in creation’s intent.
But the converse is also true. When a modern myth is a lie, it leads to destruction. One only needs to look at the Marxist myth and see its consequence on a country like Venezuela, which has spiraled into anarchy with leaders crafting their own myths and behaving like the Greek gods.
Let’s celebrate this Independence Day that our nation was founded when the metanarrative of creation, forged by both the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening, was a reflection of the One True Myth. Myths matter.