I just Wonder…

Wonder Woman B 6-17 Finally saw Wonder Woman with friends last weekend. Exciting stuff; but beyond the preternatural reflexes, bullet-deflecting bracelets and gender politics, I was intrigued by its vision of a realm of powers and possibilities behind our humdrum human existence. Where there’s more to life than just meets the eye…

Don’t get me wrong. A superhero flick is fun for the spectacle alone. To see armour-clad Amazons leaping off cliffs, Matrix-style martial artistry and the slow-mo trajectory of speeding bullets being stopped in the nick of time, entertains me as much as the next punter. But where larger themes and questions are raised, that’s when I really get riveted.

To outline the plot… Diana, played by Vulcan eye-browed Gal Gadot (alliteration covered), is called away from her women-only paradise, to help a stricken US spy to foil a plot involving some particularly nasty poisonous gases in World War I. Cue much fish out of water hilarity including first impressions of London (“It’s hideous”), negotiating 1940s fashion, getting along with dumpy secretary played by Lucy Davis from The Office, and trying to get through a revolving door wielding a very big sword. She’s more in her comfort zone once in the trenches – wandering into no man’s land with little more than a blingy bandana, some tough bracelets and Amazonian attitude (there’s a shield too – I’ll come to that).

But the primary point that piqued my interest and prompted this post (beside my evident penchant for p’s)… It transpires that the god Aries whose reality she fervently believes in, against her companion’s scepticism, is indeed real, a malevolent orchestrating power behind the scenes, bent on humankind’s destruction. Our super-heroine wants none of his twisted vision of an Eden-like utopia free of human messiness. A clear-eyed recognition of humanity’s capacity for both good and evil – essential fallen-ness – doesn’t dampen her resolve to stand with them. “It’s not about ‘deserve’ – it’s about what you believe; and I believe in love”. The notion of grace – unmerited favour – right there.

Another scene earlier in the film – one of its most arresting, (others included here), both packs a powerful emotional punch and has spiritual resonance to boot. Having ventured into ‘no-man’s land’, she strains to hold her shield steady to deflect the ferocious onslaught of the enemy’s firepower. This vision of a lone warrior resisting everything that’s thrown at her is enough to bring a lump to the throat – not least for what it represents. We can all appreciate the strength of the human spirit to find resources to resist insult and all manner of ‘bad stuff’. For a Christian it also brings to mind the deeper idea of drawing on the power of God, taking up what Paul calls the ‘shield of faith…with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one’.

You may want to bracket that as a mere private ‘religious’ view. But if you’ll permit me a (tongue in cheek) Wonder Woman moment, I’d send the challenge ricocheting back. Which worldview is more fantastical… that all our human experience, the depths of horror, the heights of love, amount in the end to dust, to no more than Humphrey Bogart’s ‘hill of beans’ (in ‘Casablanca’)? Or that there is indeed more to reality than meets the eye – that the spiritual is real? In our materialistic and often trivial culture, maybe depicting the idea in a superhero blockbuster is one way to give it wings.

Image courtesy of

Poll position?

Wonder Woman 6-17
What a week. First, Saturday night and the election campaign’s second terror attack. Amid the shocking brutality and cowardice – three men attacking defenceless civilians including women – I wondered how such a warped view could possibly evolve of a god who might regard such thuggery as ‘a beloved act’…

But then horror at the despicable deed was mingled with a certain thrill at the feline swiftness of the police and SAS in dispatching the thugs, and admiration for those who did what they could to thwart the rampage and defend the defenceless. The whole episode made me ponder whether I too would be prepared to act bravely in such circumstances. How can you know until it confronts you? I just hope I would.

And what of Wonder Woman? Actually I haven’t seen it yet, but won’t let that stop me commenting ha ha! (I’ve seen the trailer and some reviews if that helps). Resonance with the terror attack on the film’s opening weekend wasn’t hard to see; if simply the contrast between cowardly men misusing power to perpetrate atrocity, and a woman using power (in part supernatural) to protect and do good. She has an exotic accent, some funny lines and one helluva luminous lasso to boot, so I’m already sold. Never mind that the theme tune isn’t as good as the 70s TV series, and she doesn’t spin round and do the wardrobe change in a blinding puff of light like Lynda Carter did. Fashions change.

From what I’ve absorbed so far, what I particularly like about this portrayal of WW as she steps into the early 20th century to take on World War I, is her idealism, borne out of both a certain naivety about this new environment she has entered, and confidence in her Amazonian roots and the power invested in her to make a difference. So in this week marked by both a despicable deed and our day of democracy, what do I take from the DC comic heroine’s example? Three things spring to mind, rooted in my faith but with which her portrayal resonates.

First, I aspire too to be a warrior, though of the spirit more than the super heroic. Not least among New Testament imagery of life in Christ, is Paul’s description of the armour of God in Ephesians 6: 10-18. It’s emphatically declared to be for a battle “not against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. Though I believe that being armed with such attitudes as are tied up in the belt of truth, shield of faith and sword of the spirit can only assist in earthly situations and conflicts too.

Second, I’ll vote today with heart and hope, not succumbing to apathy or any false feeling that my vote doesn’t count, but confident that it does, remembering not least the bravery of ordinary ‘wonder women’ who fought for it to be available to all. And finally, in a secular and sometimes cynical cultural climate, I’ll persevere alongside our rebooted superheroine in holding on to a child-like (not childish) confidence in a story and power bigger than and beyond myself, where I am rooted and find home.

Happy viewing – and voting. Image from

Brides, Beatles & breaking boundaries

the-beatles-726046_1920As this blog post is inspired by today’s original release date of the ‘Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album, combined with an article I read triggered by the Duchess’s sister’s recent £250K wedding, I guess I could equally have titled this piece, ‘Pippa & Pepper’. Bizarrely, it was a chance reading of a biblical wedding today that actually prompted me to put pen to digital parchment.

On a train home on Monday, I found myself reading a Times article bewailing the contemporary cost of matrimony. Twenty seven thousand pounds on average, to be precise, which roughly equals the amount I’ve spent on rent during nine years in Bradford (which makes me feel slightly better about the rent). Nine years rent spent on a single day is a lot – even if it is meant to be the best one of your life.

Leaping (as you do) from the best day of your life to ‘A Day in the Life’ and Sergeant Pepper… Well, on a bus back from Leeds yesterday I read a Times review article called ‘How the Fab Four and friends made ‘the best album ever’.’ (I read some good stuff on public transport). I remember listening a lot to Sergeant Pepper in the car on family holidays, especially liking the upbeat ‘Getting Better’ and the resonant melancholy of ‘A Day in the Life’ with its ‘four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’ and so on. Had no idea what it was on about, but it sounded profound.

To link the two themes and lead on to my third… It strikes me that “Pepper”’s renowned quality of boundary-pushing experimentalism might be happily applied to a modern day wedding to lessen the stress (and expense) and froth up the fun. My (married) colleague Naomi can vouch for this. Apparently the creativity of companions adds all kinds of value!

And so to envelope-pusher extraordinaire, the guy Lennon once claimed the Beatles were more popular than, water-into-wine man Jesus. The Cana wedding incident in John 2 is one of those set piece miracles – along with walking on water – that most of us still remember, no matter how distant a memory Sunday school otherwise is.

You may possibly have attended matrimonial merriment where the miracle would have worked more beneficially the other way round – but run with me. Water to wine was both a startling occurrence and a highly mine-able metaphor. A ‘sign’ revealing Jesus as the ‘new wine’ of the gospel of grace (the best saved till last). Now wine labels can sound famously exotic; ‘a toasty little oak on the nose’ is from memory one of my all-time favourites. Jesus may not have boasted that particular quality, but through the Spirit still offers to fill a human life with endless richness and variety. He broke and breaks boundaries, and I believe he can make me a boundary-breaker. I’ll drink to that – as I sample another ‘Pepper’ track or two.