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Free online course explores relationship between superheroes and adventure and Christian discipleship


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John Burger - published on 11/17/19

Daniel Keating, professor of theology at Sacred Heart Seminary, offers an insight that may aid Advent reflection.

As a professor of theology, Daniel Keating is a serious man. He has a doctorate in the subject from Oxford and has taught classes such as Scripture, Theology, the Church Fathers, Evangelization, and Ecumenism.

But he still looks back to the time when he made a weekly trip to the supermarket to grab the latest comic books chronicling the adventures of Batman, Superman, the Green Lantern and others.

A sense of adventure is what drew Keating to the tales, and it only got ramped up when he graduated to books like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings.

“More than any other books, these ignited within me a longing for adventure and a desire for the heroic life,” Keating writes in his 2018 book The Adventure of Discipleship. The book presents the Gospel through the lens of great adventure stories like The Lord of the Rings and even popular adventure movies, comic book superheroes, and TV series.

Now, Keating, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Michigan, is sharing his work in a free online course. The four-week non-credit course runs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 28. It involves a weekly lecture video that lasts 20 minutes, supplemental reading material, an online discussion forum and personal, non-graded quizzes.

“I wanted to offer, especially to young people, a path into the Gospel I thought would be more accessible to them,” Keating told the Detroit Catholic. “I wrote the book in a way that awakens them to see the life of a disciple through the lens of an adventure story.”

How is Christian discipleship an adventure? Keating explains that “Jesus tells us that to be his disciple we must surrender everything and, with his grace, brave the path provided for us by God. Such a sojourn will surely be marked by joy, suffering, uncertainty, and above all adventure.”

Literature such as The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as popular adventure movies, comic book superheroes, and TV series are reflections of the great adventure of discipleship, he said, but “they provide us with genuine insight into life with Christ.

“We must respond to the call of discipleship with venturesome faith, as many great saints have before us,” he adds. “Along the way of discipleship, we come to understand the cost of following Jesus, the importance of hope in light of setbacks, and the gift of true friendship in this great adventure.”

One of the chapters of his book looks at superheroes and asks why we are hungry for superhuman characters, Keating said. “There is a huge link to Christ and the Incarnation,” he contends. “The final chapter of the book focuses on communion with God, eternal life and waiting for the Second Coming; like Advent, we are waiting for God to be with us. That can be a useful meditation for Advent.”

Keating said he hopes everyone will come away with a greater understanding of their role in the great epoch that is a life in Christ.

More information and registration can be found here.

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