Later this year, the movie Wonder Woman will be released in theaters. The trailer is out now, and as you watch, it’s easy to see that the main character is supremely confident - in her identity as a warrior and in her right to be the story’s protagonist. And alongside her confidence and her superpowers and her warrior identity, you can also see, very clearly, that Wonder Woman was not raised Catholic.
If she had been a little Catholic girl...
...Wonder Woman would have been taught that God gave her, just as he gave all females, a special ‘feminine genius’ so that she could focus on having children, on raising them, and on supporting her husband’s leadership. She would have learned that her abilities, like every other woman’s abilities, did not include being a warrior. Because according to Catholic doctrine, men are warriors, just like men are leaders. Women are neither.
As a little girl, Wonder Woman would not have been asked, “Who are you and what are you good at?” and “How best can you use your gifts to help the world?” Instead, her religion would have dictated who she was, and what she was good at, and how she could best contribute.
Fierce Wonder Woman would have been taught that being fierce was wrong, because God created her to be nurturing, just like he created all other women.
And so, as an adult, Wonder Woman would have led a life not of confidence and certainty, of knowing who she was and how best she could contribute, but of doubt. She would still have her warrior abilities and her inclination to fight for those who need protection. But thanks to her Catholic upbringing, she would carry alongside those abilities the belief that she was not a warrior, but a caregiver. Like many women raised Catholic, she would struggle to be who she was not, and she would live with secret shame for not being who she was supposed to be.
And if that shame wasn’t enough to keep her from trying to be who she was, she would have been taught another lesson.
Little Wonder Woman would have learned about Joan of Arc, the young French woman with great talents as warrior and leader. Captured and imprisoned, she was tried by the church for witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man, and then burned to death. Though she was later declared a saint, the lesson about the cost of embracing one’s true nature as a warrior would not have been lost on that little girl who was born to be Wonder Woman. She would have understood that there is no tolerance for women who dare to believe they are warriors.
So how can we tell just by looking at her that Wonder Woman wasn’t raised Catholic?
Because we can see so clearly that she is able, without doubt or shame, to be who she is. Imagine that. A woman believing – no, more than believing. Knowing in her bones that she has the right to be whoever she is.
And so, dear sisters...
...when Wonder Woman has its theatrical release, let’s take a field trip, and sit in theaters and admire this young woman who is so unashamed of her identity, even though that identity is completely counter to what we were taught is acceptable.
Though we might be tempted, let us not envy her for having what we don’t, because envy is not constructive. Instead, look to her for inspiration, and if we find that we too have abilities and tendencies that are not acceptable, she can inspire us to accept those abilities completely, without shame. And I suspect that if we look deeply enough, we will all find talents and abilities that are not acceptable.
And yes, of course I understand that Wonder Woman is a comic book character.
But what is the Bible if not a series of stories about superheroes and villains and the ordinary humans they interact with? And what are comic books if not the same, but with pictures? Human beings are built to learn through stories. Wonder Woman isn’t real, but she has a lot to teach us.