On July 25, the movie Hercules will be released nationwide, yet another example of America’s fascination with Greek and Roman gods and mythology. Besides the Hercules movies, Hollywood recently produced a remake of the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans, as well as the Percy Jackson movie series—all to profit from American interest in pagan deities. Why are these movies—and the books and other media on which they are based—so successful? Why does our society find more connection with ancient Greek mythology than with biblical Christianity?
The Percy Jackson movies are based on author Rick Riordan’s nine-book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, with a tenth book scheduled for release later this year. These books chronicle the adventures of Percy Jackson and other “modernized” versions of ancient demigods, who in Riordan’s tales have one human parent and one parent from Greek mythology. The title character of the movie Hercules is described as a “tormented soul” whose fate as the son of the mighty “god” Zeus was one of loneliness and suffering.
Riordan’s books have become very popular in American schools, especially since they appeal to boys and young men—a group teachers often struggle to motivate to read—while the exciting and often violent movies steeped in these mythological themes continue to rake in huge profits.
American youth are being raised in a society of broken homes. According to one study by the Family Research Council, only 46 percent of American youth will still be with both of their biological parents by the time they turn 17. The majority of American youth have a better understanding of parents rejecting each other than of parents staying together!
So, it makes sense that today’s young people can relate to mythical figures who represent the reality they are already living in! Percy Jackson and his friends all live with only one parent, their human parent. Their godly parent rarely shows them interest and often they find that they have more half-siblings than full siblings. Naturally, today’s young people can relate to these heroes who regularly suffer from ADHD and other common afflictions of today’s youth.
In the stories, these afflictions are more due to issues with being prepared for battle instead of focusing on the lack of proper parenting. Many young men find themselves drawn to these stories of action and adventure where the heroes come from families that are not too different from their own.
By contrast, the Bible reveals that God the Father is a loving God. King Solomon wrote that God corrects His children out of love, to help them grow (Proverbs 3:12). Paul added to this concept when he points out that all good fathers, including God, discipline their children for the children’s benefit (Hebrews 12:5–11). The Bible points out that God is not an “absentee father” who created illegitimate children that He never wants to interact with. Instead, Jesus Christ invited Christians to pray directly and daily to their “Father in heaven” (Luke 11:2). Christians can have confidence in these prayers since God looks to give good gifts to His children who call on Him consistently (Luke 11:5–13). Paul shows that God literally wants mankind to join His family (Romans 8:12–17)—not to suffer alone, ignorant of our true purpose.
Tragically, the concept of a loving God who works for His children’s good through correction and encouragement is lost on our modern society. Too many people struggle with their relationship with God due to their struggle with their relationship with their human fathers. Instead of their relationship with their father being a gateway to a proper relationship to the God of the Bible, many today find that their fathers have more in common with the false gods of the Greeks and other pagan peoples. Although this association might appeal to the carnal mind, the Bible shows us that there is a God in heaven who cares for us. Unlike the false pagan gods of old (and new!), God is a loving Father, He corrects us for our own good, and He has a plan showing that true Christians are His children!