By Mary Lovee Varni <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2008
Summary: When Superman is invited to address the international Summit of Peace, will he feel up to the job?
DISCLAIMER: The principal characters and concept in this story were taken from the "Lois & Clark" series and are therefore the rightful property of DC Comics, December 3rd Productions, etc.
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As the grim headlines flew across the newswire, Clark just stared at the invitation in his hand. It had come today to Superman via the Daily Planet. Although the hero's ideals of truth and justice were universally known to match those of the world's major religions, he was stunned at the personal letter bearing the papal signature of Pope John Paul II. The second "Summit of Peace" was again being held in Italy, in the hometown of that great man of peace, St. Francis of Assisi.
All Clark knew about the summit came from the archived articles of the Daily Planet's religion reporter, Sam Lumin, who covered the first one in 1986. The leaders of all of earth's faith groups and belief systems united together to pray for peace among their nations. Because Superman had never declared a religion, he couldn't get over his surprise at being invited. Questions started leaping into his mind at super speed: Would he be seen as endorsing one faith over another if he attended? Then again, if he didn't go, would he offend many of the world's faith leaders? Being an outsider, what could he possibly bring to such a gathering? He didn't feel on par with spiritual giants bearing titles like rabbi, pastor, Dalai Lama, father, sister, eparch and Buddha. In the world of prophets, messiahs and sages, Superman definitely felt like an alien.
Not sure what to do, but knowing he could delay the RSVP to the papal secretary for at least a few hours, he decided to set aside some personal time to ponder the idea. And, as with any major decision in his life, a trip to Smallville was in order. He was about to pick up the phone to call his parents when Lois approached him.
"Clark? I saw the package for Superman arrive a few minutes ago. What is it?"
"It's an invitation, Lois. I can't make heads or tails of it. It's from the pope and..."
"Did you say pope, as in THE POPE?"
"Yeah, Lois. Nice guy, white hat?"
"Ha-ha. I meant, what does he want with Superman?"
"See for yourself."
Lois took the invitation from Clark and studied it. "Wow. This is a pretty big deal, Clark. They only hold these once every decade or so. I didn't know Superman was particularly religious or anything. I mean, do Kryptonians even believe in God?"
"I don't know, Lois." Clark said, wondering for the first time what exactly his birth parents thought about spiritual things. From the globe, he knew science and philosophy were important to Kryptonians, but what about religion?
"Well, they couldn't ask for a better representative for peace, religious or not," Lois was saying.
"Earth to Clark! Honestly, I don't know where you go sometimes. Anyway, Superman has done quite a lot in the diplomatic relations department the last 18 months or so."
"Well, yeah, but he's not the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, Lois. He just helps out when he's needed, no more than any other person would do if they had his abilities."
"Clark, I know you're from Kansas, but even you can't be that naive. You're saying that someone like Lex Luthor would have acted as idealistically as Superman with those abilities? Come on."
"That's a pretty extreme example, Lois."
"You have me there, but I can think of others who would use his powers a lot more selfishly. Have you ever thought about the possibilities? Superman doesn't have to work a day in his life, yet he's out there every day helping humanity. He could use his gifts for power, wealth, fame or to cheat his way to superstardom in one arena or another. But, Superman doesn't do any of those things. In fact, he's pretty camera shy compared to most public personalities."
"I guess, Lois, but..."
"Well, you know Clark, we could go back and forth on this all day, but I have a deadline rearing its ugly head. And, ultimately, this is Superman's decision, not ours."
"I know, Lois, I know."
"And that's where we left it, Mom. I'm still not sure if going is the best thing or not. I called the papal secretary a few hours ago and I'm not just being asked to attend, but to address the entire assembly! What could I possibly have to say to all of these religious leaders? Most have dedicated their whole lives to helping their fellow man: laboring for peace and teaching those around them to live lives of heroic selflessness."
"Clark, you're not exactly Ebenezer Scrooge, you know," Jonathan joked, trying to lighten the mood.
"But, Dad, do you realize who is going to be there? People like Mother Antonia who's known as the 'Prison Angel.' This lady gave up a life of wealth and privilege to actually LIVE in a jail cell to minister to prisoners in Tijuana. Then there's Eli Wiesel who survived Auschwitz; Billy Graham who you used to hear preach on the radio as a kid; and Muslim leaders who promote peace in an area drenched with radical jihadists and..."
"CLARK! That's enough now. We realize that people who attend peace summits are pretty remarkable, but that's not the point. Obviously, the pope and the summit committee believe you have something valuable to say," Martha said, trying to calm both herself and her son.
"You need to have faith in their decision, son. Take some quiet time like you used to do when you were little. And, afterwards, if you still feel you don't have anything to offer them, then decline. But, don't sell yourself short without doing some soul searching first, OK?" Jonathan advised, putting his arm around Clark's shoulders.
"Thanks, Dad. I know just the place," he said, walking in the direction of the "Fortress of Solitude."
Every major news organization in the world tuned in for the historic moment. Curiosity drove most of them; the high profile of both speaker and audience motivated the rest. The everyday guy and gal on the street anticipated what an alien--even one as wonderful as Superman--might have to say on a subject his listeners lived and breathed every moment of their lives.
"I'm an outsider to your world; and yet you've welcomed me. As the lone survivor of my own world, I've hungered and thirsted for friendship and a place to call home. You've responded in kind. And although the words I'm speaking now are specifically found in the 'Sermon on the Mount' Jesus Christ preached 2,000 years ago, they reflect a universal truth present in all of your faith traditions: 'The Golden Rule.'
"Being a stranger to earth, its people and its heritage, I have benefited from this beautiful truth firsthand. At first, I was unsure of my worthiness to address such a crowd of humanitarians, peacemakers and spiritual heroes. And, I must admit that I still have no original words of my own to share with you on the topic of peace. Therefore, I'd like to borrow the wisdom of your holy teachers who have defined peace better than I could ever hope to:
"THE GOLDEN RULE IN WORLD RELIGIONS"
From African traditional religion: 'A sage neither causes violence to others nor does he make others do so' (Yoruba Proverb, Nigeria).
From the Baha'i world faith: 'Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself' (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, p. 71).
From Buddhism: 'Hurt not others with that which pains yourself or in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. One should seek for others the happiness ones desires for one's self' (Udana-Varqa, 5:18).
From Christianity: 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your soul... and your neighbor as yourself"' (Matthew 22:36-40).
From Confucianism: 'If one strives to treat others as he would be treated by them, he will come near the perfect life' (Book of Meng Tzu).
From Hinduism: 'This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others that which would cause pain if done unto you' (Mahabharata 5:1517).
From Islam: 'Not one of you is a believer until he desires for another that which he desires for himself' (Muhammad, 40 Hadith of an-Nawawi 13).
Jainist: 'A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated' (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33).
From Judaism: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord' (Leviticus 19:18).
From Native American spirituality: 'Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. But love him, for The Great Spirit (Moneto) loves him also as he loves you' (Shawnee).
Sikh: 'Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone's heart' (Guru Aranj Devji 259, Guru Granth Sahib).
Tao: 'Pity the misfortunes of others; rejoice in the well-being of others; help those who are in want; save men in danger; rejoice at the success of others; and sympathize with their reverses, even as though you were in their place.'
From Zoroastrianism: 'That which is good for all and any one, for whomsoever -- that is good for me. What I hold good for self, I should for all. Only law universal is true law' (Zoroaster, Yasana-Gathas).
While the thunderous applause might have drowned out even a superhero's hearing, he was unfazed. From a continent away via a television lens, Superman looked directly into the proud, tearful eyes of the three people who knew him best, and his heart was at peace.
First of all, I would like to thank my general editor Caroline K. for her helpful hints and improving my story.
Secondly, here is a little background on this story. I first saw "The Golden Rule in World Religions" poster two years ago while on retreat at the Benedictine monastery in Rock Island, Ill. I was struck by the beauty and universal truths reflected in each passage. Shortly afterwards, I looked up the quotes on the Web, but never saved the Web link. Thank you to the individual or group who first researched this rich collection of spiritual knowledge, and I regret that I am unable to give you proper credit. Since my retreat, this story has been slowly developing on my hard drive.
I dedicate it to the late, great Pope John Paul II, who is one of my personal heroes, a real-life "superman." Throughout his pontificate, the pope strived to unite the many diverse, rich cultures and religions of our world and call them all to live in peace. One such way was the peace summit. As he once said, "The Catholic Church does not reject any of what is true and holy in all other religions. We should not be surprised that God allows such multitude of religions, but celebrate the many common elements which are reflected in all of them."