Tolerance Is Extinction

The 1990s had some great cartoons: from Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series to Dragon Ball Z and TaleSpin. One of the most beloved is X-Men: The Animated Series, which ran from 1992–1997. Fans were elated when Disney announced a revival in 2021 called X-Men ‘97, which picks up right where the original series ended. But for some, the excitement was short-lived due to some questionable changes. Morph, a minor character from the original series, was promoted to greater status in the new series and presented as non-binary. Given Disney’s “not-at-all secret agenda” of “adding queerness” to their children’s shows and the addition of non-binary characters to the Star Wars universe, many were concerned that X-Men ‘97 would continue this trend and go full “woke” on its audience.

There are those who would argue that X-Men has always been socially conscious, addressing important issues such as bigotry, intolerance, and fear of the “other.” The mutant-vs-human dynamic has been seen as a social commentary on civil rights in America, with some fans arguing that the leadership philosophies of Professor X and Magneto are respectively comparable to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Professor X believes that humans and mutants can peacefully coexist while Magneto does not. The human/mutant divide has been applied to other types of identity conflict in society, like sexuality and gender, in which coming out as a mutant is compared to coming out as gay or trans. Regardless of the identity lens through which people view X-Men, it does a great job of illustrating the us vs them conflict that societies have always faced throughout history.

“Born This Way”
One red flag for those who feared the “woke” takeover of X-Men arose in the very first episode. A young mutant is kidnapped by an anti-mutant group and he pleads with his captors, claiming he’s one of the “good ones.” He says it’s not his fault he is a mutant—he was “born this way.” This is a common defense of people who believe they are being marginalized because of their sexual or gender identity. They aren’t bad or immoral; this is simply “who they are.” Their inclinations are innate and natural to them, and those desires should be treated as good and normal. However, this argument gets flipped on its head later in the season. When the main villain, Bastion, is accused of being a monster for desiring to kill or enslave all mutants, he responds, “I was born this way.” Throughout the show, we see that some humans are good and some are bad, and the same goes for mutants. Good and evil aren’t determined by one’s species but by one’s choices. This is true for us as well. Even if we could scientifically prove that people had certain proclivities based on their genetic makeup, that wouldn’t make such desires or associated behaviors automatically good.1 Otherwise, anyone could blame their biology for any kind of behavior and simply say, “It’s not my fault. I was born this way.”

The Bible has another perspective on being “born this way.” David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5, NIV). He understood that all humans have a sinful nature that separates us from God and inclines us to sin (Romans 5:12). While some humans in X-Men believe that all mutants are born physically defective, the Bible teaches that everyone is born spiritually “defective” because of our sin nature—every last one of us is fallen (Romans 3:10, 23). This doesn’t excuse our sinful behavior, however, as the Bible is full of God’s commands for us to live good, righteous lives. God has also provided us with the Holy Spirit to empower us to resist sin. Yet, there is another aspect in which we are all “born that way”—we are all created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). This unites every person regardless of skin color, sexuality, gender, or any other way we categorize ourselves. The Bible also teaches that Christians are one in Christ (Colossians 3:11). Furthermore, Jesus always reached out to the “others” in his society, whether they were marginalized due to their social status, ethnicity, or health.

Biology Is Reality
Many people who see themselves as marginalized by society relate to the mutants of X-Men, since mutants are feared and hated by many humans. But there is a limit to this comparison. Many mutants are dangerous, including the mutant heroes. Some of them are living weapons and if they do not keep their powers under control, they could cause serious harm. For people in the X-Men universe, there is a good reason to fear mutants, especially the ones who seek to use their powers for evil. While X-Men does offer some good lessons about acceptance and tolerance, the analogy between mutants and those in the real world who perceive themselves as marginalized has its limits.

Another crucial limit to the analogy is that the difference between humans and mutants is completely biological. Mutants are humans who have the X-Gene, which grants them their unique abilities. Even if a mutant never uses his or her powers and looks exactly like an ordinary human, that person is still a biological mutant. The same cannot be said of people with various sexual orientations or gender identities. There is no concrete, objective, biological determining factor for such identities—no “gay gene” or “trans gene” like there is an X-Gene. While the character Morph is presented as non-binary, he can shapeshift into a male or female. In his normal form, he is pale and featureless, like a living mannequin. This fictional character is literally, physically non-binary, not being permanently male or female. In the real world, however, people who identify as non-binary still have either a male or female body. Their perceived gender identity is not linked to their biology. There is no objective marker for gender identity—it is subjective, psychological, experiential, or expressive.

Tolerance Is Extinction
The X-Men ‘97 season one finale is titled: “Tolerance Is Extinction.” The main villain, Bastion, believes that tolerance of mutants will lead to human extinction. People’s goodness, such as empathy, is a weakness. Coexistence is impossible. Mutants are dangerous and must be eradicated or enslaved. Bastion’s beliefs echo so many voices throughout history, from tyrants and totalitarian governments to concerned citizens and various organizations. “Those people” are a threat, so we must stop them before they destroy our culture, our way of life, or the world.

Again, X-Men reflects the conflicts occurring in the real world. We are becoming more polarized by the day in areas such as politics, ethnicity, religion, and gender identity. Humanity is fractured along every type of identity group, creating fault lines between families, friends, and communities. As a result, we are becoming more isolated from everyone around us. Magneto reflects this when he says, “There is no one like me.” He understands fear and hatred well, as he is both a mutant as well as a Jewish man whose family was killed in the Holocaust as a child. Yet, Professor X reminds his longtime friend, “The X-Men and I may not resemble each other, but we are still family.” The only way we can coexist as a society is to find a way to transcend the division and identity politics, to find something that unites us all. For the X-Men, it was a dream, an ideal. But not everyone shares the same dream. Some ideals conflict. Yet, as noted earlier, there is one thing that will always unite all humans and transcend our differences: the imago Dei. We are all created in the image of God. The only way to achieve true tolerance and coexistence is to remember that we are infinitely valuable having been created in the image of God. No matter our skin color, political affiliation, sexual orientations, gender identity, or anything else, we are all divine image-bearers—meaning we are all alike in the most important way.

In X-Men ‘97 there is a dividing line between humans and mutants. Some seek to coexist, some seek to isolate, and others seek to destroy. These same options confront us every day as we witness conflicts dividing families, friends, communities, and nations. Yet the Bible reminds us to love both our neighbors and our enemies—the people who look, vote, and believe like we do, as well as the ones who don’t (Galatians 5:14, Luke 6:27-28). While Professor X and the X-Men seek unity in their fictional universe, God has called us to help reconcile the world to himself in the real world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

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Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at