“Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).
The Hulk is a fictional character that was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in 1962. The Hulk comes into being when genius scientist, Bruce Banner, finds himself the victim of a gamma radiation accident. Similar to the body timeshare nature that exists between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the massive and powerful Hulk is generally depicted as taking form whenever Bruce Banner is overcome by stress or anger.
The physical forms and personalities of Bruce Banner and the Hulk contrast significantly. Bruce Banner is approximately 5’9″ and 130lbs; whereas, the Hulk stands upwards of 8′ and weighs around 1,400lbs. Banner is regularly portrayed as highly-intelligent, sarcastic, and self-assured; though, often emotionally withdrawn. This makes sense, as Banner lives in a constant state of panic, always concerned that the Hulk inside him will erupt; which prohibits him from forming meaningful relationships with others. The Hulk is generally depicted as being simple-minded, highly-aggressive, and quick to anger. The angrier that the Hulk gets, the more powerful he becomes. Whenever the name “Bruce Banner” is mentioned in the presence of the Hulk, he typically disassociates his identity from Banner’s; referring to Bruce as “puny Banner.”
Interestingly, according to Incredible Hulk #277 (1978), the Hulk’s personality (i.e. separate from Banner) is not the result of any brain mutation caused from his dramatic, physical transformations. Rather, Banner suffers from multiple personality disorder. Therefore, Banner—while not the Hulk—is the Hulk…
The Hulk always refers to himself in the third person (i.e. “Hulk”). What if that is because Banner is subconsciously aware that he is actually the Hulk (in all ways), even though he disassociates from himself when in the Hulk’s form (i.e. “puny Banner”)…
And what if we all have our own “Hulk” within us?
The characteristics that manifest themselves when Banner transforms into the Hulk are present within him prior to his accident with gamma radiation. Banner’s father had an explosive temper, and was physically abusive to him and his mother when angry. This experience with physical abuse as a child leads to Banner possessing a psychological complex of fear, anger, and the fear of anger; realizing the destructive potential of impulsively responding to these emotions.
What if, like Banner, we disassociate from those aspects of our personality that we feel unable to control? Consider our habitual sins—you know, those sinful behaviors which we so often believe we “have under control,” yet seem to reenter our lives whenever we’re overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, anger, lust, pride, etc. If we suffered through our own gamma radiation accident, would the impulsive, aggressive, and destructive nature of our Hulk “within” be any different than Banner’s?
Maybe each of us should ask ourselves, “Would mine be worse?”
In recent storylines, the Hulk is often positioned as a superhero because of his incredible power, and that he—though incredibly volatile—can occasionally (i.e. with the help of his superhero colleagues) be directed towards destroying that which warrants destruction (e.g. see Chitauri in “The Avengers”). However, while I think that’s great for the Marvel Universe, our universe operates differently…
This world worships visible power, and individuals who operate in a worldly manner seek it for themselves. With his near limitless strength, the Hulk is highly independent, emotionally-driven, and destructive. Hulk generally does what Hulk wants, regularly smashing through anything or anyone that intercedes—disregarding the collateral damage he creates. Essentially, the character of Hulk appeals to our god complexes.
This may help explain the Marvel character’s popularity. In addition to the comic books, the Hulk has been featured in several animated TV series, a live-action drama titled The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), and two feature films (i.e. 2003’s Hulk, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk). Outside of The Incredible Hulk (2008), the character has also been included in several other MCU movies (i.e. Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok).
The Hulk is never fearful and always charges forward, acting from a position of forceful power. I believe that a scene from The Avengers (2012)—while ironically appropriate in this particular context with the Asgardian prince, Loki—likely represents the Hulk’s standard response to the idea of godly authority:
Loki [Speaking to the Hulk]: Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by…[The Hulk grabs Loki and repeatedly smashes him into the floor until he is embedded into its cement foundation]
The Hulk: Puny god.
The problem is that the idolatries from which we refuse to repent and keep repressed within the deepest parts of our psyches—our Hulk within—operate in the same manner as Banner’s, but neither we nor the Hulk within us are God.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all have those moments where we just want to smash our way through anything that inconveniences us. We desire the power to be able to reject that which we don’t want to obey. To rebel. To embrace our idolatries and rest in our sin. When these unrepentant idolatries manifest themselves in our behaviors, we’re essentially trying to “Hulk Smash” God. At such times, we embrace enmity with God (A fruitless and eternally damning endeavor), and our relationships with others can, and frequently do, become collateral damage.
The Hulk’s persona mirrors that of many individuals who secure tremendous power. They’re less considerate of others; more prone to act impulsively; as capable of destroying as serving; unable to be held accountable by others. They do what they want, when they want, how they want, for whatever reasons they want, often driven solely by how they feel in that moment. I suspect that this is one of many reasons why Jesus informs His disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24),” and that “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
Too often, I think that we can convince ourselves that our idolatries and sinful behaviors are occasionally justifiable—even positive—in certain contexts. I, however, consider such logic to be folly, for scripture warns us:
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good (Psalm 53:1).
Rather, it’s necessary for us to acknowledge and operate under the understanding that anything that we do apart from God is evil and thereby, cannot be good (Psalm 16:2; John 15:5).
We cannot redeem our Hulk within.