I have already reflected on Marvel’s “The Avengers” from a Christian perspective, but upon watching the recently released blu-ray and DVD I noticed two other major themes in the movie that I had missed in the previous post. So, time to look back at this huge blockbuster and offer some more thoughts!
There will be SPOILERS here.
Slavery of all mankind
A thoughtful friend of mine on Facebook pointed to the dialogue between Loki and a crowd of people near the beginning of the film wherein he forces them all to kneel. Loki stands before them and shouts:
Kneel before me. I said… Kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.
Think of how this resonates with the Christian notion of slavery in sin. We align ourselves with things that we love. Greed. Envy. Pride. Lust. Gossip. These things, while initially pleasurable, ultimately enslave us. Loki’s speech was very discerning, however. For even though these things come to enslave us and take time away from the goods in life, we come to love them, to glorify them, and to become attached to them. We want to be enslaved in sin. We desire it. Sin calls to us, enslaves us, and we love it.
Yet, as in the movie, we are called to rise up against this sin. But we can’t do it on our own. As I discussed in my other post on “The Avengers,” we “need a hero.” We cannot rise out of slavery. Paul discusses this very notion in his letter to Rome:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18, NIV)
Who is it that set us free? We did not do it on our own. After all, we became slaves to sin and offered ourselves freely to it. No, it is Christ Jesus who set us free. He was the “hero” who broke the chains and gave us our freedom in Him.
Debts that Cannot Be Paid
Later on, Loki converses with Black Widow. They discuss the notion that Black Widow has “debts” to others. She owes them for the things they’ve done for her. She says that her ledger is in the “red”–she is on the wrong side of debt. During this conversation, Loki tries to break Black Widow down verbally, “Can you wipe out that much red? …Your ledger is… gushing red.”
Loki’s comments are telling, for they are actually true of not just Black Widow but of everyone. We all have our debts. We have our sins that we commit in private, away from others. We have the anger we have expressed through thought and deed. Our ledgers are overflowing, they gush red. Our sins are too great for us to repay; we cannot wipe away the red.
Yet God has loved us so much that He paid the debt. Jesus, God in human form, came to earth and paid that debt for each and every one of us. Our ledgers were full, but now we’re in the black. We have become co-heirs with Christ and have received salvation by grace through faith. We are justified through Jesus’ death and resurrection. God forgives us our sins and wipes our ledgers clean on His behalf. Loki’s comments are not unlike those of the Devil, trying to convince us that we are still in debt. Can anyone–even God–wipe away all the wrongs we’ve done? Fortunately, that answer is yes. Although we ourselves cannot repay it, God has done so for us.
Another great line in the film is when New York City is under attack (seriously, why can’t that city catch a break?). Iron Man comes face to face with a gigantic enemy ship/creature/thing (my wife named it “Leviathan” and I think that’s a great title) and has to take it down. He asks his onboard computer: “You ever heard the tale of Jonah?” He then bursts into the mouth of the Leviathan and flies through it, exploding from the end and destroying it.
No, the reference was never explained. Hey, if you don’t know the story, look it up! It’s one of my favorites in the Bible. Just get out a Bible (or search online) and flip to “Jonah.” It’s short, and I guarantee you it’s worth the read!
It seems to me that there are a number of themes in “The Avengers” that Christians can relate to. The notion of the incredible debt we owe and cannot pay due to our past resonates directly with the Christian worldview. It points towards the salvation we have in Christ. Similarly, our slavery to sin cannot be overlooked. We want to sin, we crave it, but thankfully those bonds are broken in Christ.
A Christian Look at “The Avengers”– I examine a number of other themes in “The Avengers” which Christians and non-Christians can discuss.
Engaging Culture: A Brief Guide for movies– I reflect on how Christians can engage with popular movies in order to have meaningful conversations with those around them.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
The Avengers is a huge blockbuster film. Reviewers are raving about it. It’s a cultural phenomenon now. How should a Christian take the movie? Is there anything of value to it, or is it just another action flick? Here, I’ll offer less a review [short review: it was amazing, probably my favorite hero movie other than “The Dark Knight”] than a survey of some thinking points Christians can use to engage with the culture as they interact with the movie. There will be spoilers.
I Need a Hero
Consider the overall theme of The Avengers. Earth is in trouble from outside (alien/demigod) forces. But, in a way, the humans brought this plight upon themselves (they messed with powers they should not have–this theme is found throughout the entirety of the film). How can we be saved? We must look to our hero(es) and utterly rely upon them. Think about it. That is exactly the human condition now. We need a hero. I can’t help but channel that song by Skillet, “Hero.” We aren’t superhuman, we aren’t superheroes. Ultimately, we have to rely on someone else.
The overarching theme of The Avengers is therefore very reminiscent of the Christian story. Christianity holds that we have a plight: we’re under assault from our own sinfulness, into which we were tempted by Satan. We tried to mess with that which we should not have attempted: sin. And now, because of that, we are under assault. We have no way to save ourselves. We need a hero. We can’t escape from it ourselves. Like the civilians on the streets of the cities as they come under attack in the film, we must rely utterly upon that hero. We are powerless.
Yes, I do think that this theme resonates deeply with Christianity. Jesus Christ is our hero. He gave his life for us, willingly. He rose again. He came despite having no need to do so, and saved us from that from which we cannot save ourselves.
Another way to look at this theme is the deep human need for help. We realize we are floating in this gigantic universe and we feel insignificant. What meaning is there? We look to heroes–we fictionalize them and make them into “superheroes.” Even the previews before the movie showed two more hero flicks coming up: The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman. We are obsessed with this theme. Yet the real story of Christianity is even more compelling: we’ve already been saved. God has already acted. He sent us our hero, when we needed Him most. Death itself has been defeated. The human urge to look for a hero, to look beyond ourselves for help, is satisfied poignantly in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God Doesn’t Wear That
One of my favorite lines in the entire movie came from Captain America: “There is only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” [Author’s note: I found several references to this quote and they all varied slightly, however if my memory serves me, this is the correct version.]
What can Christians think about this? Well clearly just saying there is “one God” doesn’t do much, but what is interesting is the context he says this in. Captain America has just met Thor (a demigod/superhero), yet he still affirms there is “only one [true] God.” Sure, Thor can play with lightning, but ultimately he is not God. There is but one God, and He’s infinitely greater than Thor or any of the other “gods” who turn out to be little more than powerful beings from Asgard.
More importantly, I think a Christian could use this pop culture reference in a dialog as one notes the importance of anthropomorphic language about God. God “doesn’t dress like that!” Too often, when we speak of God, we have this picture of some old guy with a beard. But God “doesn’t dress like that.” He’s transcendent, beyond. Yet He chose to come into the flesh to save us (see “I Need a Hero” above)! I found this quote very thought-provoking.
Another theme of The Avengers is the fact that we aren’t alone. Humanity is thought of by some in the movie’s universe as a helpless, defenseless planet which will certainly fall at the slightest attack. Humans are but one amongst many powers in the universe, and not the most powerful.
Again, this theme resonates with Christianity. We aren’t the most powerful beings in the universe, and we are not alone. There are angels and demons, gods, and God. I can’t fully develop the layers of meaning in the Bible in regards to all the powers of the universe, but a great discussion can be found in Gerald McDermott’s God’s Rivals. God is supreme over all things and unchallenged, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t powerful forces who seek to subvert His divine plan.
The Avengers was a fantastic flick. It has everything a huge summer blockbuster needs. It’s worth seeing for the action alone, but the story resonates deeply with our strongest urges. It informs us of our need for a hero/savior. It affirms that we are not alone. I can’t help but say I strongly encourage Christians to see the movie and take note of the themes which resonate with our worldview; they are there in abundance. As we seek to engage with the culture, we can point out how our own story–the True Story of Jesus Christ–satisfies the needs felt in the movie, and more.
The Avengers: Sin, Salvation, and Jonah– There are even more themes in the movie that I think really resonate with the Christian worldview. Check out my other post on the topic.
Drew Zahn also raves about Christian themes in The Avengers. [Major spoilers at this link.]
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.