In pm's words
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April 28, 2019, 9:00 AM

Of Marvel and Faith, part 4


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Here it is, the part of the franchise where our heroes begin to take their separate paths. It is here in this movie that Captain America and Tony Stark really start forging separate paths. But, first things are going pretty well.

The film begins with the Avengers successfully raiding a Hydra installation to re-take Loki’s staff after those agents have been using it to perform all sorts of experiments with it (namely the enhanced twins – Pietro and Wanda Maximoff – or as they are known in the Marvel Comic’s world, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch).

Bruce Banner and Tony take the brief time they have with the scepter to do their own experiments and tests. They quickly discover that there is a sort of artificial intelligence within the scepter itself and they believe that this could be the thing to really get their ‘Ultron Program’ off the ground. For awhile now, Tony has been fixated on building a defense program that would make the Avengers unneeded. He is hopeful that the scepter will be able to make that goal a reality.

As they celebrate their latest victory, something happens. The AI ‘awakens’ and begins feasting on information. Of course, it determines that the true enemy of Earth is humanity itself and begins the process of ending human life on the planet.

Ultron begins his quest to build stronger and stronger versions of himself (along with robot henchmen) to keep the Avengers from stopping his plans. He also is able to manipulate and employ the abilities of the Maximoff twins to his advantage as well. He ends up stealing a large source of Vibranium (the same material used to make Cap’s shield). Ultron’s plan involves using the vibranium to create a synthetic body for him to inhabit. This body would be nearly indestructible and if he is successful, he (potentially) couldn’t lose to anyone – not even the combined power of the Avengers.

The Avengers end up facing off against Ultron and his robotic army in the fictional land of Sokovia. While his first plan failed (creating and using the synthetic body which is now the physical manifestation of Tony’s AI helper JARVIS – now known as The Vision), his second plan is equally dangerous. He lifts the land of Sokovia in the air, hoping to attain a height that when the city drops would create a world ending event.

Working together the Avengers stop Ultron. But, the crack and friction between these once close friends and colleagues begins to show. Both Cap and Iron Man want the same outcome, but they have wildly different ways of achieving that goal. Tony ‘retires’ from the team as well as a few others. Leaving Captain America and Black Widow to train a new crop of Avengers: Scarlet Witch, Falcon, War Machine, and Vision.

This movie is the most forward in its gospel glimmers. Ultron remarks upon faith, scripture, and spirituality quite often in this movie. In fact, when he meets the Maximoff twins he is in the church at the center of town (the same place he’ll setup his device that lifts the entire area into the sky). He is constantly alluding to creation and destruction.

In many ways, Ultron believes he is the one with all the answers. Where as he’s looked at the entirety of the ‘human condition’ that there is only one solution to what is going on. Humanity has caused too much trouble and has to go. He cannot be persuaded to view this from another point of view. There are so many people who take this very ‘dark’ view of creation and humanity’s place within it. In their minds there cannot be another way.

As Ultron tries to create a new body for himself – one that will be limitless in its abilities to make his plans a reality, he ends up creating The Vision instead (with the help of Thor’s lighting and hammer of course). Vision’s first few words ends with the emphatic, ‘I am.’ Which, for anyone who has dived in a bit deeper than a mere surface reading of scripture would know is a pretty significant phrase. God says it. Jesus says it. I’m not quite sure of the true significance of those two words uttered from Vision’s lips are, but they are impactful. It’s also noted that there is a running ‘joke’ throughout the movie that Thor’s hammer is ‘rigged’ since no one, but he can lift it. Though, Steve Rogers does make it wiggle. However, Vision is perfectly capable of wielding it and hands it to Thor.

Is it because since he is newly created, he has no ‘sin?’ would Vision be able to lift it after a bit of time has passed? Who knows? More questions to ponder from this movie…

 

Ant-Man

Ahh, Ant-Man. The story of the tiniest of heroes who is able to pack a punch. We follow the life of Scott Lang a thief, no burglar who has been serving time in jail because he burgled a large corporation. All he wants to do is move on from that part of his past and be able to spend time watching his daughter not only grow up, but to be a significant part of her life.

However, Hank Pym has needs of his specific set of skills. He allows Scott to steal the Ant-Man suit and then use it to stop the plans of his one-time protégé – Darren Cross – who is keen to use similar technology to outfit militaries across the world (and make a boat load of cash in the process).

Scott, with the help of Hank and Hank’s daughter Hope, train him how to use the suit, communicate with ants, and break into Pym Industries to get the ‘new’ suit. There is a fight between the protégé and Scott where Scott has to do the one thing that Hank told him never to do: go sub-atomic.

Why not go that small? There wouldn’t be a way to stop you from shrinking and you’d get stuck in the quantum realm and you could be lost forever – happened to Hank’s wife. He doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else again.

Yet, Scott decides to sacrifice himself so that he can save his daughter and the world from the technology the Cross wants to unleash to the highest bidder. Yet, even as he saves he day, he continues to shrink. But, he’s able to come to his senses and get back to the regular world.

Again, we see a story that focuses on the ‘shrewdness’ of achieving specific goals to save others. Scott tells Hank, ‘That my days of breaking into places and stealing shit are over, so what do you want me to do?’ Hank’s response? I want you to break into a place and steal some shit.

Scott’s ability to break in and steal is exactly what is needed to be done. Now, I don’t know if that’s the way Jesus would want us to go about things, but desperate times do make a cause for desperate measures. Jesus tells us to be shrewd in how we live this life and proclaim the gospel and share in God’s love. Is what Scott, Hank, and Hope do a ‘shrewd’ interpretation of Jesus? It can be, sure.

This movie also focuses a lot on family. Scott wants to be with his daughter. Hank wants to protect his. Scott’s daughter’s voice is the thing that calls him back from the quantum realm. Reminding him again that he does have something to live and strive for. Something to get back to.

Our Lord calls to us as well. Jesus speaks Mary’s name in the garden, and it is in that moment after the resurrection that she knows who is speaking to her, but also remembers the promises that he has spoken about. He’s the real deal. His love is pure and filled to over-flowing for her and the world. In his voice speaking to her, she (and the rest of creation) has something to get back to.

 

Captain America: Civil War

 

This is where things start getting intense. After the events of Age of Ultron, the world governments feel they need to get a handle on these ‘enhanced’ beings in the world. There needs to be some sort of accountability. They are working as vigilantes for the most part – even if their work is indeed saving the world.

Yet, there is still collateral damage. People die. Property is destroyed. Whose going to pay for all this?

Things get turned up a notch when trying to take down a former Hydra agent – the Avengers cause severe damage and innocent people end up dying. In fact, many of those deaths are citizens of Wakanda. A reclusive and seemingly poor country in Africa.

Those Wakandan deaths added to the dangers that have already occurred in Sokovia and New York are exactly what the world governments need to reign in these ‘so-called’ superheroes. And Tony Stark is intent on getting those Accords signed and making sure all his ‘friends’ are a part of it and held accountable.

Captain America doesn’t see it that way though, he thinks it is an over-reaction and a dangerous precedent to give control of where they go to people with ‘other interests.’ He’s worried that they’ll prevent the Avengers and other superheroes from being able to help those in any need.

Needless to say, a big fight breaks out. Two new superheroes are introduced to the MCU – Wakanda’s Black Panther and New York’s Spider-man. A big (and glorious) battle ensues at an airport in Berlin. Tony is trying to ‘stop’ Captain America as he has sided with the person accused of bombing the signing of the Sokovia Accords (killing the king of Wakanda in the process). All the while, Cap and The Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) is intent on stopping the real threat – a guy who apparently wants to use others like The Winter Soldier to cause terrible harm and catastrophe across the world.

But, that isn’t his intent at all. He wants the Avengers to suffer. To hurt. To feel the pain that they have caused others. In the process he tears the heart of the team in half as Iron Man and Captain America fight and eventually go their separate ways.

The biggest question that comes from this film is – whose side are you on? Are you on the side of accountability, but more restriction? Or, do you side with freedom, but being ‘hated’ by those in the world because of the results of your actions?

Either way – there is no ‘right’ answer. Both Cap and Iron man have drawn their lines in the sand and are unwilling to budge from those spaces. It tears people in their lives apart. They ‘essentially’ want the same thing, but are coming at it from totally different view points and see each other’s views as ‘wrong.’

We play this, ‘I’m right; you’re wrong’ game all the time. We do this in our faith communities whether they be relatively ‘small’ disagreements or even those disagreements that transcend whole denominations.

I cannot help but, think that Jesus shakes his head as we have these arguments. Not because he doesn’t have an opinion about what’s at stake, but is disappointed in our inability to have loving conversations with those we agree with.

Much like the many people looking in from the outside of Cap and Tony’s struggle said, “What are we doing… see what you’ve both have caused?”

In Matthew 18, we hear words from Jesus that I think much of our world and history has misapplied. Matthew 18:20 states – ‘wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ When we hear that phrase, most of us immediately think of worship. Yet, that’s not what Jesus is talking about.

If we look back just a few verses, we see Jesus is telling the people around him what to do when there are disagreements in the community. Saying how we should faithfully discuss with the one who has harmed you, alone, with others, and in the community. After those scenarios is when Jesus says the famous verse from 18:20.

So, in actuality, what Jesus is really saying is that he is present in those hard, awkward, and faithful conversations. Jesus is with us in those tough talks and disagreements. And we have to remember that Jesus is present with the person we are talking to. It isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t mean that there won’t be frayed or broken relationships as a result, but we approach those talks knowing that Jesus is with all those present.

 

Check out Part Five HERE!

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