Sunday, April 6, 2014

Captain America: The Red, White, and Blue Jesus

So, got to see the new Captain America movie, and it was really quite good. Kept me on my toes the whole time and it really did just pack a cinematic punch. Much better than the first one. There was action, adventure, ethics, and allegory. So, I highly recommend it. Great movie. But let’s deal with that last descriptor, allegory for a bit. Note: this will be brief; I'm sure there are other things to talk about. These are just the highlights that I saw. 

I can’t say this was the director’s intention, but I saw such a strong allegory between Captain America and Jesus. He’s sacrificial (even from the beginning of the first movie), a leader, justice minded, above reproach, and brings freedom to people. Now, all those are great attributes that both the character and the Savior share, but there is something different about the movie guy – all of those attributes are just dripping with red, white, and blue.

He’s sacrificial for people…and the American dream. He’s justice minded…with the constitution clinched in fist (figuratively). He brings people freedom…from tyrannical fascists. He possesses many of the qualities and attributes that we see in Jesus, he just possesses a very American version of them.

Why do we want Jesus to be a butt kicker? Mark Driscoll makes the argument that Jesus was not a pansy by looking at the end of times, and says that he doesn’t want to follow a Savior he could beat up. I don’t feel like a good number of people are far behind that line of thought.

What Captain America, as well as all super hero movies teach me is that we have a deep and desperate yearning for a savior. However, we would much rather him be strong, look hot, dress like it’s the 4th of July, and preferably want Hitler to be taken down.

Really wrestle with this – would Jesus kill Hitler? Now, I don’t plan on answering that question or the question of whether it would be right to do so, after all, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an avid Christian pacifist and was also one of the leading minds of operation Valkyrie. It’s a question Christians have struggled with for years. But really stop and ponder. What would Jesus do?

Now, some people will read that and say “You’re saying Jesus would do nothing?” to which I would reply, "He did everything." Why must we always see every solution in violent terms? In all reality, that violence hasn’t really worked in every case (if not most cases) throughout history. I will say that Romans 13 describes the government as a retributive institution, so perhaps God was bringing Hitler’s reign of terror to an end, but my question remains of would Jesus had been an active, violent part in that?

Captain America fights for what is right. Jesus died for what is right. 

Now, this allegory isn’t all bad. There are positive aspects too.

For starters, Captain America values life immensely. Granted, he still kicks the crap out of his enemies in the name of freedom, but he doesn’t bust out the heavy artillery (minus his super boomerang shield) almost at all. He’d rather people live than die, and that’s something that truly comes out in the movie in two HUGE ways...if you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest skipping the next paragraph.

SPOILER ALERT: The first and foremost display of this is in his taking down of the fascist means of person elimination. I’m not sure everyone picked up on it, but the technology used by the German cult thing was basically a holocaust super weapon. It predicted what a person’s future would be like (by examining their past) to determine if they would live or die. Now, this could almost sound good. After all, this rids society of murderers, thieves, and so on. However, the movie portrays something else. When the machine collects its targets, EVERYONE seems to be one the list. If God wiped all the wicked out…it’d be an empty earth. Not a one of us are clean without the blood of Jesus. This is why we’re told not to judge. Second thing. I think that Bucky represents humanity, in particular the scoffers at the cross, in this allegory. Once Captain America finishes his mission, he refuses to fight Bucky, but instead shows sacrificial love to him to the point of death if that is what will come. It echoes Jesus when He said to “forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus absorbed violence into Himself; He didn’t reciprocate it. 

OKAY, it’s safe to read again if you haven’t seen it. So, Captain America taught me a lot. He taught me a lot about God, he taught be about Jesus (both comparison AND contrast), and he really taught me about our values as a nation and a church within that nation. I hope and pray that if you met the rejected, mistreated, bloodied and bruised Jesus in the street and Captain America walked by, you’d take the Christ. He alone can save, the rest is just flash and smoke.

Captain America may fight so that people can have a slew of freedoms including freedom to practice religion, but Jesus died so that you can have spiritual freedom, and He asks that you worship Him despite whether you have the freedom to or not.

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