Friday, May 18, 2012

Captain America: Theologian?

Since The Avengers has been smashing box office records, I must be the only person who hasn’t seen it yet. But I’m tempted to fork over what would probably amount to the cost of a brand-new Blu-ray of the film just to hear Captain America’s controversial quote.

I never got into comic books, partly because real books were more beneficial to my education and partly because I didn’t know the location of any comic book stores in my area. I’ve seen some superhero movies, and even though the movie Captain America: The First Avenger was a little corny and lacked a well-developed plot, I did enjoy seeing someone onscreen representing the Red, White, and Blue who was both moral and heroic.

In this new movie, Captain America is still adjusting to the 21st century after spending 80 years in a frozen, coma-like state. At one point in the movie, a scuffle breaks out between Thor and Loki—the Norse gods you learned about in mythology class. As they tumble off a sky fortress and fall towards earth, an agent says to our hero, “You might wanna sit this one out, Cap. These guys are basically gods.” Captain America replies, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I don’t think he dresses like that.”

This depiction of Captain America certainly fits better with his 1940’s roots than the pluralistic society we live in today. Although nothing more is mentioned about the Captain’s beliefs, and I’m unaware of any theological discussions occurring in the comic books, the fact that he is a monotheist (and for all we know, a Christian) is enough to set people off in the blogosphere. I, for one, am happy he said it.

I’ve read plenty of rhetoric from religious and political liberals who believe that anyone who represents the United States (and sometimes, anyone who comes into contact with other people) should be either irreligious, like an agnostic, or pluralistic, accepting all religious worldviews as valid. What dents people up about Captain America is that he was speaking as Captain America and denied the validity of other people’s worldviews.

For the United States to be a free country, everyone, from the President to the school janitor, should be allowed to have religious convictions and to express those religious convictions. There’s a difference between using a position of public trust to advance your religious convictions and advancing your religious convictions while holding a position of public trust. But it is difficult to separate the two. And although some politicians can easily divorce their religious beliefs from who they are, true Christianity doesn’t allow for that.

So I give kudos to the people who thought up that line because it was both true to who Captain America would have been in the 1940s, and it upholds the belief that all people, even those who may, in some ways, represent a religiously diverse group, can hold exclusive religious convictions.

Maybe I’ll stop by the comic book store this weekend and pick up some new reading material.

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