I realize that Part II, I sort of “shot my wad” in that I essentially said that doing missions in today’s culture is like doing missions in the Marvel Universe, since the today’s culture is like the Marvel Universe culture. The loop is kind of closed leaving little room for more than expounding further on the basic idea. So that is what I will do.
2. The Social Primacy of the Individual. You might be wondering about why I have an image here of the Justice League (from the DC Universe) when I am talking about the Marvel Universe. But take a look at the image and compare it to the Marvel image on my last post (Part II). You may notice a decided difference. The Justice League is clearly a team, a strong coherent social unit. If you websearch other images of the team, most show a similar quality. In this one, the members have a common focus and appear to have a common determination and will. They are acting as one social unity. In some other images, they stand in a half-circle looking in different directions. But even here, the idea is still of one team. Even though they don’t have a common focus, they clearly have a common purpose, to stand guard in vigilance.
On the other hand, the Marvel Universe image does not show a team… it shows a group of individuals who are, for some reason, required to share the same floor space. Truthfully, it is probably an error of many to compare the Justice League with the Avengers (or maybe the Teen Titans with the West Coast Avengers). The Avengers feel more like the Dirty Dozen in many ways… a conglomeration of heroes brought together by common necessity more than common vision.
This the world we live in today. Few places outside of North Korea (and pockets of zealots of different types) do we find groups of any sort having a higher position than the individual. Many of us (especially in the West, although this is a stereotype) have almost lost the capacity to put into words or thoughts the idea that the will of the family, corporation, church, or any other could take priority of personal freedom, personal fulfillment, or personal pleasure.
I recall an episode of House (I haven’t seen very many). In it, one of the doctor’s was having a difficult time with the worldview of one of his patients. The patient was a member of a Gypsy clan. The patient was brilliant and had an interest in Math and Science, but would not go to higher education because that was not the wishes of the clan. The doctor could not understand why he wouldn’t “live his own dream.” The patient, on the other hand felt sorry for the doctor because he was disconnected from family… giving up so much belongingness for a personal (selfish?) achievements.
So here we are. Do we embrace individualism? I would say NO. On the other hand, do we react against it, creating little Christian societal cults without individuality? NO also. We can’t challenge a culture by simply completely rejecting it. The Bible, in fact, seems to support neither. The Bible says to submit to authority in government and in church. But it also says to reject and condemn ungodly leadership. We are to honor our fathers and mothers but we are to “hate them” choosing God first. We are to be united in Christ, but we are redeemed as individuals. One might argue that the highest social unit on earth is the two member social grouping made up of an individual and God. From that grouping flows secondary responsibilities to self, family, church, government, and society. We live in a world of individuality, so we need to both embrace and challenge it.
3. The Ambiguous Nature of Hero and Villain. It is tough to be a hero in the Marvel Universe. Spiderman is often misunderstood and mistreated. The X-men suffer from bigotry and attempts to register and control them. Being a hero may not make you loved. It may not even make you liked. You might be reviled, judged a vigilante. Like in The Incredibles, doing good often brings about bad results/destruction. Does a hero have the right to act unilaterally… serving as judge, jury, and executioner?
Heroes are often plagued with uncertainty. Why are they doing this… dressing up and placing their lives at risk for some “noble” cause. Do they live based on a high moral self-accountability, or a personality disorder? Should they use their powers sacrificially? Or is it okay to reap personal benefits?
Heroes are not absolutely sure what is moral/ethical. Does the end justify the means? Does the motive support or negate the goodness of an act? Is it right to act when one does not know for sure the results of one’s actions? In fact, in almost any act, there will be winners and losers… those who benefit who shouldn’t and those who suffer who shouldn’t. Is it better to do nothing? Must one only act in response to evil action, or can one act preemptively knowing that evil is being planned?
What about the anti-hero? This is the person who seeks to fight evil… but does it through wrong means or for wrong motivations? Should they be considered a hero or not? Punisher fights crime as an act of vengeance… he kills rather than seeks to have the justice system take over. Is that acceptable or not? Spawn (from a different comic) utilizes demonic power to fight evil. Does the noble purpose make the utilization of such evil power acceptable?
And what about the villain? Some villains just seem to be evil (self-serving, sociopathic). But some have a strong humanity to them. In some cases it seems appropriate for the heroes and villains to join forces when their is a common (and greater) enemy. Is that acceptable? Some villains actually fight evil… and do this by placing safety above personal freedom. These controlling villains… are they really doing evil… or violating a cultural norm?
Missions is like this… there is a lot of ambiguity in our actions, purposes, and motivations. If it “advances the kingdom” are all actions justified? Or do we have a higher set of standards (in action, intent, motivation, short-term goal, and long-term goal) that must be considered to see if we are on the side of the hero or the villain?
Decided to stop here. Found a great Blog on God and comics. Will reblog it.
- Doing Missions in the Marvel Universe, Part II (munsonmissions.org)
- Doing Missions in the Marvel Universe. Part I (munsonmissions.org)
- Oh My Pop-Culture Jesus: Knows Two Gods, Still a Christian (ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com)