Iron Man began what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a.k.a. the MCU) way back in May 2, 2008 and is still considered one of the greatest movies in the continuing collection. Tony Stark says, early in the film while promoting his Jericho missile, "Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?", and it seems to be the same question that Marvel Studios was asking when releasing their first venture into this acclaimed shared universe. Theologian and Author, John Piper said, "All heroes are a shadow of Christ." Despite whatever thoughts you may have about his books, it is still a thought that I have considered. Watching these movies that have enthralled comic enthusiasts around the world, I can't help but see how the narrative of the Christian faith is seen through this particular lens and platform.
One of the first problems we see thematically present in this movie is the dichotomy of Tony Stark being a weapons manufacturer while at the same time being seen as a hero of sorts (much as his father before him was seen as a "war hero"). Many times, we may have seemingly contradicting things about us as people that need to have a light shone upon them if we're to reconcile our ourselves to our faith; in order to become holistic people, our faith should be shown in both word and action. This brings us to a major question that is covered in both the film and our own lives: what is peace? Is peace "having the biggest stick", or is it more aptly, much like the Hebrew word for peace (shalom), to be complete, perfect and full. In many ways, Tony Stark's development through the MCU shows a back and forth between trying to find his own completeness while continuing to have the bigger stick (i.e. control). For our own development in the Christian walk, this idea of completeness is better understood when finding our identity in Christ.
How do we do that? The way I've best articulated this idea to my students in the past is to stay rooted in the One that made you. This will look different for each of you, be it daily Bible reading or walks in the woods, but I’m not trying to be intangible when I say this: connect to God in ways that are natural to you, but also in new and unexpected ways. You are never a finished product and are always being made new, struggling with sins and dependencies, but through it all we should be asking ourselves, “where do I see God in all of this?” and looking for his hand in the daily, mundane things, as well as the grandiose. I believe wholeheartedly that continually striving to find your identity in Christ (s opposed to other things. i.e. job, family,money, etc.) and living out of that is the most important thing you can do for yourself and the community you find yourself in.
(The idea for this blog post was taken from a podcast that my friend Derrick Weston (@derricklweston) and I recently put together. I wanted to get the thoughts and themes that we discussed in text form to better articulate my own thoughts. Listen to the first episode of "The Gospel According to Marvel" over at iTunes and follow us on Twitter: @marvel_gospel.)
Zane Sanders is a movie lover with a marvel focus. He loves having these sorts of conversations all the time, so feel free to follow him on twitter @zaneEsanders and interact.