CIVIL WAR: Explosions and Atonement – David’s Side

This review is about Marvel’s recent film “Captain America: Civil War.” It does contain mild spoilers about the plot, but no ending or twist information.

Make sure you read the other article in “Redeeming Culture: Civil War,” too. #TeamDavid!

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MV5BMTQ3NjIwMzk5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY0MjY1ODE@._V1_CR0,60,640,360_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_In the past eight years, the Avengers have saved (in no particular order): the world (twice), London, the United States, the Sokovian capital of Novi Grad, Los Angeles, New York City (three times), Nick Fury, twenty million Project Insight targets, the President of the United States, and Puente Antiguo, New Mexico.

And that’s just in the 13 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Going by the population of the world in our universe, that accounts for at least 14.161 billion lives, rescued from subjugation or annihilation by less than a dozen people in skintight spandex.  Their fortitude and derring-do lead them into battle; and, when the dust settles, millions who should have died still live.

But not everybody.

No Better than the Bad Guys?

bucky-barnes-630x360The opening shots of the conflict are fired by Bucky Barnes, in 1991.  Out of control of his own mind, he’s driven to do a terrible thing he doesn’t want to.  His desires are weakened by this programming.  And when he’s activated, his sin comes out.

In the modern day, the conflict is reborn when Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) tries to save the occupants of a marketplace in Lagos by telekinetically lifting it above the street, only reaching a few stories before she loses control of the explosion.  This destroys a large chunk of the building, killing the Wakandans inside.  In trying to save thousands, she kills dozens – and the guilt nearly puts her off of being a superhero forever.

For both Tony and Wanda, sin has “splattered.”

Similarly, Tony Stark is thrown into the Civil War when he is confronted by Miriam Spencer about the death of her son in Sokovia – due in part to the actions of the Avengers themselves.  And unlike Wanda’s situation, as well as previous conflicts with the Chithauri and Red Skull, the events in Sokovia can be traced through Ultron directly back to the Avengers themselves (and Tony in particular).  Tony’s “sins” in creating Ultron have come back to haunt him, and the guilt tears him up inside.

For Tony, Wanda, and Bucky, sin has “splattered;” in Wanda’s case, it’s the villain’s sin splattering onto her.  Both Wanda and Tony have tried to save some people, and succeeded at the cost of other people.

But although many lives have been saved and many people have forgiven them, it doesn’t change the fact that innocent people are still dead at their hands.  Forgiveness and salvation doesn’t remove the consequences.  Sin still splatters.

They Aren’t Stopping

Innocent lives aren’t the only casualties.  Bucky’s relationship with his old friend Steve is difficult; as much as he wants to believe that it wasn’t his fault, that his programming forced him to commit those sins, the reality is that it was still his skills, his mental acuity, his strength, and his metal arm that committed all of those terrible acts.

And, as tension mounts and tempers flare, battle lines begin to be drawn with friends on opposite sides.  Stark and Rogers face off against one another, of course, but so are Vision and Maximoff, whose friendship is beginning to develop at the start of the film.  Even long-time friends Black Widow and Hawkeye are driven into different camps.

Tony’s sin drove a wedge between the Avengers.  Bucky’s sin drove it in further.

As I was watching them running at one another at the airport, I couldn’t shake this feeling of intense sadness at the dissolution of the Avengers.  The weight of all that they’d been through over the course of the previous dozen films made me feel like they were all for nothing.  Their unity was destroyed.  As Zemo notes when explaining his plot, “An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within… That’s dead. Forever.”

Tony’s sin – and his attempt to atone for it at the expense of freedom – drove a wedge between the Avengers.  Bucky’s sin drove it in further.  All that Zemo had to do was hit it, shattering the team to pieces.

Rescue

472058_074Tony’s attempts at atonement are dangerous at best, and self-destructive at worst.  Unfortunately, he brings his friends along for that ride.

Even more unfortunately, it might be on purpose.  See, Tony Stark knows he has sinned.  The deaths of those innocent bystanders haunt him so much that his story about Charlie Spencer’s life and death is laced with barely-repressed anger at himself and his team.  The thread of Tony’s guilt, built up in the previous three Iron Man films, resolves here in the most painful way: Stark is left broken on the ground, having failed again to atone for his mother’s death.  Guilt and shame have consumed him, and through him, the Avengers.

Tony doesn’t have anyone who died for his sins, so he kills himself over and over.

 Like many people in our own world, he doesn’t have anyone who died for his sins, so he kills himself over and over.  Then he kills his friends.  He does whatever he can to atone for his sins, all the while unintentionally forcing his friends to atone for theirs.  And all the while failing to atone for anything.

Bucky has a different idea.  He knows that he can’t trust his mind; the remnants of the old sinful programming still lurk in his brain, waiting to rear their ugly head and take over his body for their own purposes again.  He decides to hide from the darkness in his mind, waiting for a day when someone will be able to cure him.

But neither Bucky nor Tony truly find atonement.  Only Wanda finds her release – and it’s not of her own doing.  Her salvation only comes when someone else enters in to rescue her.

It’s Been a Long Day

How about you?  What sin have committed that you hate?  How has your mind been taken over by the ravages of sin?

Are you killing yourself to pay for your sins?

What relationships has your sin broken?  Are the people around you suffering for your guilt?

And what sin has splattered on you, leaving consequences for the sin that Christ has already paid for?

Don’t sign the lying treaty that sin tries to ratify; if you’re in Christ, you don’t owe a thing.  And if you’re not, only He can pay it.

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Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture! Don’t miss Ryan’s piece about Captain America in Redeeming Culture: Civil War.

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