CIVIL WAR: Standing and Moving – Ryan’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. #TeamRyan!

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This seems to be the season of infighting with our superhero movies. Both Marvel and DC have chosen to make their biggest movies of the year about violent disagreements between their most popular characters. Maybe it’s happenstance, or some marketing scheme, but today the focus is on the opposing paradigms of the main characters in Captain America: Civil War. So, if you have not seen the movie yet, you may want to bookmark this until later. Also, if you have not seen any of the previous Marvel movies (especially the Captain America and Iron Man movies) there will be some plot points from them as well. (As a side note: the movie is very good, a younger Spider-Man was a great idea, I loved Ant-Man in the airport scene, and Black Panther may have stolen my comic book heart from Batman.)

Our Very Strength Invites Challenge

The movie catches up with Cap and crew doing what they do best: following something inconspicuous that is going to blow up and kill people (and trying to stop that thing). Unexpected innocent casualties happen, stirring up regret and sadness on all our heroes’ faces; they were there specifically to prevent something like this from happening.

Cut to Tony Stark giving a presentation and trying uncharacteristically to escape any more attention. As he is eyeing a back exit from the festivities, he happens upon an unfamiliar woman waiting on the same elevator he is, who tells him about her son, a bright student who wanted to work on some overseas aid before he took a promising career. Her son was killed in the city of Sokovia during the events of Age of Ultron. She tells Tony that she blames him for what happened to her son.

In the aftermath of these two events, the world has decided that the Avengers are not trustworthy enough to be self-governed. It seems that they accomplish whatever they want with no regard to the consequences of the mission, or how much collateral damage may ensue. Instead, says the UN, a special council will formed to vote on the situations that the Avengers should step into or stay out of.

Uncharacteristically Non-Hyperverbal

Team-Cap-Clean-42f74Tony, furiously trying to cleanse himself of guilt for causing the events of Age of Ultron, is ready and willing to sign up and give the responsibility over to anyone besides himself. But Captain America has a completely different view: having just found out how a well-intentioned group like S.H.I.E.L.D. can become corrupted, Cap doesn’t want to imagine trying to keep track of the secret agendas of the 117 countries that would dictate the action (or inaction) of the Avengers.

But before that can even sink in, there comes the cherry on top: Cap’s old friend Bucky is on the run from the authorities, and his pursuers have been given permission to shoot on sight. Cap knows that, if Bucky is not under mind control, he would never do what he’s being accused of doing. But if he leaves to capture Bucky on his own, he would be breaking the law. And if he doesn’t, his friend would be not only charged for a crime he didn’t commit, but also killed before the facts can prove him innocent.

No, You Move

How do you decide whom to follow: what you think the Bible says, what your religious leaders say the Bible says, and what the government says you are allowed or not to do in view of your religion?

This is one daunting game of chess. Both sides have good points, and it can feel the same trying to be a Christian in a fallen world, in a fallen society, under a fallen government.

For instance: There are people claiming to be Christians being prosecuted for not baking cakes for a homosexual wedding ceremony. At the same time, the Pope (whom many would consider a holy man) has told the church to be more accepting of homosexuals and divorced people. So how do you decide whom to follow: what you think the Bible says, what your religious leaders say the Bible says, and what the government says you are allowed or not to do in view of your religion? It can be difficult to navigate.

In the Bible we find many different ways that the people dealt with the God’s law and man’s law and what they thought was right:

    • In the Old Testament, Rahab committed treason against her own government in Jericho. She allowed in spies that were intent on overthrowing her government, taking her city, and killing its citizens. But she knew that the one true God would not be stopped; and she would do anything, inside the law or not, to be on His good side and do what was right. In this scenario her rebellion against the government saved her life.
    • We also see Jesus being interrogated by the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians in the New Testament, trying to trap him in his words. They asked him if it was, in his opinion, right to pay taxes to Caesar; if Jesus said “yes,” that would mean to the onlookers and the Pharisees’ disciples that he was saying “it’s ok to let a foreign nation rule over Israel” – even though they thought Israel should only be subject to God and His chosen leader. Like the Avengers, acting could mean giving up freedom.But if Jesus said “no,” the Herodians would try and convince the Romans that Jesus was an outlaw trying to start riots against the Roman Empire. Like the Avengers, not signing the accords could mean becoming outlaw vigilantes. But, knowing the intent of the question, Jesus asked them whose image was on the coin that would pay these taxes. They answered it was Caesar’s, to which he said to give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what is His.This was a messy situation and Jesus gives a very clear message: obeying God does not always mean disobeying other authorities.
    • Third, in Genesis 19 we see the people of Sodom at Lot’s door. Two men had come to visit, and Lot insisted they come to his house for protection from the people of this city. The men of the city yelled at and threatened Lot, demanding that he let them rape the visitors. They even mention how Lot moved to the city as a foreigner, accusing him of playing judge by refusing them access to the visitors.The people in this city were abiding by their own law, a law that was radically outside of God’s law. It was right in their eyes to rape anyone who wandered into their city. But, not long after this incident, the whole area found out what can happen when man’s laws are followed, instead of God’s laws: The entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with sulfur from heaven. Not all cultures that opposed God received such a severe punishment, but there are many instances of plagues, routing their armies and other bad things that happen to these nations and individuals that hold their own laws and customs above the laws of God.

It’s like Peggy says, by way of Sharon:

Compromise where you can.  Where you can’t, don’t.  Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, “No, you move.”

I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.

Captain-America-Civil-War-Key-ArtThe three situations above show that anyone, Christian or not, can find themselves in real trouble for living outside the protection of God’s perfect law. But when we see Jesus, God in the flesh, we see a way of navigating both laws with grace.

As a Christian, it is always best to live as much like Christ as possible. If it is possible to obey both laws, that is the best option. But, if the government forces you to participate in something directly opposed to God’s law, then you will be rewarded for taking a stand and submitting to the higher of the two powers.

Not that this is easy. Be warned, in the New Testament many disciples of Christ were persecuted and even killed for not submitting to their worldly authorities; your rewards may not be given in this life but the next. You could end up “outside the law.”

These aren’t the only such stories in the Bible. Look at the story of Joseph: only once did he act outside of his earthly masters’ wishes (of which he had many).  Look also at Daniel, who proposed new ideas to his master in a foreign land, to try and show the benefits of following the rules God had given him to live a pure life.  But later, when push came to shove, he would rather endure his worldly punishment of being thrown into a den of lions than pray to a mere man instead of his God.

At this point in the history of the United States of America (and most of the West), there has not yet been a sweeping law to stop Christians from obeying the Lord. There has also been no amendment to the Constitution or bill passed to force us to break any of His commandments. Maybe that time of favor is at an end.  But praise the Lord for the freedoms enjoyed in this great nation, and pray it will remain great for as long as it can until He returns!

And that day will be made all the greater – because we will have a new government run by our creator.  And there will be no difference in what laws to follow; God’s law and the Law of the Land will be one.

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

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