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May 2012

A (Made) Family on Mission

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (family of believers). – Galatians 6:9-10

Just in case you have been living under a rock for the past few years, I just wanted to let everyone know that there is a huge movie opening this weekend. One that has been 4 years in the making, ever since Iron Man was first introduced to the big screen in 2008. It was then followed by big screen versions of the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America; now, they are all coming together in one big movie, The Avengers. With the exception of Thor, each of these movies tell the story of extremely gifted, yet flawed, humans literally being “born again” into a new reality, complete with new powers, new identities, and new desires and passions. With The Avengers, we now get to explore the idea of not only being born into a new life, but being born into a new family, which is ultimately what I hope The Avengers is all about. What is going to follow is not a review, as I haven’t seen the movie yet, but what I hope to see unfold before me on the big screen when I do see it, being familiar with the directors work.

The man at the helm of this huge undertaking is none other than Joss Whedon, who cut his teeth in the comic industry writing for The Astonishing X-Men, and along the way created, wrote for, and directed some of the most memorable TV shows and films of the past decade, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, and most recently, Cabin in the Woods. One of the common themes that runs throughout all his work are these questions of: “Can we ever be truly free?” and, “Do people need to be free?” This determinism is particularly on display with the characters in Firefly and Serenity, as they battle with the Alliance. We see them struggle against what seems like the simple right…to be wrong. Having the freedom to make “bad” decisions, then living with the consequences of those decisions, is ultimately what Malcolm Ryenolds and his crew are after in this space opera.

A self-proclaimed atheist and absurdist, Whedon is also on record as saying that he loves and is enamored with the idea of what he calls a “made” family. A family that isn’t born and bound by blood, but a family that is brought together by circumstance, and relationship, and the oppression that they are facing. This “made” family is then bound and united by that. They actually grow to be a stronger family than your typical nuclear family because some sort of fate or conspiracy has brought them together. You see this on display in Buffy especially, as Whedon seems to assert that the idea of someone with superhuman powers functioning outside of a social context, or community, is both outdated, and even dangerous. Buffy is only successful because she relies on a support groups of friends and family to make it through life, rather than following the solo slayer route that has traditionally characterized the job description.

I think the Galatians verse at the top of the page is an appropriate verse in light of The Avengers opening this weekend, and this idea of a “made” family purported by Whedon. It paints a picture of a family that we, as Christians, belong too; a family that has come together with united purpose and mission. It’s also understood in this verse that life is going to be a long and hard road, and this world is full of toil, difficulty, endurance, patience, sin, and destruction. All of this pain is what we witness in Whedon’s TV, film, and comics; and although we may not think about it while watching Hulk smash aliens on the big screen, if we look back on the characters he unfolds for us, we perhaps can empathize with the pain, and emptiness, and loneliness, and trials that the characters in The Avengers might go through. His characters might cause us to think about ourselves. Think about the friends in our lives right now. Think about those we know who are in hurt and pain. Those who are divorced, or going thru a divorce. Those who have lost a spouse, or a parent, or child. Just like it will be portrayed in The Avengers, life is hard. Life is painful, and sometimes we get tired and weary.

This scripture encourages us that we will be weary, and we will be tired, and the admonishen is for us to simply to be together with one another. For us to encourage one another, and to do good to each other so that we can overcome that sense of weariness, and pain, and misery, so that we can actually endure together as a family of believers. And just like The Avengers, we don’t just want to be a blessing to each other, but a blessing to the whole world. We will hopefully see them develop an internal family mission to each other, and an external mission to the people of the world; and by the end of this movie, a loner character (my money is on Tony Stark) will come to fully understand and endorse this. He will become truly transformed.

So as you sit in an air-conditioned theater, with a tub of buttery popcorn goodness, and watch some of the most colorful comic book characters come to life, asks yourself what it means to not only be “born again” into a new singular identity, but what it means to become part of a family? What does it mean to come to love that family? What does it mean to understand that sense of mission and purpose, both to each other, and to the world?

If the idea of exploring theology through film intrigues you, or if you are a comic book nerd like me and look for any excuse to talk about comics, then join us Friday, May 11, as we watch and discuss Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 take on the Norse God of Thunder, Thor.


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