SPOILER ALERT: I went to see this Marvel movie, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, as I loved Cap’ as a kid. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and the whole cast are compelling and effective in portraying the comic book story. I was also treated to a surprise revival of a great old Marvel spin-off character in this film, along with seeing Cap’, Black Widow, and Nick Fury. The writing, action, and effects are good, and Cap’ is as committed to truth, justice, and the American way as ever. Rogers is still monogamous, he readily takes on the most daunting of tasks with a fierce determination that is laudable, and he will not lie under any circumstances. Best of all, when an old friend of Steve’s is overcome by the forces of HYDRA, and Steve must oppose him, perhaps to the death, Rogers remains true to his friend and to his cause despite the cost to himself. For all of this, I found the movie to be a bit dark, as the idea that Rogers would have to do battle with his best friend was crushing to name one element, it was hard to tell who was on what side, and at the film’s end, the credits eerily showed the heroes in a comic strip montage on the surface, with the bad guys, their reflection below ground. This may have been simply a juxtaposition of good and evil, but I found it unsettling.
In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (A Marvel TV spin-off of Captain America), there are some similar dynamics on a smaller scale: A close knit team of lovable good guys fight evil, there are super-powered characters, and a comic book style. Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennett, and the rest are great players as well. On the downside, there is a lot of violence and some sex, but something more thought provoking to me: The chief and good protagonist has been brought back from the dead by troubling means, a girl who has a very dark origin is inherently good, and one of the good guys turns out to be a bad guy. Phil Coulson, the good chief, clearly resists evil should it even prove to be the means of his “resurrection”, Melinda May is devoted to fighting for good despite what she must at times appear to be, while the science genius, “Fitz”, will not yield to the idea that one of his former team members is evil. He persists in the firm conviction that there is good in him, and that he can repent, no matter the cost to Fitz. The shows’ dichotomy is alternately disturbing, and inspiring. I would have to say that other shows like the fairytale story based “Once Upon a Time” are in a similar vein.
It is great to see themes of redemption, and characters who have the potential to do evil that shun it vigorously, and there are inversely disturbing scenes of deceit and betrayal, and that is life and drama. These may invoke Biblical themes, but they lack the clear hope, power, and accuracy of God’s Word. In many of today’s shows, including this one, good seems to be losing ground, and the playing field seems to be slanted to the dark side; and the distinction between good and evil is unclear; which we are seeing in the world today.
I think the media reflects the desperate times we live in, but there is a greater need in the world for God’s truth. If we meditate primarily on hopelessness, some of us may despair. I think God’s Word in Philippians says it best:
New King James Version (NKJV)
Meditate on These Things
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
I like watching movies and TV quite a bit, and I wonder how we can enjoy the popular media and at the same time keep our wits and hope? Some may be more susceptible to the media than others, but it is a question that should be considered. Perhaps this is partly a “weaker brother” scenario:
1 Corinthians 8:9
Easy to Read Version (ERV)
Be Sensitive to Conscience
9 But be careful with your freedom. Your freedom to eat anything may make those who have doubts about what they can eat fall into sin. 10 You understand that it’s all right to eat anything, so you can eat even in an idol’s temple. But someone who has doubts might see you eating there, and this might encourage them to eat meat sacrificed to idols too. But they really think it is wrong. 11 So this weak brother or sister—someone Christ died for—is lost because of your better understanding. 12 When you sin against your brothers and sisters in Christ in this way and you hurt them by causing them to do things they feel are wrong, you are also sinning against Christ. 13 So if the food I eat makes another believer fall into sin, I will never eat meat again. I will stop eating meat, so that I will not make my brother or sister sin.
King James Version (KJV)
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
There is forgiveness for the Christian:
1 John 1:9
New American Standard Version (NASB)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But that is not a license to sin, nor is it good for us.
I think S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America are better than most entertainments, but what the world really needs is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a conflicting and humanistic (if faintly hopeful) vision of this fallen world. You may want to try watching movies like Left Behind, and Courageous, reading the Bible; talking with wise & loving friends, and listening to positive, uplifting music; you may also want to be careful what you watch around others. I may still watch some worldly entertainment, but this is the overall prescription I recommend, depending on whom you trust as your physician, and on how you approach Him.
King James Version (KJV)
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.