Avengers, Assemble! Finding Faith in Marvel’s Mightiest Superheroes

Poster art from Avengers: Infinity War, courtesy Marvel/Disney

Twenty-four days.

That’s when Disney and Marvel will officially release Avengers: Infinity War—a movie boasting more superheroes than the Death Star has Stormtroopers. Everyone from Ant-Man to the White Wolf will be there, all (presumably) taking on the evil Thanos and his collection of Infinity Stones.

I can’t wait. Nothing gets my geek adrenaline flowing like a gigantic all-star superhero mashup. If Hugh Jackman showed up as Wolverine, I could die a happy man.

In preparation for the big day, I’ve been re-watching all the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe—partly to trace the path of all those Infinity Stones, partly to cement  Stan Lee’s cameos to permanent memory, and partly because … well, who really needs an excuse to watch a bunch of superhero movies?

But I rarely watch anything without writing about it, and man, I have a lot to write about these. I believe that superheroes are far more than colorful characters in capes: They make up a uniquely American mythos, expressing many of our collective hopes and fears, anxieties and aspirations. And as most myths do, Marvel’s superheroes point to eternal truths, too. They contain hints of spirituality—resonant echoes of even the faith that I hold precious. These demigods can point, in their own strange ways, to God Himself.

Sure, often these echoes are not intentional. I’m not suggesting that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an inherently, inescapably Christian universe. But as a Christian, I find God relevant to every universe I see, including this cinematic one. As Madeleine L’Engle writes in her book Walking on Water:

Christ has always worked in ways which have seemed peculiar to many men, even his closest followers. Frequently the disciples failed to understand him. So we need not feel that we have to understand how he works through artists who do not consciously recognize him. Neither should our lack of understanding cause us to assume that he cannot be present in their work.

I’ve used this space to talk about some of these heroes and their connection with Christianity before: Doctor Strange. Thor: Ragnarok. Black Panther. This series, though, I hope will be a bit more comprehensive—a deeper dive with the Marvel superheroes we’ve seen over the last 10 years and how they can connect, facilitate and even deepen faith.

So with all that in mind, check in with Watching God throughout the month for some musings on the Avengers and their allies. We’ll begin later this week with Iron Man, the hero who jumpstarted this cinematic universe a decade ago, and we’ll work our way through as best as we can. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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