THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THANOS
Being a nerd, I bought the recent Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War. From the time this movie came out in theatre’s up till now, I maintain an argument that Thanos is the hero of the story. I suppose I should be up front and explain that according to the six years of Marvel movie ethos Thanos is the big bad guy that viewers have been waiting to see. However, as you watch the movie Thanos is the main character that glues the movie together. Thanos also has the normal story arc of the hero. He has all the best lines, loses friends along the way, is the only person willing and able to “save the universe,” and even gets the peaceful sunset ending the hero gets in normal action movies. Very John McClain character.
Now that I have been watching the movie at home, I recognized something very human and very biblical about the character of Thanos. Thanos’ character represents the story of humans in the Bible. The Mad Titan has a certain Genesis 3-12 ring to him. He is a being that deems himself a god. He believes he knows better and has seen the brokenness of the creation and can fix it. How does he believe he can fix the universe? By committing genocide on half the universes population. Originally the story tells us he amasses an army. The most brutal military force any world has ever seen. He then goes world by world obliterating half of its population.
Again, this has a Genesis 3-12 ring to it. At the beginning of the Genesis, we find God creating beings in God’s own image and likeness, reflections if you will. The sole purpose of these beings is to be coworkers with God continuing to take the good creation God has created and take it to new places. Spreading God’s order, love, and life where ever they go. However, on page three of the Bible we see the beings try to not be reflections of God, but be God themselves. It has been God that has been discerning what is good and not good up to this point in the story. Now, humans begin to decide what is good and not good. Nakedness is shameful, murder is justifiable, and they sing songs of boast because they have killed people. This continues all the way until they decide to build a tower to the heavens to make a reputation for themselves. (Side note: some scholars John H. Walton and Tremper Longman III suggest the description of materials used that the “tower” could be a ziggurat traditionally a place of worship.) So basically, humans begin to try to make themselves god by deciding what is good and not good which results in humanity redefining good to include murder, shame, and idolatry. Thanos represents all of this, as he decides murder is fine and elevates himself to god status. Thanos even goes so far as to have apostles that go before him, preparing the way, declaring his salvation. (Another side note: in the Bible God is the only one who brings salvation.) Ebony Maw goes proclaims the “good news” to the dead and dying Asgardians. His announcement is the gospel of Thanos and epitomizes the conflict and rebellion humans are living out n the early parts of Genesis. “Hear me and rejoice. You have had the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan. You may think this is suffering, but it is salvation.” Notice the very scripture sounding announcement. Notice the creature who brings salvation. Notice the reorganization of suffering and salvation.
I cannot help but see Thanos, the “hero” of the story, and the lie it is reflecting is the very humanity we are today. We make choices daily, individually and corporately, redefining good and not good to the detriment of life around us. Here in the United States, we pass laws to poison our waters, separate families, and destroy homes and land for big oil. Individually, we shame each other, gossip, spread fear and division about each other, get angry, and sexually objectify each other’s worth. Yes, all of this resulting in physical, emotional, and relational death.
I think for me the question becomes, “if this is who we are, what hope is there for us? What can change to set us on a different path?” I wish I could say it is the Avengers, a group of amazing women, men, trees, and more trying to offer a different path. However, the Avengers themselves are willing to kill their enemy to bring salvation to creation. It is here, in my view, that the grace and mercy of Christ become so evident. The incarnate creator God, Jesus offers creation a new way forward. Jesus outstretches his arm to offer a renewed partnership with God. Jesus opens up a new path to take God’s good creation forward again. In Jesus, our purpose as humans is given to us again. The beauty of this is we do not need to have a fancy suit of armor, magic powers, or be bitten by a radioactive spider to start this change. No, the power is already with us. The Holy Spirit is God the creator working through us and for us, forming us, shaping us, and guiding us into what it means to be truly human. In this way, we can begin to bring peace, joy, love, happiness, justice, encouragement, and empowerment into the world. By using our creativity and gifts we can continue to partner with the creator to bring the good creation forward. We can find new life in losing ours by not seeking to hold onto our lives and the lives of our tribes, but seek the well-being, flourishing, and life of all those around us. By embracing our true purpose as humans we find a deeper connection to all of humanity that can drastically change the world and the lives of all the people who are a part of it.
If you are someone who has never heard this gospel of life, my prayer for you is to embrace it. To seek it out, explore it, and find full life in who you are. I remind you and all who are reading that it is the relationship with Jesus that connects us, reveals to us, and allows us to live truly human lives. That is what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to allow that relationship to transform our very lives.
If you are someone who has heard the gospel and have wounds from the Christian community, my hope is this message can offer some healing and encouragement.
For those of you who know Jesus and proclaim the gospel in word and deed, I pray this message reminds you of who you are and whose you are. After all, we can all use a reminder.
Grace and peace everyone.