The true power of Captain America

captain-america

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

In the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU as it is otherwise known I was never really a Captain America fan. I didn’t dislike the character but I boxed him off into all American boy, patriot, soldier who was no big deal and could just throw a shield at people.

Previously I had been a Spider-Man guy. The wise cracking wall crawler with his quick wit and web swinging abilities was my favourite. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ was the mantra and the cavalcade of colourful, interesting villains also kept me on the hook even when the films were fairly ordinary fare.

As the MCU grew though something in me began to move towards Steve Rodgers and over time Cap has grown on me. He has got under my skin.

He was different to other heroes. He didn’t have an accident like Peter Parker to gain his powers. He wasn’t a multi billionaire philanthropist with a great eye for design like Tony Stark.

Steve Rogers was chosen. He was picked by the government to be injected with a super soldier serum that gave him his power.

He wasn’t picked because of his size, strength or intelligence.

He was picked because of his heart.

The verse from 1 Samuel  is taken from the story of David being selected as king of Israel. Samuel has walked down a line up of Jesse’s sons. The big, the strong, the potential warrior kings that could lead Israel to dominate their neighbours for years.

As Samuel walks the line and each is rejected by God to the point where there are no sons left. The story tells us they have to go and get David he wasn’t even considered worthy enough for the line up!

When David arrives God informs Samuel that this is the chosen one, the future king. The son who was rejected by his own family for the line up is selected.

Why David? The verse tells us it was because of his heart.

Steve Rogers couldn’t get drafted into the army, slipped in through the back door after countless rejections and ended up Captain America.

At one point in the First Avenger a grenade is thrown into a crowd of soldiers and Steve flings himself on top to protect those around him. While others run he puts other lives ahead of his own.

At this point the officers around him see the potential for a  true hero. In this moment Rogers is chosen. Not because of physical prowess, intelligence or size but because of his character.

He is chosen because of his heart and consequentially becomes the moral compass of the MCU.

In the Winter Soldier when actions are taken in the name of security and patriotism Cap stands against it because it invokes not protection but in his mind fear.

Captain America is not driven by a super serum but rather principle, ethics and the desire to do what is right.

In today’s world perhaps we need to re examine not what makes up popular, powerful or gains us status among peers. Perhaps we should instead check our hearts to see what condition it is in.

The return to Dogma

dogma_poster_us2

This is my first blog post in a while. There are lots of reasons for this, finding time to write has been a struggle but when I finally did there were no words.

It didn’t matter what I tried to write no words came . Recently I wanted to write a piece on my favourite films to date this year and I struggled  to articulate it. So I made a conscious decision to take a break from trying.

Today changed that. Via Twitter (O how I love Twitter) I discovered that Dogma is to be shown this weekend on Film 4 here in the UK. When I read that something stirred. You see Dogma and I have history.

On the films initial release I received several chain emails (remember those) telling me all that was wrong theologically wrong with Dogma. Major gripes included the profanity in the film, God depicted as a woman, the glorification of abortion,  the list went on.

Also on those emails was a final line asking me to forward the email to 5 more ‘true believers’  and that if I ‘truly loved Jesus’ there would be no shame in doing so. NOT MANIPULATIVE AT ALL! Apart from anything this final guilt filled line contained  quite possibly more bad theology than anything  contained in the film.

I didn’t forward a single one. However I did reply. I replied with 4 simple words ‘Have you watched it?’.

Non response was the main reply to my inquiry but several did pop back asking  why I would even consider this? Did I not read the email at all?? Did I really love the Lord?

The rights and wrongs of Dogma’s theology were not my point in making that response to people. What I wanted to put across was that I couldn’t get into a discussion with anyone on a film if I haven’t watched.

Taking a stance on anything without engaging with it, regardless of art form or topic, is wrong.

For the record I enjoyed Dogma. It does not contain  perfect theology throughout, however very few films do. Also what or who does have a 100% record in their theology I certainly don’t.

What Dogma does provide are some great moments of truth.

For example when Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) sits down with Metatron (played by the always brilliant Alan Rickman) and questions why God would call her to help stop the angels Loki and Bartelby re-entering heaven she is reassured that her 9-5 as an abortion clinic worker holds no restriction on God’s plan. Metatron tell her “Noah was a drunk. Look what he accomplished. And no one’s even asking you to build an ark. All you have to do is go to New Jersey, and visit a small church on a very important day. “

The point being that no one is off-limits to being used by God. It’s not Bethany’s job  that brings the call its her heritage.

I may watch Dogma this weekend I may not. Overall I am grateful that it exists. It starts conversations regardless of your view on it. When I had the idea for this blog it was one of the films that came to mind when considering films and faith.

Above all else I’m grateful for Dogma today as it helped me start writing again.

The first rule of film club……..

Image

This week sees the return of the film club I organise for those film fans within our church community (Fitzroy Presbyterian).  You will have to excuse me for being a bit ‘in-house’ with this post but I wanted to take some time to explain (if I can) the aim of what we are trying to do at film club as part of the bigger picture of our church and our faith.

This week I came across a blog by Eric Kuiper who runs an organisation called Into the Noise looking at film,art and music in an attempt to not only tease out the spiritual themes but discern if in fact God is in the midst of the things we watch and listen to. As he said in the post  “We all acknowledge art’s great ability to entertain us and help us escape. Those are not unimportant aspects. But many of us are increasingly aware that art does much more than that.” This for me is the crux of what I hope to achieve with our film club. It is not only to be entertained and socialise with other members of our church family but also not to go deeper into what we are watching and listen to God to speak throughout the film.

Using our local cinema has been great. Our church has the vision to take our community into the community around us on Belfast’s bustling Botanic Avenue. Having Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) on our doorstep made a regular venue for film club a no brainer. With the widest range of films available in Belfast (a healthy mix of art house and mainstream), the ability to support an independent cinema and the fact that they produce their programme in advance meaning I can pick dates to hopefully suit as many as possible and work around other church events (we are a busy bunch at Fitzroy) it seemed the natural fit . 

The first year of film club was a great success we had different people every month and established a few regulars. I really appreciated getting a little time to meet new folk and spend quality time with those I already knew. This year I ‘m hoping to see more and more members of the congregation embrace film club and to do that I want to be clear about something.  

Last Sunday I was approached by an older member of the congregation who said they really wanted to see this month’s choice (Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine) but they didn’t want to make film club uncool by being there. Film club is for all ages (taking into account the film classification 12A, 15 of course) this is not a club based around age.

The first rule of film club is simple  -Love film.

Hopefully see loads of you there on Monday night 7:40pm @ QFT for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

* More information about Into the Noise can be found at intothenoise.org