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The past week has been very full indeed! As I noted last week, Ash Wednesday had kicked off the season of Lent, and with it comes a sense of greater discernment of God’s will and the Spirit at work.
For many, that discernment is spent looking in places that have not been searched since last year’s sacred stare at what we hope is a holy endeavor. My own understanding is that God is speaking to us all the time and in many ways to tell us about life, truth and the secrets of the scriptures that aren’t really that secret if you take off your blinders.
I’ve got a whole series going on at my church on Wednesday evenings based on the simplest concept that seems so confusing, Love, with the theme: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Guess what the series and the Bible are going to tell you? Love everyone! Even the people you don’t like; even the people you deem yourself better than. Actually, especially the people you don’t like. And as for that discrimination of being better, that’s your own fabrication because amongst humanity, God sees no partiality.
But year after year, the same people ignore the edict to love for some reason just so they can hate. It seems there always has to be an “other” to vilify. Which is why I’ve been excited about the way the modern mythology has been trying to frame that same biblical revelation that indeed in Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Greek, nor even male or female, but all are one. You see, that kind of leveling of the field is what the Bible tries to tell us: that in God’s eyes the norm is for everyone to be on equal footing. And I saw this channeled this past week in a couple of powerful ways indeed.
On the one hand, while on a brief trip to Denver (right before the blizzard hit) I was taken on a drive through the mountains so I could experience the Rockies. The view was miraculous and filled with grandeur, but one thing caught my eye in the midst of a small mining town we passed through. The sign on the door said, “St. James United Methodist: Oldest Methodist Church in Colorado.” Pretty cool! I always like seeing old churches (and this one was over a mile higher in elevation than any in North Carolina, so you know it has to be closer to God, so I paid close attention).
The sign board out front read: “Hating people is like burning down your house to get rid of a rat.” I don’t think that’s in any Bible, but I certainly understood the sentiment.
Along those lines was the release of the movie “Captain Marvel.” To be sure, I thought this was a great movie, especially when one is marking the days until the final reveal of the next Avengers movie in April. It has some great parallels to the “Black Panther” movie of a year ago in that it subtly subverts the discriminations that we just can’t seem to shake in the everyday world.
There are main characters of differing skin tones, and yet race does not divide. There is most prominently a woman in the title role of Captain Marvel (earth name: Carol Danvers) who is the hero of the movie, though the secondary most heroic figure is also a woman, Captain Marvel’s best friend — oh, and who also happens to skew those racial barriers too.
Now, for all of you who have just got to have someone to hate, the movie provides an “other,” aliens of two differing flavors depending on which side you want to take.
The movie rocks with some great nostalgia (at least that’s what the youngsters are calling it) from the ‘90s including the soundtrack, a couple of enhanced takes on some pre-established characters and an awesome meta-moment for the you-know-it-has-to-be-there Stan Lee cameo. It also, sets up the final piece (or maybe that’s chronologically the first piece — unless you remember that Captain America started in the 1940s — I think I just digressed) of the puzzle that will give us the solution called “Avengers: Endgame” on April 26, just days after Easter, with more than irony in store.
However, the most profound, coolest and, dare I say, holiest thing about this movie is the profound effect (similar to when “Wonder Woman” hit theaters), of little girls having someone who represents them as the strongest hero in the Marvel cinematic universe (yeah, I’m saying stronger than Hulk or Thor). When Captain Marvel conquers either by strength or stealth or just sheer strategy, she acts as a beacon that there really is no dividing line of sexism. And to see a little girl — or a woman of any age, for that matter — jump up in excitement at the victory that for so much time only seemed achievable by males — and mostly white males for that matter — is an awesome step toward normalizing that concept of no male or female, but all being equally capable!
Being equally heroic does not take away the distinctions of one’s gender or one’s heritage or of any particularity, but those diversities of the human condition do not hinder either anyone’s capability nor one’s connectedness to our Creator, who loves us all equally and gives gifts to everyone.
This only scratches the surface on this topic, but believe it or not, there is a panel discussion exactly along these lines scheduled for the Oak City Comic-Con this weekend at the Raleigh Convention Center. And I’m almost certain that this issue will come to light at the “God in Comics” panel at 2 p.m. on Saturday that I’m helping facilitate there in Room 202.
But if that trek seems a bit far and you are still interested, there will be several similar opportunities in two weeks at the Free Comic Book Weekend right here in Wilson at Ascension Lutheran Church, hosted by myself and Louis Small Jr. and a large number of artists, writers and geek- and faith-related enthusiasts.
My take this Lent is a simple one. God is speaking to all of us in a bunch of different ways. He speaks through the Word. He speaks through community. And He also speaks through the messages we have right in front of us. His ultimate Word is never about hate. It’s always about love. Just look for it!
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.