Captain America, The 300 and the Image of God
If faith is truly transcendent, then it does not matter who rules our broken world because this world does not matter. If, on the other hand, God wants us to be free not only of sin and death but also from oppression and tyranny, then faith must encourage its believers to take up arms against the oppressors. This question is tearing religious people apart. One can easily carry a protest sign reading NO WAR FOR OIL, but can one carry a sign reading NO WAR FOR FREEDOM without doing damage to one’s soul?He concludes the essay writing,
This same conflict lies behind the comic-book death of Captain America and the cinematic death of Leonides in the movie “300.” The Spartan Greeks, led by Leonides, could have chosen to live under the rule of Xerxes and the Persian Empire. They could have traded their imperiled freedom for a secure life of slavery. The choice of Leonides and the 300 Spartans to die in a doomed but heroic battle is the clear choice of those who believe that nothing—no faith, no material wealth, nothing—justifies the surrender of freedom to tyranny.
Captain America was created by Joe Simon in 1941 as a fictional ally in the war against Hitler and Nazi fascism. In the most recent issue, Cap was gunned down in New York City after 65 years of fighting for freedom and the American way of life. Pop culture mavens said that Cap's death symbolized the death of the American passion for freedom and of the kind of heroes who give their lives in its defense.
Embracing the need to spiritually justify the fight for world freedom carries its own perils. Chief among these dangers is what we now see in the world of Islamic fascism: the use of religion to extol death and tyranny. The biblical name for this is idolatry, and the seductions of idolatry are hard for some to resist. In the end, though, the spiritual truth of freedom's cause is eventually clear to all.You may read the full text of Rabbi Gellman's essay here: The Image of God.
Leonides and Captain America were heroes not because they entered the field of battle with a shield of Vibranium or were in possession of abs of steel, but because they entered battle with a spiritually authentic idea: that God is free and we are made in God's image to be free as well. We were not placed on planet earth to avoid death. We were placed here so that we could avoid surrendering our God-given freedom to tyrants.
In the archives are the religion columns When is War Just and Prayer in a Time of War as well as the sermon Peace, Peace.
So what do you think? When should Christians stand up on behalf of freedom and when are we just using faith to justify violence?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor