Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

3/29/2007

Captain America, The 300 and the Image of God

From the graphic novel The 300

Writing for Newsweek, Rabbi Marc Gellman connects the recent demise of Captain America and the movie The 300 to the Image of God. He says,

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?

Captain America diesThis 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.
He concludes the essay writing,

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.

Gerard Butler as LeonidesLeonides 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.
You may read the full text of Rabbi Gellman's essay here: The Image of God.

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?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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6 Comments:

  • At 3/29/2007 7:49 AM, Anonymous Linda+ said…

    Did anyone notice in the movie 300 that when Leonidas died, he looked strangely like Jesus Christ on the cross?

     
  • At 3/29/2007 8:18 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    Molon Labe

     
  • At 3/29/2007 8:22 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    Molon Labe meaning "Come and take [them]!", is a classical (reported by Plutarch) expression of daring and bravery, roughly corresponding to the modern "over my dead body" or "from my cold dead hands", or more literally to the "Come and take it" slogan from the Texas Revolution Battle of Gonzales.

    How very erudite Kenny. But I did enjoy my trip to Wikipedia.

     
  • At 3/29/2007 10:26 AM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    Finally, a topic I know something about, the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae.

    At the Battle of Thermopyle the Spartans were fighting for freedom (their own), but their cause was not as unsullied as Rabbi Gellman would have it appear. Spartan society survived largely off the labor of a huge slave class called the helots, who ironically would have carried most of the Spartan’s baggage train to Thermopylae. In fact a Spartan “homoioi” or “equal” could have no other trade but warcraft.

    The Spartans, who believed they were descendants of Heracles, were worried about the potential Persian invasion so they fought and died to protect themselves and their Hellenistic brothers. Rabbi Gellman is off the mark when he says, “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.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I greatly admire the Spartans and their accomplishments. In their time they were the undisputed masters of land warfare. We do not need to impose our own interpretations on their actions, what they did speaks for itself and requires no philosophical our spiritual embellishment on our part. I believe we should depict them as they were, not as we wish them to be.

    While the Athenians, Sparta’s neighbor, ally and adversary, set the intellectual underpinnings for most of the western world in philosophy, medicine, mathematics, music and drama and a host of others, the Spartans set the example for courage. The Athenians showed us how to live, the Spartans showed us how to die.

     
  • At 3/29/2007 10:52 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    There are things worth dying for as many martyred saints would agree. While we never really know how we'll react to any threat to our beliefs or ourselves, it seems helpful to me to remember that.

    Thanks, Frank. I'm just amazed that I could make you resort to Wikipedia!

     
  • At 3/30/2007 12:33 PM, Anonymous Steve+ said…

    I went and saw 300 last night. It seemed the movie was a combination of "Gladiator" and "Big Trouble in Little China."

     

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