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Why Marvel Changed Its Mind About God’s Goodness

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Why Marvel Changed Its Mind About God’s Goodness

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So what happened? Why has Marvel’s portrayal of the divine shifted so much from negative to positive? 

While there are a cadre of potential answers, there’s one that fits with other themes that we have seen in Marvel movies and its own evolving status itself. Marvel is now the establishment. As a result, it sees authority in a more positive light.

The negative portrayals of God in Marvel movies have always fit with its negative portrayals of authority. Marvel has always tended to portray institutions and individuals in positions of power as the bad guys and it needs its heroes, whether it’s SHIELD, father figures, the military or whatever else, to save it. Expanding that to God — the ultimate authority of the universe – was natural.

From underdog to total domination

But Marvel now is no longer the scrappy underdog of the movie industry. It is now the behemoth that has taken over the industry. Their notion of authority is starting to change.

Shuri is the righteous monarch of Wakanda. The Guardians are no longer rebellious mercenaries, but leaders of a planet of refugees and intergalactic protectors. Nick Fury’s new organization SABER, unlike SHIELD, is not secretly run by Nazis. Now that Loki and his friends are running the TVA (and Loki is now running the multiverse), suddenly an all-powerful authority running everything isn’t so bad. 

The association in the United States between how one feels about God and how one feels about institutions of authority is born out in some of the religious data we have. The shrinking of religious affiliation in America is correlated highly with the shrinking of trust in institutions in America more broadly

Conversely, according to the new book “The Great Dechurching”, the more higher education a person has — meaning, the higher they are in the American institutional hierarchy — more likely they are to attend church. This is, of course, not true in every part of the world. In places like China, where believing in Christianity puts you at odds with the ruling regime, I expect that the correlation is highly inverted by comparison. 

This is worthy of concern. Any religion that is more than just an excuse for power is good for those both at the top and at the bottom. If those at the bottom are rejecting the religion, it gives one pause as to whether the version of the faith that the people at the top are giving them might simply be a religion serving their interests rather than one based on what’s true for everyone. 

If you reject God when you’re not in charge, but then accept God because you are in charge, it’s reasonable to suspect that what you really believe in is your own godhood and desire to impose that on others. 

We saw this trend in last year’s Oscar contenders, where the most positive portrayals of religion were ones where the filmmakers got a chance to make up the religion for themselves to suit the way they want reality to be like. In other words, they made God — and therefore reality — in their image rather than conforming themselves to God. We see this at the end of “Loki Season 2,” where Loki replaces the evil God “He Who Remains” with himself as the new God, conforming the multiverse into his image, which is, of course, the “right” one. 

Most importantly, this is a reminder that we are biased in believing things, including about faith, that are convenient to us. We can’t assume that all of the reasons we either accept God or reject Him are purely rational and are not influenced by less trustworthy motives. 

If God seems to stand in the way of what we want, we reject Him. When He validates what we want, we are warm to Him. We must make a purposeful effort to see truths — about everything, not just about faith — that we don’t want to hear or believe.



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