The Gaurdians of the Galaxy? #GOTG

I took my wife last weekend to see the summer blockbuster, “The Gaurdians of the Galaxy”.  I enjoyed it immensely, but I have always loved comic books, action heroes, and space thrillers.  This movie is right in my wheelhouse, because it is all 3 wrapped into a neat little 2hr package.  Color me a very happy fanboy!

When it comes to comic book movies it always seems like the more superhuman a character becomes, the more aloof, withdrawn, and uncaring they become; and the less they are actually concerned with the affairs of humans. (See below Dr. Manhattan of The Watchmen, or Jean Grey/Ms. Marvel/The Phoenix, even Superman is somewhat unapproachable due to his awesome power)

This is a pic of Dr. Manhattan not caring.

This is a picture of Phoenix about to smoke some undeserving humans, simply because she’s high on power.

This meme of regular humans who subsequently become quasi-gods, and, in turn, lose their humanity seems like a cultural touchstone.  Perhaps there is something deeply tied to our cultural psyche, which distrusts those we perceive to who hold too much power.  Maybe we’ve seen despots rise and wreak havoc.  Maybe absolute power does corrupt absolutely.

Fortunately, none of the Gaurdians are all powerful; they are just regular folk, like you and me.  If, regular folk were genetically mutated, cybernetically enhanced racoons, or tree people akin to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents.  Maybe that’s why, for me, this film had more pathos and drama than any of the others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Even Ironman 3, with its inclusion of a parent absent, perpetually bullied young boy, Tony’s PTSD, and the pain it gives him when he thinks he has lost Pepper Potts, does not compare in the poignancy department, to the heartfelt, and often tear jerking Gaurdians.

I mention Rocket the raccoon and Groot, the walking tree, because they are the two most human and compelling characters in the film.  Groot is a creature capable of intense altruism, and destructive violence.  Rocket is outwardly tough and battle hardened, while inwardly he is sad, self loathing, emotionally adept.  He feels exactly how he ought to feel, exactly when he should.  Ironic, that I connected more with these two non-human, CGI created, intergalactic denizens of sci-fi, than the human, Peter Quill/Star Lord or the other two humanoids, Gamora and Drax the destroyer.

Rocket and Groot are likable, because they are vulnerable.  They elicit the most acute emotional responses from the audience, because their characters are the most emotionally available.  They are not super charged, god-like, masters of the Universe, calloused and ambivalent to the needs of others.  They are friends, they are willing to take up a cause that is dangerous, yet worthy, they are, in a word, self sacrificial.  And, because of this, they are Gaurdians of the Galaxy.

Remember when I said that our culture fears those with too much power?  This may contribute (or be a cause of, rather than an effect of) to our cultural distrust of God Himself.  Who is more powerful?  Who is less trusted?  The one true God is not like Dr. Manhattan or the Phoenix of Marvel Comics, or ancient Marduk of Mesopotamian mythology.  Yes, He is all powerful.  Yes, He may do as He pleases.  Yes, He transcends human understanding.  But, none of those attributes leads Him to disregard our human frailties. Hebrews 4:15 says that “We do not have a high priest (that is, Jesus) who is not able to empathize with our human weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are… He is not arbitrary, capricious, or indifferent to us, He actually loves us.

The ultimate proof of God’s love for humankind is that He sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.  What does this have to do with the movie?  In the end it is love that saved the galaxy, and in the end it was Love that moved the heart of God to save sinners hellbent on our own destruction.  Jesus’s love for us, and His self sacrifice for us, earned Him the name that is above all other names.  Jesus, the creator and sustainer of, not only the universe, space/time, electromagnetism, the color spectrum, emotions, and fun, but also of you and me, died for you and me, so that we can have ever lasting life.

TED Talk by David Brooks, “Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?”

Please watch the above TED Talk video, before continuing to the article below.

It is funny how sometimes we must look backwards at life, from the vantage point of our death, in order to see things in their proper perspective.  It is something very much like solving a puzzle by finding all the corner pieces first.  Slowly you build the frame of the puzzle, and presently it takes on borders, parameters, and definition.  Only then does it become workable and clear where the other pieces fit.  In order to focus on what has true value and deserves our real effort, Humanity needs these clear borders as well.  Once we see our own personal lives (puzzles) from the outside border (death) things that where previously not so clear become perfectly clear.  The very recognition that there exists such a thing as the eulogy virtues can only come from looking back at life from the point of life’s end. The grave immediately puts things into perspective for us humans, unlike any other corrective concept.  So, when David Brooks asks the question, “Should we live for our resume or for our eulogy?” it is a rhetorical question, because we intuitively know the answer!

The concept that there are two Adams is a biblical one.  The Apostle Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the second Adam.  Where the first Adam failed (i.e. using his own self sovereignty to submit to God’s will) the second Adam, Jesus, succeeded.  Saint Irenaeus deemed this the “recapitulation theory” of the atonement.  This means that Jesus, “sums up” or “recaps” all of human history into His life.  When Jesus succeeds, we all succeed, because he encapsulates us all into his victory.

The New Living Translation of Romans 5: 12 says that 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

and again, in verse 16

For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.  18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God chose to send Jesus into the world, so that those under the sin of Adam might be made free by the righteousness of Christ.  Being born into Adam means sin and death. Being born into Christ means freedom from sin and everlasting life.  This is why Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3 that “you must be born again.”   The first time you were born, you learned how to do life, as you grew up into Adam’s sin.  All of your strivings, longings, and coping mechanisms are natural, carnal, and debased, because they are spiritually dead, as Adam was spiritually dead. The first birth is not enough, because it only makes you physically alive in Adam.  You must also be born again to take on the spiritual life that Jesus offers.  The spiritual birth transpires, in Christ, and then you must totally relearn how to live righteous in Christ Jesus.

The values that really matter, the victories that are actually worth having, the life that we all really want for ourselves is not found in the first Adam.  David said that living the first Adam life turns you into a “shrewd animal, who treats life as a game , and you become a cold, calculating creature”.  What he is describing is little more than a primitive ape-like, hunter-gatherer, trying to make sure he gets the most food and that his genes get passed along.  Of course, the modern first Adam may seem more sophisticated, but this is simply an illusion.  If all we are is atoms, and if there is no God, then I think the New Atheists are right about the first Adam, in that they say he should live for the higher pleasures and nurture his every selfish whim.  After all, when the first Adam dies, there is no hope for him in the next life, so he might as well live it up here.  But, if Atheism is not true, then the first Adam had better get born again into the Second Adam!

Applying the New Atheist’s logic to the second Adam results only in idiocy, then frustration, and, eventual lunacy.  It cannot be done, because the second Adam is a spiritual Adam. Those who are in Christ, (we simply call them Christians) have spiritual life in the second Adam.  As such, merely physical and materialistic theories and explanations of behavior do not apply to us.  We have been born again to new life in Christ. We are no longer living only for our resumes.  Now we are living for the Body of Christ, which is the great cloud of witnesses, the Church.  Now we are living the higher virtues David described as  “humble”, “in obedience to God”, “love, redemption, and return”.   

He goes on to describe this life in detail:

“You have to give to receive.  You have to surrender to something outside of yourself to gain strength within yourself.  You have to conquer the desire to get what you want.  In order to fulfill yourself you have to forget yourself.  In order to find yourself you have to lose yourself.”

These ideas seem to be plagiarized from Jesus the Christ, who is Son of God and the Second Adam! It is my pleasure and joy to cite him as their source, even if David Brooks doesn’t. I am glad that David knows of these words of Jesus, but I want him to know Jesus the person. This will bring him new birth, and entrance into that thing it is so evident he truly desires, the Second Adam!