Movie history was made in the past week when Avengers: Infinity War became the fastest grossing global-grosser ever, currently sprinting its way towards $1 billion in global sales.
So my main priority last week was to effectively avoid spoiler-trolls who are bent on disturbing the peace of the ( *my ) universe so that I can go see it in peace.
I fought. I saw. I thought.
Here are some scratch-notes from my conversation with myself. THREE points where Adventism could converge with the Avengers:
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What makes Adventism unique?
For much of my years as an Adventist, I thought that it was the unique doctrines that we believe. “Well, maybe because of just those 5 “weird” ones that no one else does”, I later surmised.
But a brief time-travel into the history of our doctrinal development will show that as much as we want to, Adventism can only take partial credit for coming up with the current iteration of its beliefs. ( For a comprehensive analysis on this topic, check out out my colleague Marcos Torres’ FREE e-book here. )
What makes us unique, in fact, is our systematic framework of these doctrines, placing each doctrine within the larger story of Scripture with the pulsating reverberation of its refrain: “God is love.”
In other words, every doctrine within SDA theology has tendrils upon every other doctrine and, in cases where they are presented independently from the rest, they can still present the love of God, seen through the prism of the cruciformed Christ, sufficiently.
To some extent, Adventist theology shares certain commonalities with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
It is never discouraged to perceive each movie within the MCU as stand-alone narratives of truth consistent with its own internal storyline. The impact of each movie is truly felt, however, when placed within the larger systematic framework of the MCU where the characters not only find their own meaning, but also contribute to the meaning of their superhero counterparts.
In other words, at the risk of belaboring the point, if the MCU represents the theological system of Adventism, then the stand-alone superhero movies may represent the fundamental beliefs.
and.. the original Avengers represent the 5 unique SDA doctrines? Maybe? Ok. Too far.
“Unity” has been a buzzword within the denomination over the last few months following a most controversial GC session and an even more tenuous executive committee meeting discussing the issue.
Regardless of where you find yourself on the conversation, the Avengers may have their own sentiments on the concept for whoever’s interested.
One need not look too closely to note, even at the outset of things, the sheer diversity of giftedness, ages, genders, and peculiarities evidenced in the team that may cause even the most ardent of optimists to question their effectiveness as a cohesive unit.
And yet, they save New York ( Avengers 1 spoiler. tbh you should have seen it by now ).
They are able to confront their differences and work together to save humanity.
They show that real unity doesn’t come from a patronizing affirmation of distinctives to celebrate “mission”, a sacrificial reducing of differences at the altar of mission, nor a celebration of peculiarities at the expense of mission, but rather through honest, and, at times painful, confrontation of the self and its idiosyncrasies for the sake of mission.
Cap needs Ironman. Ironman needs Thor. Both of them need T’Challa.
Everyone learns to not only appreciate the uniqueness of each other but sees each other as indispensable to achieve the common good.
Tolerance, while admirable, is cheap. Unity demands more.
If we are unwilling to have our own “civil war” with those we disagree with, unmask our pretenses, and admit to our culpabilities and limitations, then sure:
We can pretend that a consent on a document will unite us.
MAJOR INFINITY WAR SPOILER ALERT !! SCROLL FURTHER AT YOUR OWN RISK!!
Like me, you did not see it coming.
Spiderman, Star Lord, The Guardians, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Dr.Strange, Loki, T’Challa.
Gone. Just like that.
I mean, we were JUST getting to know the new spider man! and T’Challa!! C’mon bro!
But the mourning was momentary, for a stark ( no pun intended ) three-pronged realization pierced through my sorrow quicker than Aquaman’s trident:
1) Dr.Strange vanishes into dust with the line, “this was the only way..” implying that this was the only way they will win out of the 14 million possibilities he’d envisioned.
2) There is NO way that the MCU will retire T’Challa, Spiderman, and the Guardians, especially since their sequels are confirmed later this year and the next.
3) The time stone could throw some SERIOUS curve balls resurrecting some, if not all, of our fave characters!
Suffice to say, my mourning almost effortlessly turned to a hope: Hope of redemption. Hope of a better ending.
It comes as no surprise then, that the movie ultimately ends not with the confirmation of Thanos’ return, but rather with the anticipation of a potentially….. marvel-ous outcome.
The hope of a better sequel is so pervasive within Adventism that it is in our very identity. The “Advent-ist” enjoys a dual identification with both the first advent of Jesus Christ – His life, work, death, and resurrection – as well as His second advent in the clouds of glory, renovating the planet and reanimating the human experience.
The apocalyptic imagination of Adventism was never intended to be co-opted by interest groups or identity politics, but rather to be internalized, celebrated, and anticipated. Within that horizon, every death finds its place, every life finds its significance, and every story finds its climax.
Looking forward to that day when “Marvel” is but the response to a cinematic universe that is better than we’d imagined.