The Avengers: From Brokenness to Community

Kicking off our GOD on FILM series for 2012, I began today, with the Avengers. It was great, as there was an energy in the room and this particular Sunday tends to be our most highly-attended (not just for the series, but also other social reasons as well). Honestly, all of my other sermons throughout the year tend to be a lot more cerebral and a little more serious, so for me to tease out themes from summer blockbusters is venturing into new territory. It seems to strike a chord with many.

So the Avengers. Not the most deeply insightful movie. Any movie with the most memorable line including the word *smash* probably isn’t going to be the most sermon-provoking. But there were a few good takeaways; I read somewhere that when director Joss Whedon was presented with the idea he initially balked, until he considered that none of these characters really worked well together. That’s when the social experimenting began:

“Silly as it may sound, The Avengers is, to a surprising degree, an experiment in social chemistry… the geometry of discord is considerably… complex: Captain America bickers with Iron Man, who bickers with Thor, who bickers with the Hulk, who bickers with Black Widow. It’s like an episode of Desperate Housewives with repulsor rays.” – Chris Orr, The Atlantic

That’s when I took my cue, recognizing the dysfunctionality of it all, and the struggle we in the West have with this thing called “collectivity.” Really, it’s a sociological term, signifying the desire to return to the modern “village” which really continues to elude us, in the face of the atomizing effects on society of the modern forces of relocation, suburbanization, and individuation. Euphemistically, we coin it “differentiation” and really, it’s a wonderful thing, an important step in the process of maturation. But it’s not perfect. It’s not complete. Because while differentiation is necessary in order to become healthy, mature, independent adults, the fallout is this collectivity, this sense of village, of belonging to something. We lose something essential in this essential process of becoming adults.

Now I wouldn’t presume to have easy answers.

More than anything, it was an observation about contemporary society thru the lens of film. I did offer some thoughts from the immigrant perspective, as well as Trinitarian insights into the tension between differentiation and collectivity – but to post it here would be over-reaching. I guess in the end, I resorted after all, to another cerebral treatise. I hope it was well-received.

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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