One of my favorite things to do is over-analyze a piece of media. I look with a Christian worldview and try to find what messages, intended or otherwise, are in a story. This can not only be fun, but it can also be a valuable tool for evangelism. Sometimes people poke fun at preachers trying to find the parallel to Jesus in every story, but the basic idea is sound. Part of both evangelism and apologetics is engaging people and the culture. Let’s be honest, we spend a lot of time on movies, TV, video games, music, etc. The ideas in them will have an impact on our society with or without us, so we may as well use them to our advantage.
The Movie: The Worldview of Thanos
To kick this off, I thought I’d take another look at last years Avengers: Infinity War. With the much-anticipated sequel releasing in only a couple months, chances are good this movie will come up a lot in conversation.
Despite this being the massive crossover epic that these Marvel movies have been building up to for almost a decade now, this movie was not really about the Avengers. The most interesting character in the movie is the villain, Thanos. How does a big purple space man flying around collecting magic rocks give us something of substance? Because like many of the best fictional villains, he is not pure evil. This is not some moustache twirling devil who takes joy in being evil.
Thanos believes he is the hero, doing what is necessary to save the galaxy. His goal, to bring peace and prosperity to the galaxy, is noble. But his means of doing that is to murder half of the people alive. His goal is to assemble these powerful infinity stones, which will give him god-like powers to quickly wipe out half the population of the galaxy, ridding it of over-population. After seeing his own planet torn apart by this issue, he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep it from happening again.
Some would say Thanos is an extremist. In his view, the ends justify the means. He is a man with a good goal, but what he is willing to sacrifice to achieve that is unacceptable. This is recognized by every hero in the movie, which is why they all band together to stop him. But I found it interesting that many people in our culture today would denounce Thanos as a genocidal maniac, and yet hold a similar ideology as he does.
Applying It: Genocide and Birth Control
Many are arguing today that the world is overpopulated. One of the popular solutions to that problem is birth control. Without getting into the ethics of every form of birth control, let’s just isolate it to abortions. If the world has too many people, why not just make fewer people, right? It sounds sensible until you consider the means by which they do this. If we are combating overpopulation through abortion, then we have to reflect on this. If the unborn are valuable human beings, then abortion kills them.
Is mass murder an acceptable solution to overpopulation? I don’t think you need to be a Christian to say it isn’t. Nobody is advocating for genocide as a solution here, and yet we continue to allow it to happen in our own neighborhoods. Obviously snapping your fingers and ending the lives of trillions of people is hard to compare to ending the life of one child at a time. But when I examine the principle behind it, I am hard pressed to see a good distinction. There are other reasons abortion happens besides population control, especially in America. Overpopulation becomes a bit more significant when looking at nations like China and India. But if this is our solution, how are we any better than Thanos?
The Response: “You Don’t Know That!”
In the movie, Thanos argues with his daughter Gamora saying, “Little one, it’s simple calculus. The universe is finite, it’s resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction.” And her simple, yet passionate response is “You don’t know that!” He’s right that this universe is finite. Maybe we are facing a dilemma in the future of how to deal with our population. But the fact is we don’t know what will happen. Whatever may come, it does not change right and wrong.
The sad part is, in a way the solution that Thanos offers is more fair than ours. In another exchange he describes his planets history, “And when we faced extinction, I offered a solution.” “Genocide,” Dr. Strange retorts. “But Random, dispassionate, fair to rich and poor alike.” Abortion is a genocide of one particular group: The unborn. It exclusively kills the most vulnerable among us for the health, wealth, and convenience of the larger and more powerful group. At the very least, Thanos targeted everyone evenly, and didn’t just pick on the smallest and weakest.
This is why I analyze media. It often tells us things about ourselves and our culture in a way that you might not see otherwise. How should Christians respond to Thanos? We must acknowledge there is a problem, and we might not have every solution. But that does not excuse murder and genocide, randomly or no. We must recognize that God is still in control, and he does not take kindly to the shedding of innocent blood, even if the motivation seems good.
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