Captain America: Civil War is probably my favorite Marvel movie to date (though some of that may be due to the fact that I just watched it). The action sequences are incredible with the airport scene from the preview more than meeting expectations. However, it also contained quite a few genuinely funny moments inserted at the perfect times to prevent the rather heavy and, at times, morose plot from becoming overbearing. As a result, the film was able to deal with some weighty issues and ideological conflict without losing sight of the fact that people ultimately go to superhero movies to have fun (a goal that Batman vs Superman unfortunately forgot a bit too frequently).
Most of that conflict revolves around the world’s response to the collateral damage caused by the various Avengers in their previous films (this article has a good recap of what you need to know from those films before seeing this movie). The destruction of Sokovia at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron is perhaps the most important example of such damage. Consequently, a group of world leaders from the United Nations decided that greater oversight of the team was needed and have formed a council to regulate when and where these superheroes are able to intervene.
The resulting Sokovia Accords threaten to divide the heroes as not all are in agreement that such oversight is beneficial. Tony Stark (Iron Man) leads the faction that believes regulation to be a necessary evil in order to protect the innocent while ensuring that the team’s abilities and powers do not cause more harm than good. Steve Rogers (Captain America), whose character has been rightfully suspicious of such attempts in the past, is wary of the team being turned into a weapon used to serve an end they have no part in choosing.
The flashpoint for the debate centers on Rogers’ friend, Bucky Barnes, who was turned into just such a weapon in the second Captain America film and stands accused of a committing a deadly attack towards the beginning of Civil War. Rogers’ loyalty to his friend in the face of orders to kill Bucky gives a physical dimension to the ideological conflict behind the film and the audience is made to question whether or not they can overcome such differences.
That question is really the heart of the film’s plot and the great thing about how Civil War treats that discussion is that there isn’t a clear definition of who is right and who is wrong. Both sides have valid arguments and cannot be easily dissuaded. As a result, the movie shows just how difficult it can be when two groups that are supposed to work together have very real differences in what they believe to be correct.
We often face a similar struggle in our churches. The primary reason that so many denominations exist is that each has very different yet fundamental beliefs about the proper way to worship and think about God. Those differences are not easily dismissed, nor should they be. In most cases, each group has valid arguments for why they believe as they do.
These differences are not the primary problem facing the Church today, even if it would perhaps be simpler if they were. No, the primary problem facing Christians today is our frequent inability to look past these differences to see the fundamental truth that we still worship the same God. The core of the gospel—that Jesus is God incarnate, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead—are the only beliefs essential to salvation. If we share those beliefs, then nothing else should keep us from being able to work together to accomplish his will. That’s what Jesus wanted (John 17) and it’s a realization we need to embrace if we’re going to really make a difference for his kingdom on earth.
Civil war makes for a great movie but a horrible church. That’s a truth our fallen world desperately needs us to remember.