Monday, June 09, 2014

A “Born Again” Marvel Hero

In the film series that Marvel Studios has developed over the last few years, Captain America has usually been my favorite—traditional, heroic, and a little out of step with the current culture.  With the new TV series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” however, my new hero is Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who has emerged as the leader of a special team of agents.  The unique thing about Agent Coulson is that he died in “The Avengers” film (2012) and has been miraculously resurrected for this new gig.  (In science fiction, it is rare for anyone to stay dead.)

Although portrayed in the Marvel films as a rather drab company man whose primary role was to deliver files and provide a little comic relief, everyman Coulson is the linchpin of the new series (which has been renewed for a second season).  He was the average guy who had the opportunity to interact with larger than life superheroes but that status has been called into question with his return to life.  Coulson’s resurrection is largely due to alien biology and technology, so we don’t know yet how that has changed him.  The early episodes alluded to some fear on the part of the agency’s head, Nick Fury, that Coulson might not be quite right mentally (and perhaps physically?). 

Knowledge of the means of Coulson’s return was revealed about the time everything hit the fan (due to the film “Captain American: The Winter Soldier”) when it was revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by HYDRA (bad guys and left-over Nazis) and was now an outlaw group.  To add to the complexity of this plot, Coulson’s old boss Nick Fury (who is supposed to be dead himself) appeared to give Coulson a new mission to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D.  (Yes, this is getting complicated.)

I suppose I like Coulson because his “born again” experience parallels that of a person who has found God for the first time and is often disoriented by the experience.  Initially, Coulson is thrilled by the gift of life but he quickly starts to wonder what it is really all about.  He finally perks up when he discovers (or accepts) a new mission in life.  He now has a meaning and a purpose.

So, you ask, how is this like the experience of a new believer?  Someone who has a spiritual conversion often goes through a period of confusion.  The person is not what he or she once was, but who are they now?  Discovering this is a process that we call discipleship.  No one who comes to Christ is suddenly fully formed as a believer.  The Apostle Paul himself when through a rather lengthy process before he emerged as the apostle to the Gentiles.

As we deal with people who are new to the faith, we must be supportive, caring, and intentional in helping them to discover the unique mission that God has provided for them.  Only they can discover what that mission is.

Like Agent Coulson, new believers may be confused and unsure for awhile, but once they discover the mission that God has for them, stand back!


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