Does God exist in the MCU? That’s a commonly asked question. The Marvel universe, beginning in the comics and extending into movies and television, is replete with gods and god-like characters. Except for a tongue-in-cheek reference by Captain America in Marvel’s The Avengers, our Triune God does not appear in these films. Yet, as with much of pop culture, reflections of God’s presence and influence are ubiquitous in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At Think Christian, we look at how pop culture interacts with God’s story. In what ways do we see biblical truths reflected in characters, plot, theme, and visuals? How do we see the gospel or our need for it? The articles below tackle these questions in films of the first four phases of the MCU.
As Think Christian didn’t shift its focus to pop culture until 2017, we admittedly arrived a little late to the MCU party. Despite teasing post-credit scenes, the early films came across mostly as unconnected one-offs until Marvel’s The Avengers finally hit theaters, which is where our coverage began.
Christian humanism is a blending of respect for imago dei with reverence for the Almighty. The Avengers, by the very nature of its narrative, forgets the Almighty part.
The second phase of MCU films features more direct sequels (Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World) and introduces more characters (Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man). Yet, many installments could stand alone, with little more than a dotted line connecting each other—at least up to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offer theological reminders that we're closer to comic-book villains than heroes.
Just as the church has been a collection of people from every background, the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy learn to care for each other as they transform from individual, selfish mercenaries to a found family working for the greater good.
Amidst the bombast of Avengers: Age of Ultron is a quiet, intriguing conversation that pits two visions of humanity against each other. If Stark’s lab is a modern-day Eden of sorts, Ultron has gone straight for the apple and taken a big chomp.
The movies of the third phase of the MCU are like roads converging on Rome. With a few exceptions (Black Panther, for example), most installments firmly drive toward a culmination of the central story: the battle against Thanos.
In many ways the Avengers function as an intentional spiritual community: individuals living and ministering together with the goal of becoming something greater. Captain America: Civil War shows us a community in conflict.
Although it's far from orthodox, Doctor Strange at least allows faith to enter the materialist Marvel universe.
Kurt Russell's character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a powerful creator, but his God-like qualities end there.
From Joseph’s robe to Peter Parker's suit, costumes serve as markers, status symbols, and emblems of authority.
Between the laughs, Thor: Ragnarok offers a challenge for any nation state willfully blind to its own sinful history.
Questions of identity and justice power this Marvel superhero saga. How might Christians answer?
Minority moviegoers have responded so strongly to the priestly kingdom of Wakanda because it’s reminiscent of the biblical vision of Zion.
There are plenty of sacrificial acts in Infinity War, but how well do they evoke the work of the cross?
What defines the villain of the Ant-Man sequel? An inability to forgive.
Captain Marvel is Christological in the way she defends the foreigners among us. This is not just another thin Christ figure.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as in Scripture, death is not the end. It’s only natural for fans to walk into Endgame hoping for some of the damage to be reversed.
Revisiting a sacrificial scene from Infinity War, Endgame gives a fuller picture of what it means to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
In Spider-Man: Far From Home, a new character to the MCU demonstrates the difference between being a symbol and being a servant.
Phase Four is the first to include a number of television series with stories streamed across several episodes and interspersed with the films. In many ways, the fourth phase of the MCU marks a new beginning. The heroes purchased their defeat of Thanos at a steep cost: Vision, Natasha Romanoff, and Tony Stark are dead, while Steve Rogers has returned to his own time to live happily ever after with his long-lost love. This phase deals with the fallout of Thanos' war and the void left by those who were lost or have left, much of which plays out in the television series. In a scattered fashion, the stories of Phase Four begin to set the stage for the next great cosmic conflagration of the MCU, with themes of gods, mysticism, and multiverses.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes is brought to bear on the grief-stricken, first MCU television series. In an attempt to protect herself from the pain of Vision’s death, Wanda did what many do when facing bereavement: she built both emotional and literal walls.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam struggles to pursue justice on behalf of a country that withholds its love. Is the world actually ready to accept and love a Black Captain America?
God so loved the world that he allowed for a variant called free will.
The first movie of Phase Four turns the clock back. In her post-requiem solo film, Natasha Romanoff seeks to have her ledger balanced—just as we all do. The film imagines Natasha serving her penance in the form of action.
The animated series prompts us to ask if we believe in a God who only observes or one who also intervenes. The Watcher is a classic Marvel character who rarely uses his god-like powers because of a vow made by his people to only watch and record.
Men may wield the rings of power in Marvel’s Asian-led feature, but it’s the wuxia-inspired, biblically resonant wisdom of women that turns the tide. The last thing we expect to find in this latest Avenger origin story is the mothering heart of God.
As gifted beings tasked with stewarding the Earth, the MCU’s newest heroes—conflicted, flawed, and divided as they are—remind us of our call to work for God's kingdom.
Christian thought has a hurtful history when it comes to people with disabilities. The MCU’s Hawkeye series offers a counter to that. Clint has no superpowers. What makes him a hero is not his strength. It's his vulnerability.
Each time Peter Parker puts on the mask of Spider-Man, it represents his commitment to die to self for the good of the world. But now unmasked and facing multiple threats, Peter must decide what he’s willing to give up for the sake of the greater good.
By pitting a troubled hero against a well-meaning villain, the MCU series complicates concepts such as justice and goodness. From this skewed vision of morality, viewers better understand the nature of grace.
Faced with black magic in the MCU sequel, Doctor Strange takes a dark turn. Multiverse of Madness teaches us that the method by which we fight evil in this world matters a great deal.
The dispassionate gods of Thor: Love and Thunder offer a reminder of what makes Christianity distinct. Gorr, an erstwhile devout follower of a selfish "god," loses everything but his own life in a twisted echo of Job of the Bible.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever models the biblical rhythm of sorrow, solace, and faith in the sunrise.
Topics: Culture At Large