Two highly anticipated superhero flicks hit theaters soon. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice releases in just two weeks and Captain America: Civil War debuts May 6. While the details differ, both of these films feature iconic superheroes pitted against one another over ideological differences. In Batman vs. Superman, the Dark Knight’s distrust of the Man of Steel leads to an epic battle between DC’s two most beloved heroes. In the comic series that inspired Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man find themselves on opposite sides of a heated political issue. Captain America’s decision to oppose Iron Man (and the White House) fractures the superhero community. Lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and chaos erupts. The ensuing melee lays waste to several square blocks of New York City. While conflicts like these make for enthralling entertainment, the fact remains—when superheroes skirmish, nobody wins.
The same is true for Christians. Unfortunately, conflict amongst Christians is all too common. With more than two hundred different denominations in the United States, it seems as though Christians will dispute and divide over just about anything—baptism, gifts of the Spirit, unconditional election, ecclesiastical structure, women’s role in ministry, homosexuality, evolution, whether or not Christians should watch Deadpool, etc. All too often we identify ourselves in terms of the particular beliefs that set us apart, rather than those that bind us together with the larger Christian world. Meanwhile, we’re oblivious to the damage we’re doing.
In the climax of Marvel’s Civil War mini-series, Captain America stands over Iron Man, ready to deliver a crippling blow. Suddenly, firefighters, EMTs and police officers tackle Cap and wrestle him to the ground. Only then does Steve Rogers lift his eyes and see the damage they’ve dealt to New York’s landscape. Tears well up in his eyes, as he says, “Oh my God… they’re right. We’re not fighting for the people anymore… we’re just fighting.” When I examine the landscape of Christianity today, I wonder if the same is true of us.