Why freedom makes us slaves
I recently re-watched the new Avengers movie with my sons. This is the fall blockbuster from last year that pulled together into one movie Marvels Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America movies, which have been released over the past 5 or 6 years. It was funny, action packed and pretty clean, which I would expect being a "kids" movie and all. Despite the action and adventure genre it was part of it had some rather deep philosophical and religious themes. Perhaps my seminary training, which taught me to reflect religiously on even the most simple things, is getting the best of me, but in my opinion there was one really deep idea that we can glean from this movie.
It came from none other than Loki, the main antagonist in the plot. He was the ultimate bad guy and embodied everything we find evil in our world. What's interesting is that with our Judeo-Christian worldview we view Loki as a satanic figure, even when we consider the Norris god tradition of which Loki and Thor come from. We view Loki as the bad god, or as the Satan figure, the embodiment of evil, the opposite of god, the enemy of god, but within the world view of those who believed in Loki, he was not evil, only chaotic and mischievous...things that were necessary for there to be balance in the world. We do the same thing with the Satan figure in the OT. Within Ancient Near-Eastern (ANE) culture the Satan figure or figures were not evil or enemies of the ruling deity, they were important parts of the royal court of the divine rulers or "gods". In ANE culture Satan was a prosecutor, the enemy of man, not an absolute evil that was in competition with God for the souls of humanity. This idea of the Devil vs. God came to us as a mid-evil Christian doctrine; a way to scare the people into submission and it has stuck. So as a result of this western idea, Loki has become the "Devil" in Norris religious lore.
Ok, now time to get to the point. There's a moment in the movie where Loki is in Germany and is holding a large crowd captive and he insist that they bow before him and that this posture is their natural posture and that freedom is a lie and is the great instigator of war and hate in our world. What Loki says isn't to far off from the truth. Dietrich Bonheoffer, a mid 20th century German Theologian, who was martyred by the Nazi's during WWII argued the same idea, but from a theological perspective. Bonheoffer believed that the illusion of freedom, the lie of a life free from boundaries was the great lie of the serpent in the garden Eden, and I tend to agree.
We believe that we are free and that freedom is what we all want and need, but in reality the only freedom God gave us was a freedom for each other and a freedom to serve God. When we long to be free, when we push against the boundaries which God has established we are enslaved by sin, yet we call that freedom in our fallen state. True freedom is living within the boundaries of God, true freedom is actually servant hood and true freedom is not living for yourself, but living for each other. The sooner we learn this the sooner we will truly be free. So in a sense Loki was right, subjection is our natural state, or at least our original state. We were created to be subject to God and to each other in service and love and when we try to break free from that subjection, we find ourselves enslaved to hate, greed, selfishness and even violence. So let freedom reign, but in service of God, in a life lived for each other, bound by love and hope.