Archive for July, 2016

It Keeps Popping Up

Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths. Joseph Campbell 
The last episode of the latest season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends with one man giving his life to save the world (and the woman he loves). That man, Lincoln Campbell (played by Luke Mitchell) is an inhuman (a human being with enhanced powers derived from the fact he has become part alien) who has the ability to manipulate electrical charges. Among the many sub-plots of this season that tell stories of sacrifice, the major plot-line is the most powerful. Daisy Johnson, the one Lincoln loves, played by Chloe Bennett, is gripped with guilt over those she used her special powers to hurt during the time she was brainwashed by the evil force in the world named “Hive.” (“Hive” sorta sounds like “Legion” in the New Testament, that overwhelming demonic force that showed up in great numbers and destroyed a man’s life.) The “Hive” of this story intends on destroying the whole world by robing people of their humanity and creating legions of zombie-like creatures willing to serve him. Because she served “Hive” for a time, Daisy is so racked with guilt she can not forgive herself and she absolutely refuses to accept forgiveness from her team when it is offered to her.

As evil as “Hive” is, he seems also to be indestructible. The agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are no match for him. The whole story turns as one agent, the newest agent of all, Lincoln, realizes that he can destroy “Hive” at the cost of his life. Lincoln can take “Hive” into space and detonate a bomb on the ship that will destroy them both.

It is a touching scene as Daisy realizes what Lincoln is doing for her, for the team, and for the whole world. Here is part of her last exchange with Lincoln as the craft heads into space:

Daisy: It should be me to fix the damage to my friends, to you. You can’t just die for me like this. It’s wrong.

Lincoln: Saving the girl that I love and the world at the same time. Feels pretty right to me.

Within a few moments, communication falls silent. The ship is in space away from the earth’s atmosphere. There it explodes, destroying “Hive.” The world is saved by sacrificial love..

Joseph Campbell would love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because it retells a story he found in cultures all over the world. Campbell was a mythologist known for studying the great stories of the world. He found an amazing story repeated in diverse cultures, even in those that had no contact with each other. His explanation of this meta-myth is found in his little monograph entitled: The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The story he found so oft repeated tells of a hero, one who saves his people. All of these stories are filled with wonder and heroism.

Campbell’s works begs the question: why do so many cultures tell the same story? Why does this story resonate so deeply in the human heart? Why do we love this story?

I believe our hearts love this story because it is the story all of us are living in. We need to be rescued. Our world needs to be saved. Evil appears so powerful we find it hard to believe it can be destroyed. We are no match for it, really.

It is said that J.R.R. Tolkien (writer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and C.S. Lewis (writer of the Chronicles of Narnia) were talking about the “myth” that seems to be repeated in culture after culture. It keep popping up. During that talk, Tolkien told C. S. Lewis that, yes, the story of Jesus was a myth like this, but this was the time when the myth actually happened in human history, not just in a story.

Yes, it actually happened. A hero appeared, entered into our world, and took death upon himself to redeem us. Not just. Fairy tale, but a flesh and blood savior. Jesus.

For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

This latest season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. powerfully shows the lure of happiness and pleasure, the grip of addiction, the deep guilt of sin, the paralyzing prison of shame, and the power of sacrificial love.