MCU Mondays: Iron Man - Work Out Your Own Salvation
In Iron Man, Tony Stark goes into the cavern of his captivity one man and emerges another. We talked about the theme of rebirth that runs throughout the stories of Marvel’s four protagonists, and the time spent locked-away in a desert cave with Yinsen (one of Marvel’s underrated characters, in my mind) was Tony’s. He had the most explosive rebirths of the four, literally, as his new self makes his entrance into the world accompanied by wrist-mounted fire-throwers and rocket launchers.
After his escape, though, Tony faced the reality of being a new man in an old world. This is the beginning of his efforts to “work out (his) own salvation” in the Php. 2:12 sense of the phrase. He’s been reinvented, but as what and what does this new person do and care about? He doesn’t have all the answers, but the ones he does have get deployed right away. Apologies in advance for the poor quality, sometimes the internet just lets us down:
Tony’s radical new self leads to a radical new direction in how he utilizes his gifts and talents. Despite his new change in attitude and outlook, he still has the same mind and the same unique skill sets. He’s not sure where they are to be used, but he knows where they’re not to go.
What’s even more interesting is how Tony’s rebirth changes his relationships with the only three people that really matter to him, Obadiah, Pepper, and Rhodes. Immediately following his press conference, Tony must deal with Obadiah’s ruffled feathers over the cancellation of the weapon’s program. Obadiah is like a remnant of Tony’s old life, the one who thinks everything is just fine the way it was and nothing needs to change. “We’re iron mongers, Tony, it’s what we do.” (insert a whole sub-tangent here about how this ties into the Isaiah 64:6 phrase about all our righteousness being as “filthy rags). For Tony, this is simply no longer true. It’s no longer what he does, or who he is. His mentor/father-figure is no longer truly that because Tony has now set himself on a divergent path.
Up to this point Pepper has been a nanny to Tony’s inner-child and the glue that keeps all the random parts of his life stuck together. But his first one-on-one interaction with Pepper shows that new Tony has a more mature and responsible view of her:
The line to notice is Tony’s declaration that Pepper is the “most-qualified” person he knows. This obviously not a view that he would have maintained prior to his rebirth.
Tony’s new relationship with Rhodes is somewhat more complex. Rhodes serves as a contract for Tony, and a reluctant sidekick for whenever Tony needs someone to join him in his escapades. Rhodes sees himself as the maturity and level-headedness that Tony doesn’t have, so when Tony comes to him post-press conference, Rhodes can’t accept the fact that Tony wants to deal with him and him alone on this new venture. Rhodes has always represented the military to Tony and so in his mind, when Tony rejects that, he rejects Rhodes.
New birth is complicated; it screws with all our priorities and our relationships. People we used to look-up to may lose that prestige, people we used to dismiss we now value, and friendships once based on convenience may now be actually based on, well, friendship.
The full weight of becoming someone entirely different isn’t usually felt in full until a crisis hits which, in Tony’s case, is at the party where he finds out the full extent of his company’s involvement with the terrorist element.
The whole point of this exercise is to examine the theology of the MCU, not merely make simple analogies between it and the Christian life. The MCU seems fairly atheistic (or highly polytheistic, which we’ll get into once we meet some of the more mystical character), so none of this really gives us any kind of aide as to what its theology is or isn’t. Except that it does offer insights into the philosophical and moral rules by which the universe operates. Inner conflict, as seen in Tony to begin with, is unsustainable and leads to self-destruction. A proper rebirth is required, and a proper birth will change everything.
Next week we get some nice fireworks.