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Team Cap: Standing Firm} ?> You’re a prude because you’re waiting until you’re married to have sex. You’re ignorant because you believe everything was created by a loving God. You are a misogynist because you believe life begins at conception. You’re homophobic for finding an identity based on your faith rather than finding it in how you feel or who you are attracted to.
Have you ever had any of these things said to you? If so, then grab a shield, and welcome to Team Cap!
Society tells us how to see people, how we should act, and the things we should accept as true. If we disagree, we are the villains. But society isn’t always right. Popular opinion is rarely the best indicator for truth and justice; actually, it is often the worst. Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian during World War II and, I would argue, a proud member of Team Cap. He spoke out against the atrocities committed by his society to the Jewish people, the handicapped, and the poor. He spoke out against war and taking land by force, and he was sent to a concentration camp by his society to be abused and ultimate die. I also think of Susan B. Anthony, James Brown (the 18th century abolitionist, not the singer), Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr; all people who spoke out against the societal norms and views of minorities, all who suffered for their convictions.
These people, and many more, found their truth outside society, planted their feet and set their shield echoing the words left to Peggy Carter’s niece: “Sometimes when society says ‘MOVE’ you have to look back and say ‘NO, you move.’” These are words that galvanized Captain America to resist the Sokovia Accords, words that set him on a path to defend his friend from a legal system that was persecuting him for acts he was wrongly accused of and unable to prevent. And these are words that encourage me to hold fast to my convictions, defend my faith, and speak with boldness even though society calls me ignorant, foolish, or hateful.
But lest we hear Carter’s words and run off ready to crush the opposition with the strength of our conviction, we must remember that Team Cap’s weapon is not the sword, but the shield. We are not armed with the ability to destroy those who disagree with us, rather we are armed with necessity to defend others from atrocities. Every word, every thought, every action must be weighed against understanding ourselves as defenders of innocence and protectors of injustice. I don’t want to use my shield and my faith for harm, but to defend others, even those who differ from me.
While Iron Man supports an organization that is ready to exterminate the Winter Soldier without even a chance at redemption, Cap defies orders and prevents them from carrying out their mandate. Yet when faced with a military force intent on killing, Cap doesn’t. His entire escape is done without killing. People get hurt, but Cap only uses enough force to prevent loss of life. He knows these men are doing their jobs and are following an ideal even if it is opposite his, so he uses only enough force to escape and that means prevents the Winter Soldier from killing them as well. Even at the airport he’s more concerned with getting on a plane and stopping Zemo than defeating his opponents so uses a “big distraction” rather than lethal force. But most importantly Cap stands in the way of Tony’s rage as he faces the full truth of what the Winter Soldier has done. He keeps his friends from killing each other because he believes there is a way to have peace.
As Cap’s shield has both a defensive surface and a sharp edge, so too do our beliefs. All too often we present only the edge of our shield as we condemn people who disagree with our opinions and perspectives. I might be tempted to write off someone who doesn’t agree with my faith, labeling them as ungodly, unwholesome or destined for hell. They might describe me as a prude and a bigot without taking the time to understand my perspective. But I believe no one should be treated with violence, either physically or verbally. I want to use my shield of faith, not to hurt or destroy, but to speak out against acts of violence, hatred and death, even if that means caring for someone who has a different viewpoint than me.
In the final fight between Tony and Cap there’s a moment where Cap has the upper hand and can end the argument once and for all. He has the power to destroy his opponent and take victory through violence, but instead pulls that final punch. He recognizes that destroying his opponent is not going to demonstrate truth or prove his convictions are correct. It would only destroy any hope of reconciliation.
Cap’s closing words, left in a note for Stark at the end of the movie, are why I am proud to be on his team. He is humble enough to admit a mistake: “I guess I thought by not telling you about your parents I as sparing you, but… I can see now I was really sparing myself. I’m sorry.” And he offers an opportunity for reconciliation: “I know you were only doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do, it’s all any of us should. So no matter what, I promise you—if you need us, if you need me, I’ll be there.”
Cap knows that they may never agree, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be there to care for Stark in his time of need.
I’m prepared to plant my feet and set my defense; though my faith sets me against the pressure of society, I can hold to my convictions; though I struggle to live a life true to God and yet love those who hate me, I know I don’t stand alone. Team Cap forever. (Or should I say, “Hail, Hydra”? Too soon?)