Destroyer of Worlds
Shift Perspective to Truly see God
In the Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we meet several characters, including Skye, who we first encounter as a nomadic hacker. Eventually, we and Skye learn her name is Daisy and her story is much more complicated than we realize. It turns out that Daisy is an inhuman who has tremendous powers that harness vibration. In the wider story arc of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy becomes head of S.H.I.E.L.D. during a conflict, and upon winning in that conflict, finds her team transported to a future in which the earth has been destroyed. The remnants of humanity now live on a space station built into a fragment of the earth as slaves to the Kree.
Daisy learns she is the one who destroyed the earth, and that Quake has become known as The Destroyer of Worlds. But many of Daisy’s friends believe this cannot be true because they know her character. Daisy is shown video evidence that she is the one who destroyed the earth and continues to see herself as the Destroyer of Worlds, even as her friends continue to doubt. It has been several years, so this cannot be much of a spoiler, but we eventually learn that Daisy did not destroy the earth. The video evidence is of her attempting to save the planet unsuccessfully. The myth of the Destroyer of Worlds was based on a certain perspective that many believed evidence from that perspective. The wider context of what actually happened gives Daisy confidence when she finds herself back at the point of destruction but can save the earth because she believes she is capable of that amount of power.
The lack of perspective can cause us to see things not as they are, but as we assume them to be. I have been considering how so many of my fellow Christians can act and support ideologies that are counter to the example of Jesus. My conclusion is that their perspective of God shapes those decisions and actions. I have a friend working on a book about how views of God impact our ideologies and will share more about that when appropriate. But I realize now that many Christians see God as the Destroyer of Worlds. This is an easy view to take when the language of destruction and power is used to describe God’s actions in the world. When we read the Hebrew scriptures disconnected from the context of God revealed in Christ, we can arrive at the view of God as destroyer. But a few things can help us shift perspective if we can release God from our shackles of violence, both immediate and eschatological.
One example of seeing God as destroyer is the story of Noah in which a flood comes to destroy the world. We could get into the weeds discussing the difference between truth and facts here, but let’s look at the core truth of Noah’s story. After the flood, God’s inner dialog mentions that the human heart has not changed and is still prone to evil. There are Rabbis that say that the flood changed God rather than humanity and that seems to be the case here where God’s anger changes after the flood such that at Noah’s sacrifice, God hangs the bow of violence in the sky as a sign that God will never bring destruction in this way again. Humanity has not changed because of the flood, but God’s compassion extends differently because of the flood. A shift in perspective that can alter the language we use of God.
Another example is often pointed to in the apocalyptic book of Revelation, where Christ is pictured with a sword coming from his mouth to strike down the evil. It is important to remember that, prior to this, Christ is portrayed as a slaughtered lamb in contrast to the mightiness of a lion. The evil or wicked are those who perpetuate the systems that oppress the people who cry out to God. Revelation does not have a story of destruction, but one of the fulfillment of God’s redemption through a redeemed creation. This is the birth whose pangs Paul says all creation is straining toward. God is creator, not destroyer. Our hope is born through a God who became us in an empathetic solidarity of kenotic love, not in a destroyer of worlds.
If we see God as a destroyer, it is easy to desire or even accept human leaders who embody the attitudes of destruction. But is this the attitude we should have? Should Christians cheer the vanquishing of enemies or the owning of those who do not believe as they do about politics, human relations, sexuality, or violence? Or should Christians work with the Spirit to bring about God’s redeeming reality to earth as it is in heaven? If we listen to Jesus, it would seem clear that we are called to the latter. If we listen to the world, we may embrace the very things which God wants cleansed through the work of Christ. I pray we embody the kenotic love of Christ rather than the destruction of the world. Can we see God as a redeemer rather than a destroyer of worlds?