Note: Spoilers for Captain America: Civil War lie ahead, so proceed with caution.
I was chatting about Captain America: Civil War with some friends over the weekend and one of those discussions hit on the idea of applying the Sokovia Accords to the Nov. 5th Policy Change regarding same-sex marriages, apostasy, etc. (hat-tip to Shane for that particular application). I think the film applies more broadly than that, but that specific scenario may help illuminate some of the application of the film.
There’s a lot of pain in the Mormon community as members leave and their family and friends feel distraught about what they have lost. Those leaving frequently feel isolated and rejected by the community that once felt like home. This pain and the anger that can result from it is viscerally on display in Tyler Glenn’s recent music video for his solo single “Trash.” I think striving to understand each other and come to a place of peaceful reconciliation, since absolute agreement is likely impossible in many circumstances, without letting the justifiable anger consume us, is a worthwhile goal.
Tony and the Accords along with those that join him (War Machine, Black Widow/Natasha, Vision, Spider-Man, and Black Panther), I think, are best paralleled to the institutional Church, the Policy, and those that remain in various ways attached to it. This makes Cap and his crew (Ant-Man, Falcon, Wanda/Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye/Clint, and, of course, Bucky) those that have left the Church. This framework highlights the good intentions and sincerity that lies at the root of both camps. In my experience, people all along the spectrum are good, sincere, wonderful people striving to do what is right, to the best of their ability.
I think there are two sequences that particularly highlight how we can use this to better engage with those that view the world differently, particularly those with different faith perspectives than we hold.
The first is from Peggy Carter’s funeral, with Sharon Carter relaying advice that her Aunt Peggy had shared with her:
“Compromise where you can. And where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, no. You move.”
This is a powerful quote and can be used in loads of different contexts. Since it cements Cap’s decision to NOT sign the Accords, I’ll use it in that context, to further the application I’ve been suggesting. Many of those that undergo a faith crisis, whether that simply alters their belief slightly or drastically to the point that it may no longer be recognizably Mormon, feel that with their current understanding of history, or Church policies/practices, or any number of other factors they cannot stay in the Church and have a clear conscience. Often they have sought to compromise and tried to make things work, but for some, there’s a point where they feel compelled to leave, knowing full well the rift that will be caused by their departure and agonizing over the decision because of that rift. Yet, for many, to stay would be to act that “something wrong is something right,” and that, they cannot do.
I was particularly touched by Natasha’s arc throughout the film, as she seems caught between worlds (as per usual, to some extent)—a feeling that resonates quite strongly with me. There’s a touching exchange between Natasha and Cap, shortly after the quote I discussed previously, that I think provides a powerful lesson in empathy, beginning with Natasha:
“Staying together is more important that how we stay together.”
“What are we giving up to do it?… Sorry, Nat. I can’t sign it.”
“Well, then… what are you doing here?”
“I didn’t want you to be alone…”
The elevation of community and friendship that Natasha uses to make her decision is a powerful one. Often we are driven by desires to keep friendships and other relationships intact and value those over doing what we may perceive as the absolute best or right thing. This can be as simple as not arguing when your friends want to eat McDonald’s and you’d rather grab a pizza, or forgiving terrible mistakes and decisions that hurt you personally or those close to you because of the overall good that comes from the bond. Yet, Natasha recognizes the pain that Cap is feeling, the anguish that comes from knowing you’re about to rip apart a friendship that’s been in place for years, but feeling compelled to do so. Natasha doesn’t strive to persuade Cap to change his mind, she simply offers comfort in his time of need.
There are certain things about Mormonism that I would change, but for me, the good that comes from it, the community that I feel, the force for good that the Gospel can be provides enough reason to strive to stay together. Yet, that does not make me immune to the pain and suffering of those that feel marginalized or otherwise hurt by decisions, new information, policies, or what have you.
Yes, we have a responsibility to teach the Gospel. But I think in moments like these, times like ours, the covenant to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort triumphs. Perhaps this can be a moment where we “preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words.”
None of us should have to be alone. Whether you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man. Whether you’re a full-fledged, dyed-in-the-wool believer or adamantly out of the Church or anywhere else along the spectrum. I need to follow the example of Natasha and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, regardless of their relation to my position. If we all strove to do so, I think much pain, anguish, and suffering could be alleviated—disagreements will remain, but reconciliation is possible.