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Saturday, March 10, 2007 

The Death Of Captain America And The Church Growth Movement

Comic book aficionados like myself were horrified to turn on the TV last week and find out that Marvel Comics killed Captain America in issue 25 of the current self-titled comic in a story entitled “Death of the Dream.” The Captain America character was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby way back in 1941. Over the years, over 210 million Captain America comic books have been sold. Read more about Captain America here.

After a miniseries entitled Civil War, a sniper gunned down Steve Rogers exiting a courthouse following a cease-fire between the heroes of the Marvel universe who had been battling it out over the last nine months. Why was he gunned down you ask? It was to sell more comic books. That’s right; to sell more Captain America comic books they killed the lead character.

This is definitely not a new idea. DC Comics tried this stunt back in the early nineties when they decided to “kill” Superman. Remember that? And, truth be told, it did indeed sell more comic books. But only short-term readers and speculators bought into this garbage. Most of the true fans saw this for what it was: a gimmick.

DC Comics during the same period broke Batman’s back and replaced him with a brutal mind controlled killer, killed off the Green Arrow, and made Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, a galactic psychopath that ended up killing all of the Green Lantern Corps. Out with the old ways and in with the new. Again, the fans saw this for what it was: a gimmick.

But these particular gimmicks helped cause the near collapse of the entire industry before the decade ended. Speculators (who knew nothing of the mythology of the heroes) were buying special chromium and variant covers just to be in the “in crowd” (and make a buck) and drove the print runs into unmarketable numbers. Fans who had been reading comic books since the forth grade could no longer recognize the heroes they grew up with. By the time the nineties ended, most of the print runs that were jacked up to meet the speculator’s demand were being sold by the pound just like recycled newspapers. And now we see history repeating itself.

So what does Joe Quesada (Editor In Chief) at Marvel Comics say to all of this in regards to characters dying, "Times are different now. There was period in comics where characters would just die and then be resurrected. And the death had very little meaning and the resurrection had very little meaning."

HYPOCRITE! Under Quesada’s watch Colossus of the X-Men, Captain Mar-Vell, and Bucky, all who died noble deaths, have been resurrected. Under Quesada’s watch Thor, Hawkeye, and Foggy Nelson all died only to be quickly brought back to life to sell comic books. For crying out loud, Foggy died less than six months ago and he’s back. Hypocrite!

All this is different than the explosion that seems to engulf a hero on the last page of December’s issue only to be resolved within two pages of the January issue. Characters are being killed with no respect the long standing mythologies that fan boys like me have grown to love. Alienation is one of the quickest ways to kill readership whether the character be a Harry Potter or a Steve Rogers.

But people like Joe Quesada just don’t seem to care about the fans that care about these characters. All that matters to this bunch is the “let’s increase the sales no matter what the long term cost is.” I guess they figure that if they get ‘em buying the book now and we can worry about keeping them later. Maybe the fans that have kept the book going…maybe they’ll come back, maybe not. Instead of writing good stories paired with decent art, these yahoos have switched to slick Madison Avenue marketing mode.

And so it is with the church growth movement disguised as outreach to the “unchurched” and lost. Their cries are the same as Joe Quesada’s; “get ‘em in at any cost” with no respect to what has gone on before.

Those who promote “church” growth at any cost say we need to abandon the historical church liturgies. We are told to get in the younger unchurched crowd we need to come up with newer hipper ways of presenting “our” message. But the truth is that these young people are savvy enough to know a marketing scam because they have been exposed to this their entire lives.

Those who promote “church” growth at any cost say we need newer hipper songs because the old ones just don’t cause us to feel the emotion that we should be feeling. But the old hymns do cause us to experience emotion as we confess in song God’s Word set to music. By singing our confession we join with all saints of all time and place in doctrinal unity. The difference is that we don’t focus inward when we sing our hymnody. And that younger crowd we are trying to attract, well, they’re smart enough to know that if they hear the same thing playing on the secular radio stations, the chances are it doesn’t belong in church.

Those who promote “church” growth at any cost say the confessions are just dusty old documents left over by some Germanic sect who needed them at the time but are now outdated. But it is the confessional types who say in our postmodern anything goes society that the historical symbols are even more important as the Church is under even more vicious attacks disguised as tolerance and ecumenicalism.

I, as do most other confessional Lutherans, have no problem with outreach. But what we do and what we say in church really does matter. Church is God’s word preached purely and the Sacraments administered rightly as Augustana VII clearly states. When we abandon the very means and places where God has told us He is and will be, we have decided to do things our way, apart from God. And when we have done that, we are no better than those slick Madison Avenue marketers that just killed Captain America for three dollars and ninety-nine cents.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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