Warning: Spoilers ahead in this article.
I personally really enjoyed watching the new show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki. I haven’t been a huge fan of MCU movies for the simple fact that they’re always filled with typical movie tropes, but I enjoyed Loki because of the character and the wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff (I love sci-fi). Yet I couldn’t help but think theologically about one of the running themes in the show: pride.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, just take the basic premise of time travel and the fictional theory of multiple universes, and you get a male Loki (the Loki we know and love) who is enlisted by the Time Variance Authority (TVA, basically the time travel/multiverse police) to stop the evil plans of another version of Loki from an alternate timeline, who turns out to be female. I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds.
When Loki and the female version of himself, who calls herself Sylvie, finally meet, they basically spend a lot of time together through a series of unfortunate events. And, oddly enough, a romance begins to kindle between them. It’s a bit cringe. Loki literally starts to fall in love with himself, and Sylvie literally starts to fall in love with herself (and, spoiler alert! they kiss in the last episode).
Of course, at first, this upset me not only because it’s really cringe to watch someone fall in love with themselves in a weird, timey-wimey way, but also because it perpetuates the sin of Pride in our culture. Pride is the ultimate form of the love of self. One can permit the moral “love yourself” when a person is having self-esteem or body image issues, but underneath this soft platitude is, “Love yourself above all others,” which is personified in the two Lokis.
This is a violation of the First Commandment, which Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “I will fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” “All things” includes yourself. Jesus Himself summarises the entirety of the Law as loving God and neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). Love for God moves one to love one’s neighbour. Jesus never teaches to love your self (vs. yourself) because love of self always deposes God first, then neighbour. You can’t love God or neighbour if you love your self. Your love for God and neighbour, and God’s love for you, are greater and holier than your love of self.
But, as it turns out, that’s not the moral of Loki (I hope). Because what happens at the end of the last episode? (If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading! Watch Loki on Disney Plus and come back!) Recall that in the last episode, Loki and Sylvie finally get to He Who Remains—the last being at the end of time. It turns out he is the one who’s been ensuring there’s only one timeline and any person who falters from this One True Timeline is plucked and pruned so that there’s no alternate universe, but only One True Universe. And what does he constantly warn Loki and Sylvie about in their exchange? That if they kill him, order will turn into chaos. And although we only get a very small glimpse of it, that’s exactly what happens.
Loki is the paradigm of one who chooses others over himself; he sacrifices what he wants for the sake of everyone in the universe. Sylvie, on the other hand, is the paradigm of one who chooses herself over others. The irony is that even though both Loki versions were literally falling in love with themselves, their true colours are shown: Loki chooses to love others over himself whereas Sylvie chooses to love herself at the expense of others.
Thus, what do we learn here? What happens when the only person you love is yourself? Chaos.
What happened when Adam and Eve “saw that the [forbidden] tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise”? Well, “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6-7). Despite God’s warning that if they ate of it, they would die, they loved their desire more than the consequences, just like Sylvie. And what happened? Chaos. The Fall of Man happened, hence the chaotic world of sin and evil in which we live and yours and my temptation to love ourselves over others.
Imagine what it might look like to live a life where the only person you love is yourself and no one else. Hopefully this is really hard for many of us to imagine. Imagine what your life would look like if you didn’t love your parents, siblings, friends, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiancée, the homeless man on the street, and so on. Not only would your life be chaotic, but it would also be lonely, no? What happens when Sylvie kills He Who Remains? She’s completely alone, and chaos ensues. (She probably won’t be alone forever, seeing as in the next season she’ll somehow manage to find her way back to Loki. Thus, she’ll have the illusion that she’s not alone, although in reality she will be.)
If this is what the producers meant to teach in this first season of Loki, it’s really ironic. These are the same producers and actors who advocate love of self over everything else—things like abortion. Love of your self is exactly what abortion is. Forget the Other who’s in need of me. What do I want? What are my needs? I want a career, reputation, financial security, to make a name for myself. These things matter more than anyone else, even a helpless baby.
These are the same producers and actors who believe that if you’re a woman who’s trying to make a name for herself in her career, and you “accidentally” get pregnant, you can just sacrifice your baby in the temple of Planned Parenthood upon the altar of your Pride. It’s okay to love your self more than this baby. Then you can praise yourself in the liturgy of your social media posts, utilising the undivine service of “Shout Your Abortion.” You don’t need to shout your abortion; God has already heard the cries of the unborn.
Such an act of narcissism leads to loneliness and chaos. Though abortive mothers surround themselves with pro-choice cults to praise their “bravery,” they have the illusion that they’re not alone but in reality they are alone; and they add to the chaos of the millions of lifeless, aborted corpses.
(What’s also ironic is that the actress who played Sylvie was breastfeeding her newborn during the production and the amazing costume designers designed her costumes so she’d be able to breastfeed her baby. So, it looks like you can be a mother and have a successful career. And I say “accidentally” pregnant because, even if you use any form of contraception, you’re still risking pregnancy. Contraception doesn’t eliminate the chance of pregnancy; it simply minimises the possibility. Contraception is basically just sexual roulette. If you have “safe” sex, the pregnancy may have been unplanned, but it’s no accident by any means because sex, in case you didn’t know, is how you get pregnant.)
Thanks be to God that Christ is the answer to the chaos of our world, for unlike the first Adam, Christ the second Adam did not choose Himself over the whole world. Rather, He chose the whole world over Himself. He chose you over Himself. His death brings an end to our chaos. His death brings an end to our pride and self-worship. Oddly enough, Loki is the Christ figure in the show—he points us to look to someone greater than he is: Christ Jesus.
Theologically, we call the order Christ brings to our chaos the now/not-yet reality (and there are other aspects to this as well). In the now, Christ brings order to your chaos of sin personally, that you can bring your sins before Him and be forgiven. This is what He means when He said, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Bring your chaos before Christ, and He will give you rest. Instead of prideful and self-loving, He is gentle and lowly in heart.
In the not-yet, Christ will restore order to all creation when He returns. Theologically, we call this the new creation—the new heavens and the new earth He will create (Revelation 21). Upon His Parousia, the current heavens and earth—today’s chaos—will pass away (Matthew 24:35) and Jesus will create a new world of order, one that was more perfect than before. And this time, we will not be able to mess it up since, unlike last time, the new creation will be under the incarnate God, Jesus Christ.