By Anna Rose Riccard
Pro-lifers, take note. Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War* recently had the biggest opening weekend of any movie ever. It has already made over 1.6 billion dollars worldwide, and if you haven’t seen it, you certainly know someone who has. This blockbuster has captivated the culture and provides a perfect opportunity to start a pro-life conversation.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the movie’s villain, Thanos, is on a quest to put together the Infinity Gauntlet. This will let him obliterate half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. He once watched his own civilization crumble, apparently from overpopulation and lack of resources; ever since, he has traveled to different planets, murdering half of their inhabitants so the same fate cannot befall them. To Thanos, it is better that half a population die so that the rest can prosper.
This villainous character is an exaggerated comic-book personification of a cold utilitarianism behind many of the anti-life sentiments we see today. How many abortion supporters claim that we live in a zero-sum world where it is better to kill some of the unborn rather than strain our finite natural resources supporting them all? How many politicians have campaigned for the “right” of the terminally ill to commit suicide in order to free up valuable resources for healthier people?
While most people would not murder half the population of the universe for the “greater” good, this idea progresses naturally from a logic that many find compelling today. It is here that a conversation with our friends who are against or apathetic to the pro-life position can begin. If they’ve seen the movie, we can ask them why they believe it’s wrong for Thanos to deliberately kill so many people, thinking it will save others. Then we can build on our friends’ natural human revulsion to the villain’s callous attitude towards genocide. If it turns out that their only objection to his plan is its scale, we might invite them to get specific: how many deaths is an acceptable number to trade for prosperity and plenty?
From here, the conversation can go in several productive directions. Why are some lives considered more valuable (to the fictional characters in the movie and to us) than others? Who, if anyone, should make that judgment? Why would we choose to eliminate people in need rather than working to meet the needs of all people?
Avengers: Infinity War can be an opportunity to engage friends in a subtly pro-life conversation that they might otherwise shy away from. With a little thought about these themes ahead of time, we can start from a place of common ground (“Wasn’t the new Avengers movie interesting?”) and lead into a friendly and fruitful discussion. It’s a low-pressure way to plant seeds of truth that every life is inherently valuable and worth protecting.
*References do not indicate endorsement.
Anna Rose Riccard is a Program Associate for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.