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‘Loki,’ Deconstruction, and Reformation

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This article includes spoilers for second season of 'Loki' on Disney+.

Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki’s godhood has been well established. Early on, he served as the god of mischief antagonizing his brother Thor and the Avengers. Currently, however, Loki may be in his most vital role in our culture — the god of reconstruction.

Cultural Deconstruction

Deconstruction has become a popular concept. Social media is filled with “exvangelicals” who blame most societal ills on their former faith and those who continue to embrace Christian orthodoxy. Almost 3 in 4 American pastors (73%) say they’re familiar with the concept of an individual deconstructing their faith in which they systematically dissect and often reject Christian beliefs they grew up with. Many pastors (27%) and churchgoers (37%) who are familiar with the term say they’ve seen people deconstruct their faith in their congregation.

This shift is part of a broader rejection of institutions. The average level of Americans’ confidence in major institutions, including the church, hit its lowest point in 2023, according to Gallup. The public’s trust in pastors and many other societal leaders reached an all-time low this year as well.

Not only that, however, but the idea serves as a powerful cultural narrative. Movies and shows for kids and adults laud the person who “breaks free” from the stifling restrictions placed on them by their upbringing and discovers the power to be their own person. In virtually every animated Disney movie, the hero must cast off old ways of thinking, often embodied by parents or leaders, to forge new paths.

Amid this malaise of distrust and deconstruction, Loki season two challenged viewers to think more deeply about our tendency to raze institutions instead of raising them.

Glory is only realized through burden, and purpose comes with sacrifice.

Loki as Reformer

In season one, Loki and Sylvie (a female version of Loki from a different timeline) confront the person behind the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an organization established to control the flow of time. Sylvie wants to kill them and be done with it all, believing this will usher in a golden age of free will, but Loki’s not so sure. In the end, Sylvie kills the person and sends Loki back to the TVA. Season two deals with the ramifications of that decision.

The TVA workers are coming to grips with what they have been doing and trying to find a new purpose. Mobius, Loki’s friend in the organization, struggles with how to break the news to everyone else. “Hey, everything you’ve been doing is wrong and all your gods are dead,” he remarks sarcastically. Another worker says, “I know how hard it is to turn your back on everything you’ve believed in. But the TVA has to change, and it has to start now.”

Sylvie goes off on her own, content to live in 1980s Oklahoma, working at McDonalds and hanging out at a local music store. If she gives any thought to the TVA, it’s a desire to destroy it. The organization eliminated her entire timeline and tried to kill her before she escaped and lived as a fugitive. Sylvie suffered because of the TVA, and she wants to make them pay.

Talking with Loki, she still wants to destroy the whole institution, while Loki remains more hopeful. “What if you’re wrong?” Sylvie asks him. “What if you are wrong to believe this place could be any better?” In her heartache, we hear the pain of countless people who have been hurt by the church or other institutions. Most everyone will readily agree that organizations, including the church, are complicated and messy because they are filled with complicated, messy, broken people.

Loki agrees with the simplicity of Sylvie’s solution but calls for something more difficult instead. “It would be easier to burn this place down and start from scratch. Annihilating is easy. Razing things to the ground is easy,” he says. “Trying to fix what’s broken is hard. Hope is hard.”

Their philosophical impasse comes to a head in the season two finale. Loki gains the ability to travel back in time, which he uses in failed attempt after attempt at solving the problem facing him and the TVA. He even returns to the moment Sylvie kills the person behind it all and tries to stop her. He fails over and over again.

In the end, he realizes that to save those he loves and fix what is broken with the TVA, he cannot ask others to make the sacrifice. Loki looks at Sylvie and Mobius and says, “I know what kind of god I need to be … for you. For all of us.” He turns and sacrifices himself, his desires, and his freedom to save everyone else.

Throughout Loki’s time in the MCU, he has declared himself “burdened with glorious purpose.” Only now has he understood that glory is only realized through burden, and purpose comes with sacrifice.

Perhaps you, like me, recognize the church is worth saving, despite her faults and failings. We must embrace the burden that comes with that purpose. Reforming and reconstructing are difficult, especially in a world enamored with tearing down. Hope requires sacrifice. Not only must we go against the cultural grain, but we must often do so at great cost. Hope will not allow us the option of simply watching people and institutions be torn down, even when those people and institutions are broken.

We already worship the God of reconstruction. He brings life out of death. One day He will restore and recreate all things. In the meantime, we know what kind of people we need to be for Him and for all of us who need restoration. Those filled with hope and burdened with the glorious purpose of seeing every villain find redemption.

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Aaron Earls

Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com and a freelance writer living outside Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and four kids. He earned his M.Div. in Apologetics from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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