Ethos Education

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: To what extent are justice and security incompatible with one another?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the concepts of justice and injustice.
  • Awareness of Christian teaching about judgement, forgiveness and punishment.
  • Understanding the concept of human rights.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the order in which the different stages of the judicial process take place.
  • Analyse a film clip with reference to the consequences of allowing punishment to pre-empt crime or other wrongdoing.
  • Reflect upon the tension between freedom and safety in a modern society.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine a Christian perspective on justice.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a discussion about the need to balance safety with justice in society.


Put the students into pairs or small groups and give each group one set of cards from the Process worksheet to put into the correct sequence. There are four sets (medical, academic, business, and judicial). Each group should have only one of the four sets.

Ask the students to decide the correct/best order for the four stages of their process to take place. Here are the correct answers for each set:


1. Assess symptoms

2. Diagnosis

3. Treatment

4. Get Better


1. Learn stuff

2. Revise stuff

3. Take exam

4. Celebrate passing exam


1. Identify potential product/gap in market

2. Tailor product to the market needs

3. Advertise product

4. Start selling the product


1. Crime is committed

2. Suspect is accused

3. Suspect is tried

4. Sentence carried out (if suspect is found guilty)

Ask for feedback, finishing with the group(s) who had the Judicial set of cards. Ask them what other sequences they considered other than the correct one. What might be the consequences of changing this sequence and doing things in a different order? Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about the potential conflict between due judicial process and the safety of a society, in particular considering Christian perspectives on justice.


Introduce the clip from the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel 2014, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that in this scene Captain America (Chris Evans) is confronting his boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The Captain has just returned from a mission. Halfway through his attempt to rescue hostages from a SHIELD ship, Captain America discovered that one of his team, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, not featured in this clip), had been given a separate mission to retrieve data files from the ship’s computers without the Captain being informed. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the huge project that Nick Fury eventually tells the Captain about, and the difference of opinion that the two men have over it.

  • Start time: 0.12.58 (beginning of chapter 3 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.17.12
  • Clip length: 4 minutes and 14 seconds.

The clip starts with an establishing shot of the SHIELD headquarter (captioned, ‘The Triskelion, SHIELD headquarters). It ends with Captain America saying, ‘Don’t hold your breath.’

Who do the students agree with? Is it better to ensure the safety of our society by taking steps to eliminate potential threats, or should we preserve individual freedom even at the risk that some people might use that freedom in ways that might put others in jeopardy? If students take Nick Fury’s line, ask them how they would feel if they were given a detention because the teacher suspected that they were going to be badly behaved in a lesson, rather than only issuing a detention in response to actual bad behaviour. How would they feel to receive a more serious punishment – suspension or even expulsion from school – on the basis of what someone thought they might do in the future.

Ask students if anything is worth sacrificing justice for. You could translate the argument between Captain America and Nick Fury to the real world, asking what freedoms it is reasonable to ask people to give up in order to protect our society from, for example, terrorism. Should the police be able to arrest and deport people they know to disagree with the government, even if they haven’t committed any crime? Should the government have the right to restrict people’s movement in the name of National Security?

Explain that Christians believe that God is concerned with justice. A summary of what Christians believe about dealing with injustice could be ‘now and later’. They believe that ultimately God will bring justice and right all wrong, but that in the meantime there will be some injustice in the world. Until God settles his accounts with the world, it is the place of Christians to work on his behalf to bring justice where they can. If you want to see a Biblical account of God’s concern for justice, you could refer the class to Psalm 9 (particularly verses 7-9 and 13-18). For a Biblical call for God’s people to concern themselves with matters of justice, refer them to the Old Testament book of Amos.


As a final exercise, ask students to rewrite the conversation between Captain America and Nick Fury, but with a third participant: Bible Man. Bible Man is a superhero who is completely committed to biblical principles. Students should decide how this worldview would shape the position he would take in this debate, and demonstrate their understanding of Christian perspectives on the issues discussed.


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