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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Looking for a Hero


 

It isn't that strange. Not really.
It's built into our psyche, this delight in a champion.

But, for most of us, it's a surreptitious search. Because it makes us feel silly. We were okay with it as children when we could latch onto a strong persona and no one thought anything of it. It could be anybody from an older teen we admired to an athlete, celebrity or musician. When we stumbled upon someone to whom we could look up and aspire to be, we were hooked. If one was blessed to be born into a committed Christian family, the stars who attracted attention might have been preachers or missionaries, Gospel singers or historical patriots of the past. They made us trust in their abilities and character and presented us with a winsome example to follow. 

People are hardwired to be drawn to a strong and appealing person. And they are further designed to feel a sort of proxy satisfaction when the hero accomplishes the goals set out for him or her. That is probably one reason why the Old Testament story of David and Goliath has strong appeal for children and for all of us. We like the idea that even a disadvantage of size and experience and personal power cannot hold back the hero. We like knowing that David had the guts to accept the giant's challenge. In some surrogate way, we feel as if we had those same "guts" too. We identify with the hero and his achievement becomes ours. The pages of the Bible are filled with stories of men and women who were put in place by God at a certain time to be the catalyst and the courage for others.

And in the same vein, many of the books we have loved down through the years have centered on a hero-like character. And in the dawning of the 20th century, old time radio dramas and Hollywood began to play to this area of human psychology. Remember those old characters? The husky, honest, hardworking, courageous yet courteous men who conquered the West or fought organized crime or solved dangerous mysteries or prevailed against the elements of nature? There was the Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, Roy Rogers, The Rifleman and Perry Mason, the dedicated officers from Dragnet, stalwart mountain men and even strong family men like Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Pa"who couldn't be bought or bluffed, weathered the onslaught of the wilds and always stood for justice. All of these heroes, and the countless others in books and on film, evoked in us not only a sense of security but a celebration of righteousness, truth and liberty. 

And how could we not be drawn to this type of story? It is in our eternal DNA as well. We were made for relationship with the Creator, the best kind of Hero if one can call Him that. And when humankind messed up the perfect Plan, God already had the provision in place - He sent His Son to be the Redemption for us all - the greatest Hero Prototype ever. He embodied all those traits that we subconsciously seek in human champions. He won the final battle. Every other battleground for right merely mirrors His. 

And so it is no wonder, in an election year, that we are looking around for our hero. We don't expect him to be the Messiah; not if we are truly followers of Christ. We know that 1). the only Savior is Jesus; and 2). it is much more important to live one day in the heavenly Kingdom where we will be part of the majority. But still, we are looking for an earthly man, a human like us, who will be our voice and our will and our power in the realms of government over which we have no daily influence. We are yearning for the cowboy in the white hat to ride in and punch out the bad guys. We are wanting to see the officer handcuff the dudes, watch the lawyer indict the culprit or see the head of the family act like one. But since it is the Presidency we are talking about, we want to see a principled, determined man of accomplishment and dignity stride into the Oval Office and conduct the affairs of Washington D.C  without regard for popular opinion or cronyism or threats from rogue nations. We want a hero who reflects, in some dim way, the Champion of the Heavens and who affirms our deep convictions about the way things ought to be. 

These days, we rarely get our earthly hero. There aren't even tin star badges or club membership cards in cereal boxes now. Times have changed. And the heroes who do appear in the twenty-first century arts and literature are far from the stalwart greats of yesteryear. The superheroes of today's cartoons and comic strips tend to be plagued by bad judgement, nasty attitudes, goofy personalities and character flaws. We are told today that our heroes and heroines have to be "real," have some flaws. And I suppose that is true to life. And certainly we will never elect a politician who has no backstory or doesn't demonstrate some unique idiosyncrasies. But we should never dumb down our checklist. It never hurts to expect as high a threshold as humanly possible. After all, once in a while, a man or woman of above average ability and character appears on the stage of life and performs spectacularly to the benefit of the nation. If 2016 is the year in which that happens, great would be the rejoicing. 

Yet, I can't help but express a word of caution that, should that be case, we not make an idol out of him. We cannot throw all of our hopes and devotion into an earthly man or woman. That kind of misplaced worship is the path to cyanide-laced Kool-aid or to cattle cars headed to death camps. It might not be that dire, but it will result in destruction in some way or form. We don't need a demagogue; we need a hero. I think there is a difference. The best hero is the one who deals deeply in the currency of humility. Why the Lone Ranger who graced the airwaves of long ago often didn't stick around for the accolades of his latest accomplishment! The echo of hoof-beats and the fading cry of "Heigh Ho, Silver"told us that he was gone, off to fight the next battle rather than attend a crowning ceremony.

Yes, heroes are needed. We need them. God has often chosen to use them. And a generation of little boys and little girls who can't find badges in their Wheaties are depending on us even more to look for the next lineup of heroes, or just maybe, be one for them. 

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