Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Need A Hero

 

It's an exiting time to be living. And a fearsome time, too. Our world teeters on the razor edge of truth vs. emotion, canting precariously, threatening to spill over. Every day brings a news feed about “faith-based hate,” or some controversy about racism. And the response to these issues appears as violent as the percieved offense. Cultural temperatures rise and fall, stretching our public dialogue to the breaking point.

What we need is a hero. We need someone to show the way. It's what our culture desperately looks for.

In the past ten years we've seen superheros take center stage in our pop culture. Spider-man, Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, The Green Lantern, The Avengers, Thor, Superman, Wolverine and the X-Men.

Never before have such extravagant heroes been brought to the silver screen. And at such an increasing rate of speed. This year we'll have seen 4 different major super heros in theaters. Next year we'll have at least 3 new superhero movies derived from comic books. And I'm not counting the Percy Jackson and Hobbit movies, which are also hero-style movies in which the protagonist has or gains extraordinary powers.

The reason we, as a culture are eating these stories up is that we need a hero. We're looking for one with the ability to defeat all the troubles we face, to absorb the world-rending stress and put down the deceptive enemies that threaten us.

And we're confused about the nature of this hero. With Batman, we want someone who is dark and frightens the underworld of cutlural destruction, playing with the same tactics, but holding to an ultimate moral standard. Superman used to be brighter, but now he is “finding his way” and actually kills the villian and doesn't allways save everyone. Iron Man is a conceited, flawed man who ends up doing what's right, but wreaks smaller havok in his personal life with his friends.

These heros are all too human. And so, we look to Wolverine, an eternal hero who suffers under his immortality, but needs it to save the innocent. We turn to Captain America, who also has a degree of immortality, spanning decades and coming to a contemporary culture that needs his “old fashioned” sense of righteousness to save it.

In the end, these heros fail to give us direction. After all, they come from a culture that doesn't want the truth. We all know what morality is. But, as a world, we don't want it to be anything more than a preference. Unless we're hurt by someone else breaking morals.

If we break a marital vow, there's a good reason. If our mate breaks it, we're devistated. If we hate someone, we're justified. If someone hates us, we're being harrassed. If we take something, we had a need. If someone steals from us, we've been violated.

In the end, we know, deep down, what is right. We know this because of the stories we tell. Superman must feel horrible about killing the villain. Iron Man knows he needs to stop his filandering ways and “do right” by Pepper. We won't accept a hero that takes God's name in vain. W applaud Captain America for his belief in “One God.”

Despite all these choices for heroes, we still search. None of them show the way. None of them can really shoulder the world and rescue us. Because they're products of our culture, really. They're not truly from outside of our world. They're not truly spotless and able to die on our behalf.

That's the other thing: A crime is worthy of its punishment. All these stories show that. When a villain does something evil, we expect that wrong to be set right. We expect punishment for that crime. If movies ended with the wicked prospering, we'd feel horrible.

This acknowledges that our sin will require punishment. We know this. And we want a hero. We want an indestructible shield or an invincible man from outside of our planet to come and stand between us and the destruction that we're due.

I wrote RESISTANCE for this reason. I wanted to address the superhero genre with an answer that was more in keeping with Truth, with a capital 'T.' Biblical truth, in other words. There is a hero that took the weight of the enemy, took that pain and torture for 6 hours, descended into death, then rose 3 days later in victory. The fallout of that victory is ongoing, but the victory is secured nonetheless.

Throughout world history, since the dawn of Sin in the garden of Eden, people have been recognizing their wretched condition and falling on God's mercy, as presented in His love and personal sacrifice with Jesus, God Himself in the flesh. When one sees the doom that is rightfully theirs, the rebellion he or she is against God, the only hope is to turn and fall on God's grace, asking for Jesus' sacrifice to be counted as payment for that sin. Then to turn from sin and follow God's law in loving obedience, realizing that God wants us to be free of the conflict and pain of sin. That's why He sent Himself, the only hero that could end the conflict within us that will spell our destruction.