Heroes, Jesus and Us

The heroic has always been appealing — but Jesus is the reality heroes point toward.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on December 16, 2017

They just keep getting bigger, more extravagant, and more explosive. I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s tweets. I’m talking about the ongoing onslaught of science fiction movies.

Mortals fly. Gadgets transport. Metal and plastic and speed and ultra-near misses keep our eyes glued to the screen. From the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise to the various Marvel and D.C. Comics empires, we are addicted to larger-than-life gods and goddesses, genetically re-engineered supermen and superwomen, and assorted other acrobatic, magically endowed and otherwise remarkable heroes and villains.

Why? Well, it’s fun to lose oneself in a fantasy world in which impossible feats and strange planets are as ordinary as orange juice. And where, invariably, good triumphs over evil. And the heroic always appeals to us. Man has looked to transcendent leaders whose physical and moral courage lead to conclusive victory over wickedness. 

C.S. Lewis believed this desire demonstrates the reality of the unseen. We long for a life we don’t have not just because we want it, but because deep within we know it is real.

That sounds great. But that desire comes with serious dangers.

A Master Race

Our desire for something better and permanent leaves us susceptible to deception and to becoming the evil we say we want to fight. Hitler and Lenin promised new worlds scrubbed of all human sickness. They drew to themselves millions of trusting followers.

But the worlds they promised were based on lies. Kill the Jews, the “defectives” (people with mental or physical disabilities), the Slavs and, at least over time, anyone else not comporting with “Aryan purity,” and you’d have a world populated by a master race. A people capable of new horizons of attainment and grandeur. So said Hitler.

Lenin wanted to purge his society not based on race, ethnicity or handicap, but based on ideology, political conviction and economic status. His acolyte Joseph Stalin starved seven million landowning Ukrainians because they didn’t believe in “collectivizing” — the surrender of all they possessed to the Soviet state. Stalin’s mass murders and assorted other “purges” resulted in many millions of deaths. All this for the “new Soviet man.”

We can be Hitlers and Lenins with ourselves. We can present ourselves with grand visions of a transformed life. Everything will be great, we can tell ourselves, if only we do this or do that wrong thing. We have hearts with a proneness to sin, who still hear Satan’s voice echoing in our minds: “Go ahead, eat. You shall be like God.”

Resisting the ‘Sirens of Evil’

How can we resist the allure of these sirens of evil? The surge of emotion, the awakening of new hope, when we hear the lies not just of dictator-wannabes, but of our own hearts? In three ways.

First, we must remember that this world is transient. Like every fallen nation, America is passing away. No matter how good it has been or might again become, it will never approximate the realm of the one true King.

Our hope is in no politician. Our longing must not be for a romanticized past or a future that can never be realized. Even a culture friendly to Christian values will not long endure. Prosperity corrupts virtue, and a fallen race cannot permanently live within the constraints of moral goodness.

Unlike the space and fantasy films now packing theaters, this side of the King’s coming, there is no final triumph over evildoers. Or, my conservative brethren, over liberals and liberalism.

Sights Set on Something Higher

Second, we must set our sights on something higher than cultural comfort. What if popular entertainment went universally back to the “Father Knows Best” wholesomeness of an earlier era? What if government was constrained, the practice of religious conviction celebrated, sexual ethics realigned with biblical teaching, and so forth. Is that all we want?

American life would still be peopled by men and women doomed for eternal destruction without a Savior. Would our burden for them decrease if our social standing rose?

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Third, we need to be so very careful of those we lionize. There are many spiritual and political leaders worthy of respect, surely, and many go to down to their houses justified after having lived honorable personal and public lives. 

Whether a pastor in a pulpit or a politician on a platform, sin crouches at everyone’s door. Inevitably, some will open that door and their once-admirable lives will become consumed by a roaring lion.

There is only One Whose life merits more than respect but, instead, reverence. He is not a hero who slaughtered His adversaries. He died for them. 

He Came to Save

He came not on a steed but a donkey. His hands did not bear a saber (or light-saber, for that matter) but a greater power, the power to heal. He did not travel through time, but entered it from eternity. He wore no cape but a robe, no diadem but a crown of thorns. 

As you think of going to the next sci-fi spectacular to watch a Norse god crush a demonic cyborg, remember that Jesus of Nazareth is so infinitely greater than the rush of the most astonishing computer-generated image. Eternal God became one of us because no hero could deliver us from evil but Him, not just in this life, but in the one to come. 

We need no hero. We need Jesus.

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