Lance, Thor and Ideal Heroism
January 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this about the lack of true heroes in our world. Lance Armstrong proved himself to be an un-hero with the revelation that he’d doped his way through seven Tour de France cycling victories, lied about doping accusations, and even filed suit against his honest accusers. Moral failures comes in all shapes, sizes, and uniforms. Lance’s new claim to fame is his ability to lie and then lie about lying, fooling most of the people most of the time. As a cancer survivor, his dedication to and leadership in the fight against cancer may have been genuine and admirable. That, and his athletic achievements, lit a torch of inspiration for many to overcome their obstacles. We are now overcome with disappointment in this hero as our hearts fall with him, the spotlight now on Lance Armstrong’s sin. He isn’t the hero we thought he was. In fact, none of us are.
After the Oprah interview with Lance, my wife and I finished the movie Thor, which we’d started a few nights earlier. Thor is an ideal hero dreamed up to portray a great story. But Thor, like all superheroes of cinema, is fiction. In order to have such a hero, we have to fabricate him from ideals. What does our ideal hero look like? Thor, god of thunder, found himself among us in human form and found himself facing a giant, hell-spewing adversary. In order to save the people in the path of his enemy’s destruction, Thor gave his own life to save theirs. This sacrifice was noted by his father Oden, and something aligned. Thor was deemed worthy to possess the hammer and the power he had lost. Immediately Thor’s power is restored and he rises from the dead, appearing in his full original glory to defeat the beast once and for all and ascending to his father.
I’ve written before about the parallels between conceptualized superheroes and the real story of Christ, but it’s hard to deny that much of we demand in our ideal saviors is what we’ve already seen in the Savior. We humanize our fictional heroes and give them some flaws so we can perhaps relate to their struggle a little better. But in the end, they don’t appear on Oprah and confess years of lies and manipulation, that no real person could do what we all thought he did. They’re supposed to come through for us, like Jesus did. The disappointing reality is to get a good story of redemption and heroism out of flesh and bones—emphasis on the flesh—we have to use our imagination. But our imagination draws from what we already know. Continue the yearning for heroism and salvation, but know that Jesus Christ was and is and will always be that ideal hero. We’ll always be disappointed in ordinary heroes, but Jesus Christ the original hero is anything but ordinary.
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” (Romans 8:3 NLT)
[J.W. Wartick writes some very insightful reflections on heroes of the big screen at his blog, Always Have a Reason.]