the success of the Avengers movie franchise isn’t a secret. nor is it a surprise to recognize the lasting images burned into our minds of Mel Gibson’s William Wallace, Russell Crowe’s Maximus, and a whole host of overcoming movie icons.
it isn’t surprising, and for one incredibly obvious reason:
we love heroes.
heroes make stories worth telling, victories worth celebrating - heroes make grown men choke up (I’m looking at you, Rudy) and even consider boldly claiming their neighbor’s yard in the name of Scotland.
heroes stoke a fire in us. they draw out emotions we didn’t even know we had.
I remember sitting in my room, the eerily blue-white light of the TV playing off the stucco ceiling. I held the remote tightly, running the pad of my thumb over both buttons (yes, it was that long ago) and watching with rapt attention the spectacle that flashed into the dark of that West Virginia summer night.
in the ring, the hated Honky Tonk Man stood with his falsely-obtained championship belt. the ring master had no opponent to announce, because Honky Tonk had brutally attacked every standing hero and icon in the WWF at the time so no one was left to fight.
or so he thought.
in a blinding moment, a new hero emerged. the Ultimate Warrior. In just under one minute, it was over.
as a kid, I couldn’t imagine a greater scenario. (did I mention I hated the Honky Tonk Man?) in fact, I’m afraid to admit but I sat on that bed and wept. tears streaming down my face, arms raised over my head, over a grown-man’s soap opera that had been scripted for weeks in advance of that moment. I was taken in. enraptured.
why? well, perhaps I was just young and impressionable. I’ll grant that, but I think it was something more.
what I saw represented “good” taking “evil” to task - triumph, victory, annihilation of everything bad about the world.
of course I know they’re actors. I know it’s fake. Honky Tonk is probably a great guy.
the point is that the way we react to heroes says a lot about us. the way our eyes and souls well up when we see them in action, securing victory over sure evils (which are, most often, clearly evil with no shred of good to be found) and reminding us that the world can actually see a reason to hope.
“triumphing over them…” the Bible says of Jesus (Colossians 2:15a). that’s a hero.
“...by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15b) huh?
heroes don’t win by being executed. the Warrior won by bludgeoning and pinning, not by submitting and giving up.
we don’t want heroes like Jesus, because a hero like Jesus requires too much work for us to see Him as heroic.
too much faith. too much weakness. too little vengeance. too much submission.
as I look back on the heroes who bring me to that emotionally-triumphant state, I have to acknowledge something about my own soul.
I don't want a hero who loves his enemies, or mine, I want one that thrashes them. I don't want a hero who forgives, I want a hero that lets that wound fester into open war.
the truth is that knowing who our real heroes are is to know our own soul - to know what kind of world we WANT to live in.
not just a world without evil, who doesn’t want that, but one in which evil gets violently displaced.
but what if our hero isn’t violent? what if real heroes are condemned though innocent and win by losing, exalted by execution?
our heroes say a great deal about our soul. our heroes say a great deal about our belief regarding evil. our heroes name our greatest fears, and our greatest weaknesses.
what kind of hero chokes you up these days?