It’s a late and brief post tonight. It’s been an full day to say the least.
My wife and I had movie tickets that had an expiration date, that date was today. So my parents graciously kept our children while we went and saw the latest installment in the Iron Man franchise. It was, as expected, exciting and entertaining. And once again the need for a hero is played out in the safest venue that still titillates us, the theater.
In thinking about it there are two things that become very clear to me. First, as I’ve written before, we love our heroes. We feel the deep draw to watch as an individuals, or small group, takes on the darkest forces of evil. We get pulled into the story for many reasons, not the least of which being that it is our story. Second, we like our heroes only so close. I eluded to this above, but we in the post-enlightenment West don’t want to admit that there is a real need for salvation other than that which science and progress can provide. Yet we can’t seem to stop making millionaires out of anyone who can write a comic, pen a novel, or shoot a movie that demands salvation is needed, and then delivers. We want to feel the hero story without living the hero story, namely because we aren’t the heroes of this story. We likely tend to identify with the protagonists in these tales, the struggle to be a servant and to keep those closest to us safe, the stress of saving the world and the sense of loss when we abdicate that responsibility. All of that is driven by the script writers and the vantage point from which the story is told. But the reality of the matter is all too clear: we are not the hero.
In certain situations we see people do heroic things, such as those who rushed into downtown New York after the Trade Center attack, or those in Boston who tied tourniquets and carried the injured to get medical help. We do rightly salute those people, but even while we do there must be a sense in which everyone on the scene is a victim. Evil is a bigger foe, one that we haven’t been able to formulate away or reason out of the heart of mankind.
Into this morass comes the story of Jesus, not suited up in armor or carrying a magic hammer, but riding on a donkey and surrendering Himself at midnight. It is in this story that we finally find a protagonist who stopped fighting small villains like religion and Rome and took on the real masterminds, death and sin. See, in this story line Tony Stark couldn’t take on terrorists or tyrants, he would have to seek out the reason those men became what they are. That’s a slightly different story.
I like hero movies just as much as everyone else, but perhaps for a different reason than some who I shared the theater with tonight. When I watch Iron Man it doesn’t make me wish I had a hero, it reminds me that He’s already showed up.