The Time for a Real Superhero
Nov 22, 2017
We live in a melodramatic age, and the melodrama hurts. I read a few days ago that an air traffic controller was arrested for possessing a weapon of mass destruction. You may remember that we started a war because Iraq allegedly possessed and was developing weapons of mass destruction (nerve gas, atomic weapons, etc.) What the air traffic controller possessed was a little pipe bomb. A weapon of destruction… yes… but hardly mass destruction. The legal description is a little melodramatic.
As I am writing this, we have just had another large (5 victims is not quite a mass…) shooting. Fortunately, the shooter was prevented from entering an elementary school, where there would have been a mass and most tragic shooting. If these kinds of things happened in previous ages when there was no mass media, people just didn’t hear about it unless it happened in your own back yard. Now we know everything… well, not exactly. We know everything the mass media wants to tell us. It’s all about mass appeal, and psychologists tell us that one of the motives behind these mass killings is the killers desire for mass publicity and exposure. All the wrong kinds of mass.
This last shooting was apparently sparked by the shooter’s dispute with his neighbors. Two weeks ago, a U.S. Senator suffered several broken ribs and a few other injuries when he was assaulted by his neighbor. And that pipe bomb mentioned above was built to be used against a neighbor. Neighbors aren’t what they used to be.
We live in this melodramatic age of superheroes, super-criminals and super-enemies. “Super-neighbors” doesn’t sell. No comic books, video games, movie rights. I think our current president got elected because he fit the superhero mold better than his pant-suited opponent, who actually got more votes.
But he does prove the point that it is easier to find enemies these days than heroes. Enemies get pointed out to us all the time. Kim Jong Un is an enemy we all agree upon. Vladimir Putin might be an enemy depending on who your friends are and who their enemies are. Likewise our president. In this melodramatic age, it’s us against them, friends against enemies.
The starting point used to be “I/we are right. They are wrong.” From that standpoint you could say to the other, “Look here. Let me hear from you why you think you are right. And then I can explain to you where you are mistaken and why you are wrong.” With such dialogue, you might learn something, perhaps even learn that YOU were wrong, or that both of you are half wrong. You might even come to a compromise or even agree to disagree.
But now, if you listen to the rhetoric in our political discourse (or even religious discourse, sad to say) it is not about right and wrong anymore. It has become a melodramatic conflict between good and evil. Those who are “wrong” are now evil; there can be no dialogue with that, no learning or changing of position; absolutely no compromise. They are to be defeated; opposition silenced or eliminated. And who better to lead the crusade by the league of justice than a superhero? If only we could find a real one. We are in a dangerous place and time.
We’ve been there before, though. The Jewish people were there in Jesus time. They were looking for an armor-clad superhero to drive away the Romans. There was lots of in-fighting going on between factions. Very few recognized that Jesus was the real superhero.
He still is; Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Very few in our place and time recognize that. Sure there’s lip service and lots of talk about “western Christian civilization,” but there’s really not too much Christian about it. That kind of talk is cover for darker ideas. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, showed us how to love our neighbor and who our neighbor really was. He said in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
“I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?”
“I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”
We do not take Jesus seriously with that last verse, do we? He must have gotten carried away with his idealistic thinking; he was exaggerating to make some point that escapes us, right? We rationalize it away.
But maybe He meant it somehow. Martin Luther King Jr. (a Christian) and Gandhi (a Hindu) DID take him seriously and made society all the better for it. Of course, they paid the same price Jesus did. But just maybe we all should take Jesus seriously too, stop the name-calling and start listening to each other and finding common ground rather than beating each other into the ground. Jesus left us the where-with-all to become superheroes like him. After all, he said “Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” We can at least give it a serious try.