The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still. Ex 14:14
I admit to a skewed, secular sense of heroism. In a dystopian future, I want to be Mad Max, not the creepy guy in the gyrocopter with the brown teeth, or one of the mostly nameless victims too weak or scared to contest with evil. The hero of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is Jimmy Stewart, the honest, gutsy lawyer who stands up to evil at the risk of his life. Except he is also a 98 pound weakling who can’t use a gun. I don’t want to be him. I want to be John Wayne, the only man that Liberty Valance is afraid of, the self-assured, gun-slinging tough guy. Or better yet, Josey Wales, “Mr. Chained Blue Lightning himself,” about whom it was said “he’s meaner than a rattler and twice as fast with them pistols.” I don’t want to be the guys buried up to their necks by the Comanches whom he saved.
When I was a kid, among superheroes I would have chosen to be either Spiderman or the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. Most of the people in the stories they are performing heroic feats to save are uninteresting, interchangeable cogs. I never dreamed of being the harmless, nameless old guy snatched from the jaws of Dr. Doom’s horrible machinations.
Yet the truth is, I am not a fierce warrior. I don’t have the physical gifts, and short of a threat to my family, I don’t know that I have the emotional strength either. My particular incarnation is not that of the “Unbroken” Louis Zamperini. And yet I’m capable of great things; all the baptized are. It is only because of my brokenness from the Fall that it is easier to dream of super powers than Spirit-led heroic deeds for the faith, of enduring the sacrifices and hardships of martyred missionaries or the Little Sisters of Charity. After all, super heroes are only interesting when they come up against evil adversaries with the abilities to challenge them. It is still courage, self-sacrifice, and hard choices that make them interesting and admirable, not their mutations per se. And, it so happens, we have plenty of opportunities today to practice courageous and self-sacrificing acts against the evil deeds of the adversaries of Christ.
In the online world people play at being a kind of human torch like Johnny Storm. I can imagine them shouting “Flame on!” prior to flaming their way through comment sections in blogs, as if that makes them tough guys. Men play at “badassery” with Call of Duty and Left for Dead. Modern electronics has turned nameless and faceless into an asset when it comes to acting as pretend warriors. The cogs have found a way to live the fantasy.
God save me from such foolishness. I will know that I have reached a level of Christian perfection when I no longer desire to be the hero, but the victim; when I yearn to be Jimmy Stewart and not John Wayne. “The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” And from within that divine stillness, may I someday go out to be a different kind of hero, a Christian one – a suffering, weak, humble, faithful, selfless, loving hero. That would be a real Marvel story.