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The Super-Heroic Impulse

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Superheroes are great stuff.  My love for them has been documented in these spaces before.  Somewhere, deep inside, I think we all wish at some point in our lives that we could be one.  We have all come upon a situation where we wish we could rip our shirt off, revealing the powerful individual beneath and use that power to fix it.

Friday, when Obama doubled down on his politicization of Charleston, I could almost feel the super-heoric impulse driving him.  He toned down, significantly, his comments on the racial aspects of the crime, but he was defiant on gun control.  It was especially apparent to me having read just a bit earlier an interesting, and far more sympathetic to the president than I am inclined to be, piece from Chris Cillizza about Obama’s failure to achieve his stated goals in Washington.  It grows increasingly clear that Obama came to the White House thinking he was a super-hero, and his presidency has been a slow discovery of the fact that he is just another president.  He now grasps at any available opportunity to try, once again, to exercise super-heroism – unwilling to entirely let go of his dream and sacrifice the adulation.

Believe it or not, the comic books have tackled this issue.  They have done so in the form of hero Booster Gold.  Booster came from the future armed with tech to appear in the present as a super-hero, gaining fame and fortune.  When in the course of things he becomes genuinely heroic no one really notices because the reputation he has built as a glory hound will not allow it.  There is a deep lesson in the story of Booster Gold.

It is worthy of note that the opportunity for real heroism is rare.  Who are the real heroes in our world?  CMH awardees immediately come to mind.  Can you name one?  It is fascinating that in that story I linked in the first sentence of this paragraph, the hero is never named.  Genuine heroes, certainly military heroes, almost by definition avoid the spotlight.  It is simply too easy for the spotlight to overwhelm and destroy the heroism.

Politicians are good people, at least most of them are, but it seems to me that political activity and heroics are mutually exclusive.  Politics demands a spotlight and heroism shuns it.  That does not mean that politics is not a noble enterprise.  When well done it is most certainly noble, but it is not heroic.  The demands of the job simply do not allow for heroism.  This, I think, defines Obama’s single greatest flaw.  He wants to be a hero.

There is also a lesson in this for we GOP voters as we look at 2016.  We want a hero; we feel in these dire times that we need a hero.  But we don’t.  We need a noble politician well-suited to the job at hand.  As we watch and participate in the Battle Royal that is the 2016 GOP primary  I don’t think we want to focus on the biggest “face” in the ring.  We want a strong “main eventer.”  Someone very competent, but more interested in the job than in getting over.

And there is one more lesson in this discussion.  It comes from my Saturday devotional reading:

Jesus took bread and transformed our understanding of community and sacrifice. Jesus used the dinner table to demonstrate hospitality, forgiveness, and community. Jesus pointed to the ordinary field and revealed how it was like the kingdom of heaven. Jesus took the common job of fishing and turned it into a powerful reality of God’s presence on earth. Jesus took the reading of scripture and made it a reading about himself.

God has a purpose for the world around us. But this purpose is not revealed in dramatic ways. Instead, God reveals himself in the slow and ordinarily commonplace avenues of reality.

The most profound events in human history sprang not from the heroic, but the ordinary.


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