Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What color is my hat?

Do you walk out of an action movie--Bourne, Bond, whatever--and have this secret desire for someone to try to mug you on the sidewalk so you can kick some butt like the movie hero just did? Or is it just me?

I've been thinking a lot about heroes lately, and their place in our lives. Who we hero-ize both reveals and shapes our own worldview.

When I was a kid, the mainstream heroes were almost always "good guys", the guys wearing the (literal and figurative) white hats. Our entertainment in the 60s, 70s and early 80s reflected the idea that heroes were not meant to be flawed. There weren't supposed to be chinks in their armor. Our heroes always got the bad guy and always got the good girl.

This image of heroes in white hats--and conversely bad guys in black hats--has greatly impacted our views of Jesus, the Bible, and living the Christian life today. We're convinced that the people God uses wear white hats and do heroic things. We're like Peter in Luke 22.33: "Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death."

It's just that life refused to conform to our image. Peter denied, and so do we. So do I. What color is my hat?

Within mainstream entertainment culture I can't think of someone in my lifetime who has more obviously tried to change this way of thinking about heroes and villains than Clint Eastwood. Clint is a hero (recent rant with a chair perhaps notwithstanding), a man's man. We have all wanted to say (and probably have said) to someone "Go ahead. Make my day." Or "you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well do ya, punk?" But in later years, Clint began to make movies reflecting the more flawed nature of the hero. Movies like "A Perfect World", "Unforgiven" and "Gran Torino" showed men with hearts of gold and feet of clay--or vice versa.

Some of us in the church decried this change. We like having the clear-cut good and bad guys, and we live our Christian lives accordingly. We know and articulate who is on the nice and naughty list, with our words and our deeds (or the lack of both). We have, unfortunately, become like the people of Lystra, who when encountering Paul and Barnabas said that "the gods have come down to us in the likeness of men" (Acts 14.11), except usually in reverse. We're much better at declaring who is on the naughty list, who is wearing the black hat, who it is that God can't (or is no longer) using.

But I think Clint is actually closer to biblical truth about the nature of heroes and villains that we Christians often are. Pick any Bible hero, any man or woman God uses (outside of Jesus, of course) and tell me that they don't look more like the hero/villain of recent entertainment than they do Ozzie Nelson or Gene Autry good guys. (If you're under 40, you'll have to Google that.)

This is good news for 2 reasons: first, it means that we can and will be used by God. We are like the men and women of the Bible, and he's not looking for us to clean ourselves up a little before he works through us. Second, it means we need to reexamine our own nice/naughty lists with a eye on who God has used throughout history. Flawed men and women with hats of dirty gray.

1 comment:

Vicki Adkison said...

I loved this one, son. But as to to heroes, look at what the kids play on video games now. The heroes look dark and carry guns, killing people. Seems all the games anymore we see advertised have guns in them and then we wonder what is wrong with some of our teenagers now. You have great insight to things. Keep up the good work.