Who is a Hero?

Gentle Reader,

Continuing from here.

Webster tells is that a hero is “an illustrious warrior; a person admired for achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage.” Much broader than our usual understanding. In our minds, heroic acts generally occur in the physical realm. Often we think of police officers, members of the military, or people who do something out of the ordinary, like rush into traffic to push someone out of the way of a speeding car.

This seems to be what the author of the article I referenced in the previous post focuses on, to the exclusion of all else:

The ideology that sends Brie Larson soaring fictionally around outer space has sent our real daughters, mothers, and sisters — devoid of such superpowers — to war to serve and die in place of men. Real wars, the kind where “horribly smashed men still [move] like half-crushed beetles” (Surprised by Joy, 240). Real wars, the kind C.S. Lewis elsewhere describes as the amalgamation of every temporal evil.

Unquestionably, men ought support women’s desires to be affirmed, respected, and honored. But indeed, few actions display our resolve to honor our women more than excluding them from the carnage of the battlefield. Where can we more clearly display our ultimate resolve to love our women as queens than to step into hell on earth as sacrificial pawns in their defense? Generation after generation has mobilized its men to be devoured — that its women might not be.

Yeah…that’s a weird turn to take when discussing a movie about a superhero. Obviously Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Scarlet Witch, Supergirl, Black Widow and all the rest are going to go to war – because that’s what their characters do. They are, to belabor the point, superheros. This is how they’re written. (As an aside, written largely by men). To say that these movies make a case for anyone going to war, not especially or specifically women, is a major stretch. It’s escapism. It’s fantasy.

The author, not the MCU, oddly glamorizes war here. Lewis wrote about the horror of war. About its great evil. The author quotes him, but then turns the idea on its head, making it sound as if men marching off to battle is always, without question, the honorable and noble and right thing to do, never mind what history, particularly recent history, teaches us. Because that, exclusively, is heroic.

Even when we say, “You can’t go into the lion’s den for us”; “You won’t risk a brutal death to protect us”; “You shouldn’t expose yourself to the bullets bearing our name” — even then, the deprivation still causes offense. But our God, our nature, our love must firmly say, You are too precious, my mother, my daughter, my beloved. It is my glory to die that you may live.

Who, exactly, is the enemy here? Because if one is a Christian, then surely one must keep Ephesians 6:10-17 in mind? But, to insert a little levity, what do I, the woman who believes the message of the Gospel and the life of peace go hand-in-hand, really know about anything?

You best believe that I would go into the lion’s den for the men in my life – because that’s what love does. I would go into that same den for the women in my life – because that’s what love does. I will not carry a gun, nor will I throw a punch, but long ago I resolved that, if it comes down to it, I will put myself in harm’s way in order to protect someone else. Frankly, I don’t see Scripture giving me any other option.

We’re supposed to do these things for each other.

I know that, in this section, the author is writing primarily about wars between nations and the controversy over whether or not women should be subject to the draft. Here, he and I agree, but not in the way he wants me to. The draft is, to use a technical term, deeply uncool. Nobody should have to register for it. Nobody should enter the armed forces without having the freedom to make that decision for him- or herself. Nobody should put on a uniform without thinking through the consequences, potentially good and bad, of doing so. And, please, nobody should be allowed to make such a huge decision before their brains are fully developed, which doesn’t happen until around age twenty-five.

(For probably the millionth time in my life, I pause and say: I do not question the faith or integrity of my fellow Christians who choose to serve on the police force or in the military. Yes, I am a convinced and convicted pacifist, largely because the Holy Spirit is always talking to me about my own very bad temper and the need to control it; because of this I cannot help but see the root of evil in all violence. No, I don’t understand how someone comes to a different conclusion than I have, but I recognize that there is space within orthodoxy for this disagreement. It need not keep us from firm fellowship. Moving on).

We must learn to think differently. We must move beyond the view of heroism as strictly belonging to a physical battlefield or space.

One example of great courage: My cousin, diagnosed with cancer at a stupidly young age. She faced the awfulness of chemotherapy and the derailing of her college plans with faith, grace and humor. Of course she had bad days. Of course she struggled. But through it all, she was determined to fight. Determined to win. She is a hero. Quiet. Unheralded. A hero nonetheless.

Another: My father, who has worked hard every day for years at a job that isn’t lauded or recognized. He’s not a CEO. He’s never made a lot of money. But he put in long hours and did without some days in order to see to it that his family was fed, clothed and sheltered. He’s far too modest to claim the title “hero” for himself, but that’s how I see him. He showed his love for me by making sure I got both the best medical care (we joke that I own him hundreds of thousands of dollars) and education possible.

Another: My mother, who endures chronic, excruciating migraines, yet had a successful career on the administrative side of medicine for many years. Who, when my brother and I were little, knew how to make a little seem like a lot. Who does a lot of behind-the-scenes things that she’s rarely thanked for (I’m sorry, Mom). Who leaves a bowl of leftover spaghetti in my refrigerator because she knows that my most favorite meal in the whole world.

There are heroes all around us. People who choose, each day, to do the right thing, even when the right thing is the incredibly difficult thing. Or maybe just the boring thing. Either way, not always the fun thing.

The beauty is, even though usually fail to notice the heroism in the mundane, God notices. The, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” that we all long to hear does not belong only to those who do the great deeds or have the big following. Those words will be said to all who daily, momently, take up their cross and follow the King.

And that – that’s the real war. The one that truly matters. The one that rages in the mind and soul. The one that is unrelenting.

Thankfully, there is grace for this.

A grace that flows from the heart of the True Hero.

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P.S. – If you would like to know what pacifism looks like in practical action (because it’s not passive, not in any way), please watch the movie Hacksaw Ridge. The story of Desmond Doss is one that has impacted me greatly.

4 thoughts on “Who is a Hero?

  1. Some have called me hero
    and I’ve learned to grin and bear it.
    Not Cincinnatus (but no Nero),
    I’m a long way from knight-parfit.
    It is always twilight now,
    and there’s not much to see
    of the battle (God, did you allow
    this?) against malignancy.
    They wonder, “How do you endure?”
    but do I have a choice?
    Life isn’t something you abjure
    when you still have a voice.
    So I’ll witness, still, that life is good
    though God’s plan may not be understood.

    Like

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