My daughter Maggie asked me to help her find a printable picture of me on our computer yesterday–she’s working on a project for school which tells the story of her life in newspaper format, including a feature article (which, of course, tells the story of her beloved mutt, Penny) and a smaller feature space which asks her to identify a hero of hers. Bless her heart if she didn’t pick me. And, while it scares me to death to say this–as Maggie’s Dad–I do want to be her hero.
Because–let’s be honest about hero worship–what hero of yours hasn’t failed you?
While I would have never called him my hero, I’ve been watching Rob Bell’s meteoric rise in the Christian evangelical world with interest ever since I read Velvet Elvis and watched some of the NOOMA videos he’s produced. I can assure you Rob would never recognize me as a fellow alumnus from his era at Wheaton College (not many people would–I was pretty invisible there…other than my wretched permed mullet), but he’s hard to forget, through goofy memories I have of him rocking the stage at Trebor Hall with _ton bundle, his hip college band back in the day–he definitely knew how to draw a crowd with his gregarious personality even then.
But, in that light, I would never have picked him to become one of the more influential, creative thinkers in the recent evangelical Church “when he grew up”. Nor that he would be such a compelling pastor/speaker. Or that God would use him to grow Mars Hill, his mega-church in Michigan over this last decade. While I don’t put him in my category of “personal heroes”–you could definitely call me envious or jealous of his fame–as I struggled to figure out what it meant to be a Student Ministries pastor at a small church plant in Colorado Springs and a new husband-in-training to become a missionary to Cambodia.
Bell’s “all the rage” again of late online over his controversial new book Love Wins. I haven’t read it–just a lot of the comments about it from bloggers, reviewers, etc.– but I did happen to catch his interview about the book on Good Morning America yesterday with George Stephanopoulos. Because of this book (and others before it…), many people are painting him as a closet liberal/universalist who’s finally revealing his true colors. Others laud him for writing about the provocative issues of heaven and hell–ones we don’t talk about very much anymore in modern Church. But whatever his theological construct of eternity is–it’s a cautionary tale–once again for all of us, to be wary of “the cult of personality”: we like our heroes in the Church. We follow them rabidly–often to our own dismay and destruction–when they disappoint us, or write a book that leans in a theological direction we’re uncomfortable with, or, even worse, choose a willfully sinful path in conflict with the Christian values they teach. Bell’s latest dust-up over Love Wins reminds me of that old Steve Taylor song, “Hero”
“When the house fell asleep there was always a light
And it fell from the page to the eyes of an American boy
In a storybook land I could dream what I read
When it went to my head I’d see
I wanna be a hero
But the practical side said the question was still
“When you grow up what will you be?”
I wanna be a hero
It’s a nice-boy notion that the real world’s gonna destroy
It’s a Marvel comicbook Saturday matinee fairytale, boy…
When the house fell asleep
From a book I was led to a Light that I never knew
I wanna be your hero
And He spoke to my heart from the moment I prayed
Here’s a pattern I made for you
I wanna be your hero”
Our call as Christians is to unabashedly worship “an Other hero”–to prudently not trust in men to inspire or lead us. Instead, we implicitly reshape what we believe about heroes by focusing on Christ. We’re memorizing Philippians 2:5-11 as a family this Lent. It paints a beautiful, counter-cultural picture of Christ, the ultimate Hero (which I hope Maggie grows up to understand and see in me someday…). Paul teaches,
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…”(NIV 2011)
While I’m honored to be Maggie’s hero, I pray that she sees her hero has another Hero. I hope my life inspires her to be like Christ, rather than like me–because I’ve already disappointed her in so many ways in her young life…I’m a loving Dad, but I’m no hero. I think Rob Bell would want the same thing.