Looking for Heroes

Matrix of Meanings

This week I have been reading “a matrix of meanings” by Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor. The subtitle is “finding God in pop culture. This is one of the books in the resource list of “Pop Goes the Church” by Tim Stevens. I thought it would be a quick, kind of fun read. I was wrong. In fact, my brain is on overload. This is a scholarly, academic work with a lot of theology thrown in as a bonus. I’ve been digging deep into the author’s brains, and am sure a lot of it will be flowing out soon.

Today, I’ve been reading about the celebrity culture that we have created in America. We love our celebrities, both famous and infamous. Usually when a Christian begins to speak about celebrities it is with a negative tone, but “Matrix” builds a compelling case for looking closer at the role celebrity plays in our lives.

Celebrities perform a valuable social and theological function. Celebrities sharpen our ideals, bear our disappointments, and promote our hopes of immortality.

In other words, the celebrities are another “whisper of Eden” to remind us of all that we can be, all that we can achieve. They personify our hopes and dreams, reminding us that anything is possible. And, regrettably, they sometimes fall off their perches and remind us that to be human is to share in a brotherhood of failure. The best celebrities teach us how to get up again.

In Christianity’s past, the tendency toward celebrity was expressed through sainthood. We hold up models for ourselves, reminding ourselves to pour out our lives in trying to grow, become, make a difference. I liked this quote from the book, too.

Poet Phyllis McGinley calls sainthood “haloes for heroic virtue.” She points out that “in times of crisis we need saints. They appeared by the hundreds in the first centuries of Christianity when Europe was struggling out of nearly universal darkness into what then passed for the light of civilization. Whenever and wherever an evil has existed, from slave-trading to the miseries of famine and war, saints have sprung up to mitigate those evils.

Please don’t get hung up on that word “saints.” Substitute “leader” if you like, for that’s what Phyllis McGinley was describing. Wherever an evil has existed, God has raised up a leader to show the way to combat that evil. My mind turns to Corrie Ten Boom, William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa. Closer to home I think about Lamont Hiebert working with the International Justice Mission, the score of 3 minute presenters at Q detailing how they are working out their faith, my friend LT working in the second generation Chinese church in Pittsburgh, Bill Strickland working in Pittsburgh, my friend Garry Williams working with the homeless in his church here in South Florida. Wherever there is a need, God calls.

Doesn’t that energize you? It does me. For one thing, I’m not called to do all those things! Good thing, because this woman doesn’t have that kind of energy. I’m called to do my thing, where God has put me. I’m called to pray for all those people up above. I’m called to finance them. I’m called to love the people who wander across my path.

So here is my question of the day: who are the heroes God is raising up right now, and what do they say about the needs we are confronting?

By Marla Saunders

I am passionately devoted to living my life in the places God has given me. Over the years those places have changed: from homeschooler to businesswoman, from consumer to storyteller. These days I'm focusing on building a new business and figuring out what it means to do everything with integrity and informed by faith.