I have been reading “Lies my teacher told me” by James Loewen. In the first chapter he begins a discussion about our cultural need for unblemished heroes. Near the end of this chapter he puts it this way, “A certain etiquette coerces us all into speaking in respectful tones about the past, especially when we are passing on Our Heritage to our young.” The downside to speaking in respectful tones is that we tend to overlook failures, foibles and short-comings. We end up with heroes who are almost god-like in their accomplishments.
This past week we have been at a family gathering. It is fun to talk about the way things used to be. More often than not these stories of the past are framed positively. Even when it is a story of hardship, it becomes a positive story of hardship. Maybe it is a sign of grace that we forget, or choose not to tell about the hard and controversial parts of the way things used to be.
I have begun to wonder if this is a good thing.
Why is it that we avoid the controversial and embarrassing parts of our past?
Do heroes quit being heroes when they are no longer perfect?
We work hard at perfecting our biblical heroes as well.
We like to talk about Noah and the ark, but I haven’t heard too many children’s features about Noah and his drinking problem.
Or think about Abraham a man of faith who slept with his wife’s servant.
Paul is a major New Testament hero. But there is plenty of evidence that he wasn’t the easiest person to work with, just ask Barnabas.
Do we do ourselves a disservice by avoiding the darker sides of our heroes, especially people of faith? When our heroes are only allowed to be perfect, we end up creating unattainable models of Christian living.
We will never be like them, so why try?
I have often said that my biblical hero is Jonah, mostly because he is so human. He doesn’t want to follow God, so he runs. When he finally does do what is asked of him he does it with a bad attitude. And God still works!
This gives me hope, because if God can use Jonah then there is hope for me.
Are your heroes on too high of a pedestal?