Small town pastor’s daughter Ariel Moore needs a hero. Years ago, a horrific accident that claimed the lives of some of the town’s teenagers spurred local leaders to ban dancing and rock and roll music. The aftermath of this terrible tragedy has left the town spiritually and emotionally dark. So Ariel is holding out for “a street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds.”
And, because it makes for good cinema, her salvation arrives – in the form of the dancing juggernaut that is Kevin Bacon. Hurray. The town is saved.
If only it were that easy.
While narrative film makes a habit of heralding heroes capable of tying up tragedies with well-tailored bows, real world problems – ISIS, the Syrian crisis, the terrors in the Ukraine, crumbling infrastructure, global pollution, stagnant economies, growing income inequality, death, famine, disease – cry out for saviors. And not the kind that gyrate in tight jeans and provide resolution in 90 minutes.
The real world, it seems, is “holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night.” Like Tori Amos, it’s “looking for a savior in these dirty streets.” And, my friends, if the news is any indication, the holding out, the search for a savior, isn’t yielding the longed-for results.
The idea that someone will come along to lead and right the world’s wrongs is not a new one. Messianic messages predicting the coming of the world’s most prolific leader, who will usher us into an unprecedented age of peace date back thousands of years. It’s a powerful, pervasive – and very beautiful – belief.
It’s also passive. And that’s a problem.
In his book, “There is no Messiah and you’re it!,” Rabbi Robert N. Levine points out an oft-overlooked issue that comes with waiting for a Chosen One – a hero – to come (or come again): that God (or, if you prefer, Fate or Human History) demands action, in the present, to facilitate changes for the future.
In short, we cannot sit idly by and hope and pray for a hero. Rather, we must do as Mahatma Gandhi advised and “be the change you want to see in the world.” We cannot wait for the coming (or second coming) of the Messiah to feed and clothe the poor. We can – and should – do that now. We cannot and should not stand in the shadows until a Martin Luther King Jr., a Patton or a Churchill steps into the light to lead us. We must, each as individuals, do our own stepping forward.
Friends, it’s all well and good to await for a golden age when people are finally fully good to each other, but the New Year is as good a time as any to remind that awaiting it is not and will not ever be enough. You don’t have to be the Messiah or Churchill or Ghandi to make a difference. You just have to do your part.
Because ISIS, the Syrian crisis, the terrors in the Ukraine, crumbling infrastructure, global pollution, stagnant economies, growing income inequality, death, famine, disease – they don’t care who you are or where you came from. They’re much more concerned with where you’re going and what you’ll do when you get there.