We Need a Hero
By Anthony Casperson

The cultural commentator bemoaned the lack of true heroes in our modern stories. Not the relatable villainous protagonists from retellings that give us their tortured perspectives. Or the anti-heroes who still readily grace the screen and the page with their questionable methods.

No, we’re talking true heroes. Men and women who embody the best parts of humanity. Those who call us to universal ideals that much of the West has forgotten.

Generations have passed since such heroes stood as the norm.

As this commentator spoke, I pondered his words. Truth resounded from them. But another thought entwined with his in my mind.

Modern audiences have a tendency to seek stories where they see themselves in the characters. If there’s not someone of similar appearance and worldview, then many question how they can ever appreciate the work of fiction.

They approach a story as if it were a mirror, showing the world as they see it to be. Many of our contemporaries seem to believe that our mythic tales of today should reflect the reality of their perceived world. Show the perfection that they believe to be present in themselves.

Repeatedly, we hear messages of “You’re perfect just as you are,” and “Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not enough.” So, of course, people wish to carry that message with the stories they partake in, instead of the heroes who call us to change.

Perfect protagonists who just need everybody else to come to understand how amazing they are. And agree with them about whatever our culture has as the perfect worldview-du-jour.

And we wonder why stories have gravitated toward villainous retellings and anti-heroics?

Who is it in stories of old that understood themselves to be perfect beings which everyone else should—must—agree with or else be cast out and destroyed?

The villain.

Heroes in tales of old sought not their own best interests, but rather the betterment of the world around them. Many sacrificed their own lives to bring about great things for others. A hero isn’t just the main character of a story, but the one who’s willing to pay the cost for change. The change in themselves or in the world.

No wonder that in a culture which has hurtled down the track of selfishness for the delusional sake of “self-care” and “self-love,” we hear the demand for villainous protagonists unwilling to pay the cost for change, and instead sacrifice others on the altar of self.

We’ve lost the true hero in our stories because villains only wish to destroy the hero.

For we who seek heroes to once again take their proper role as the inspirational lead of the tale, our predicament begs the question:

How can true heroes make their triumphant return?

The answer won’t sit well with many. Because we have to act like the heroes of old. Sacrifice must be made. A self sacrifice.

We have to pay the cost of putting our self to the side so that others may reach the place of the ideal. Or for we of the Christly persuasion, we have to act out our spiritual worship of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, discern the will of God, and stop thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. All so that we might show love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

There’s a reason why the words of sacrifice in Romans 12:1-3 leads to the discussion of spiritual gifts in verses 4-8, and then is followed by talk of love and outdoing one another in our honor for each other. It’s because the love for our fellow followers of Jesus, which is epitomized in our service for them, comes through sacrifice. Our sacrifice, and ultimately, Jesus’ sacrifice.

It’s only when we look to one who emptied himself of his true claim to godly perfection, and sacrificed himself for us, that we can witness a true hero.

A hero who calls us to the greatest ideal.

That’s not to say all heroes have to be perfect. But that they reach for the perfect ideal of goodness within humanity. Something that never seeks the self. And is always willing to pay the cost, no matter how high.

So, let’s stop bemoaning the lack of true heroes, as well as stop seeking relatable villains and anti-heroes. Instead, let’s pay the cost and point to the perfect ideal.