In preparation for a much-needed vacation, I won’t be posting here for a few weeks. But I thought it would be cool to dig up a few “posts from the past”–some posts from my earlier blogging days that have been buried deep in the archives. This original post “Superhero Christianity” goes back to the very first month of this here blog: January 2008. I’ll be back with some fresh posts after Labor Day. –WS
Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my former favorite superheros. If you’ve spent much time in church circles, you know this person, although you’ve probably never really met him/her. I say “him/her” because this superhero takes many forms and versions, but the gist is about the same no matter how you view him/her. (Being a male, I see him as a man, so I’ll use “he” from now on.)
This superhero is a man of mythic spiritual proportions, even surpassing Jesus Himself. (I’ll unpack that seemingly blasphemous statement in a minute.) I call this person….SUPER-CHRISTIAN.
Super-Christian is the person all us Christians feel we should be, but none of us really is. Super-Christian is always on top of his game; he’s always happy, always victorious, prays all the time, and never loses his temper. He never has a bad day. Super-Christian never has financial problems (only “challenges”), and never gets sick (only “attacked”). Super-Christian has never, ever taken medication for depression, because of course, he never gets depressed. You can pick Super-Christian out of any crowd because of the flashy smile pasted on his face, that never comes off no matter how hard you hit him or how mean you are to him. He just never loses his cool; his buttons are un-pressable–testifying to his amazing spirituality. What an amazing guy.
The thing is, like Batman, Spider-man, Superman…Super-Christian doesn’t exist. He only exists in our minds. (For you sci-fi people whose sense of reality I’ve just destroyed, I can recommend some counselors on request.) But the Super-Christian image is so strong among believers that we feel we must measure up to it; we all come to church wearing our Super-Christian masks, desperately hoping that nobody sees the real us–the person behind the mask who doesn’t have it all together. (It all looks good, everyone in their Super-Christian masks; but it prevents true community because you can’t have true relationship with someone who doesn’t exist.)
Here’s the rub: not even Jesus was Super-Christian (hence the semi-blasphemous statement above). What? you might ask. Jesus was sinless! Yes, He was. But Jesus also got angry in public, which Super-Christian would never do. He was known to say things like “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I put up with you?” and “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He even lost his temper once and threw a bunch of tables around in the temple. Can you imagine Super-Christian saying/doing anything like that? And He wept. And in the garden before His death, He stressed so intently that He sweat drops of blood and asked God to remove His calling from Him. (Super-Christian would never get stressed, and would never, ever question His calling.)
Do you see what a mess this is? We are all trying to measure up to a persona that Jesus Himself didn’t even try to do. And who said we were supposed to be Super-Christian? Wasn’t this discipleship about learning to follow Jesus? And yet week after week, so many of us put on our Super-Christian masks and go to our Sunday gathering places to pretend we are something we aren’t, and in the midst of people we should be very close to, we feel alone in the crowd.
I used to love Super-Christian; heck, for awhile I thought I was Super-Christian. But I have to say now that watching my superhero Christianity crumble at my feet has been one of the best things that could have happened to me. Not only did I find a human being in the rubble, but my goofy expectations of others came down, too, so I could relate with them better, and they with me. I’ve been on a journey to learn what true community is, what true “church” is and should be; and I can tell you it goes a lot better and is a lot more fun and interesting when people take off their Super-Christian masks. So let’s be real, people! Let’s be ourselves and follow a real super-hero–Jesus, who loves our normal, messed-up selves just as we are.