The Thing About Heroes
I knew it as soon as I saw the poster; this was a movie I was going to love. I didn’t know who was in it; I didn’t know who directed it; all I knew was that there would be giant robots fighting giant monsters. It was love at first sight.
Last summer, Pacific Rim did not disappoint. It wasn’t just that the effects were spectacular (which they were) or that Guillermo del Torro created a wonderfully rich visual world (which he always does). Amidst all the knock-down-drag-em-out-omygosh-where-has-this-movie-been-all-my-life awesomeness was the same story I return to time again. It’s the same idea that’s at the heart of The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or any number of comic book adventures. The world is faced with blackness and annihilation, and the bad guys are overwhelmingly powerful, getting stronger even. The good guys have a plan, a shot, but it’s a long one. It’s foolish and ludicrous and has no business working. But it does.
In other words, it’s the Christian story.
Now, don’t look at me like that. I know there are no Jaegers in the Bible, but it’s not as crazy as you think. All of these stories have some sort of terrifyingly powerful evil. The Kaijus and Tokien’s Orcs are one in the same. There are black and vile forces, largely without personality, that wreak havoc wherever they go. Left unresisted, this sort of antagonist will not only kill the protagonists, but it will snuff out all that we know as good in this world. To fight it, a hero must rise. Not the average everyday man or woman, but an Aragorn, a Beowulf, a Luke Skywalker. The white knight character must surpass us all to defeat an evil which will consume us all. This isn’t an underdog story, and that’s why I love it so much. This kind of hero, this kind of tale, inspires me to be better than I usually am. The unbending strength of these heroes gives me the courage to emulate their attitude, even if it’s for mere moments. This idea of an unquenchable hope is also what draws me to my faith time and time again.
The story of Christ’s death and resurrection is the same as all the others, and yet not. The prince of the world, the devil, thinks he has humanity beat. Sin and death have ground us into the dust. There’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s not hyperbole; it’s truth. Without God’s intervention, had He not sent Jesus as a final sacrifice, all would have been lost. “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). It was a plan which shouldn’t have worked, but it did. One man’s life shouldn’t have been enough to ransom humanity for all time, but it was. The difference here is that this isn’t a movie or a novel (although it does have an author controlling events). The Gospels are history, truth, and all that is required of us is belief.
I don’t think this is as big a stretch as most people make it out to be. I remember being in a room full of total strangers, cheering when the Death Star blew up (again). It was the 1997 rerelease of Return of the Jedi. We all knew what would happen–the victory was a sure thing–and yet the applause came easily, without question or complication. It can be the same with the Christian life. We still have to struggle through the hard parts (ewoks); we can still enjoy the good parts (spaceships and lightsabers). At the end of it all, though, we know what will happen; it’s already been decided.
There are some reading this who will accuse me of oversimplifying, of ignoring the hardships of life. I’m not, believe me. I’ve had my fair share of heartache, suffered my own losses that I may never write about. Nevertheless, thanks to my faith in Jesus Christ, I know how this story will end. There will be cheering and applause, no matter how many poorly written lines I have to get past before then (especially when I deliver myself either). It’s a choice I’m making. It’s a decision to say that no matter what the loss (because these stories also involve loss), I will trust in the hero that is greater than me. When He says “I am canceling the apocalypse”, I will believe Him and cheer.