No Heroes

That was a rallying cry of the first generation of punks in the 1970s, no heroes. This failed utterly though, since anyone who has paid attention to rock since then knows the names Strummer, Rotten, Ramone(s) and so on. There quite clearly ended up being heroes in the punk movement. Every movement that attempts to take a sort of “no heroes” approach ends up in fact making heroes of their anti-hero sort of movement. The rebel becomes the establishment blah blah, you know how it all goes.

If this was or is your youthful idealism then this is disappointing, perhaps in music it is unavoidable though. The temptation here though is to throw up our hands and admit that we are stuck with a “star system” of big shots, big names, and in the Evangelical Christian world, yes, big name pastors. Here though I think we need to rewind the tape a bit. Christians shouldn’t need a heroic, messianic leader because we already had one of those, remember?

I was reminded of the simple truth when watching an interview with two documentarians had taken the Borat-esque approach to their craft by doing a documentary about followers of a fake Hindu mystic that they invented and who was supposed to be teaching yoga in the American southwest.

You can watch the trailer here:

I suppose some of you might be thinking that, oh yes, well new age people might be gullible but not us Christians. Before saying as much, might I gently remind you of Marjoe Gortner? Being a pastor is very difficult, but faking being one is very easy. Watch a couple hours of Christian TV every week, go to some megachurches, go to some big revivals, and you can fake it. If you remove the emotional toll of actually caring about a flock, fake-pastoring is not all that difficult for anyone with a bit of carnival showmanship.

Now the fraud-artist is an extreme case, but there are of course other problematic character defects that might attract people to ministry for less than savory reasons. Many are tempted by wanting to become big names, and we, likewise, are tempted to want them to be big names. Of course everyone says, “oh I didn’t want this, God is just using me this way” or something to that effect, and maybe that’s true from time to time. For better or worse though we have created a star system of big-name pastors. People engage in church-related tourism, making sure that if they are in a city with a big name pastor, that they visit his church on Sunday. Other than Tim Keller (who doesn’t reveal which of Redeemer’s multiple sites he will be preaching at) I know of few mega-pastors who have done anything to dissipate this fanboy-ism.

This is the most egregious of ways that someone can put their faith in another’s faith, but we can believe through our own pastors, our own church leaders, even our own friends. So what? What if your heroes of the faith, be they some guy with his face on a book or just the really godly-seeming person at your bible study or something are some kind of beacon for your own faith? The very real danger here is that it is possible that you no longer believe except that you believe through these icons of your religious experience.

I started writing this post a couple months ago, and never quite finished it. Going over it again, especially in the light of the pixels that have been lit up over a certain Sovereign Grace Ministries leader, maybe it is still worth posting. Why do people in churches want those big name heroes, even to the point of suffering in emotionally manipulative situations? We Protestants are too quick to disdain Catholics who have an army of saints to intercede on their behalf. Do we not have the same?