superman vs spiderman

"faster then a speeding bullet, more powerful then a locomotive. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound - look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plain - no it's superman - a strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men..." and for some, you could continue. I remember as a kid sitting in front of the "babysitter" (the tv) mesmerized by the cartoons for spiderman and batman - but superman never impressed me. no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get into superman.
when we were kids, I found playing superman stupid - after all, nothing could kill him or harm in in any way (except kryptonite, but that was in such small supply it had no matter).....every time we played, and someone got to be superman - they would never die, or give in - they were superman.

I liked being spiderman, he was cool - a human who was transformed into something different, but still a human and struggling with those human desires and needs. he had major problems, and major phobias. he was struggling with his powers and his abilities striving to find the person inside - he would have conflict in life between all that was happening in his world - family, friends, school, loves, people, police, newspapers, you name it - his life was more like mine - chaotic and filled with being pulled in many directions.
wester's defines a hero as "one that displays great courage." keeping that in mind, superman can never "display great courage;" and the reason is simple - he can't die! spidie on the other hand could do noting else, even when he did not want to.
if running into a building that is engulfed in flames can not harm him, what courage has he displayed? if standing in front of a hail of bullets can not harm him, what courage has he displayed? knowing, nothing can harm him - how much courage does it take? he is, in all intents and purposes - perfect. he is the perfect "person" - no personality faults, no "personal baggage," no dysfunctional family gatherings, no job pressures, no relationship issues. he does not have to worry about body fat, or spend hours in the gym - and "he don't need no stinkin' ragaine." - he is what most moderns want in a pastor.

the perfect pastor

for a modern generation (superman):
*perfect in appearance. the pastor needs to be a handsome guy, with chiseled features and a wonderful head of hair
*perfect in life - no mistakes at all - must have lead the perfect life - from the outside
*perfect in personality - superman was a great guy, and everyone loves him.
*perfect in deeds - to have lived a virtuous life with no mistakes and no problems.

a friend of mine was pastoring a small church in a small town in upstate new york. the average age of the church was about 65 and the people liked him - he fit all the criteria for a "super pastor." all but one that is. you see, some years back he had a divorce - and it was messy. he had an affair and his wife found out and the ending was not pretty - but it was over 10 years ago. he was young and stupid and allowed his hormones to take hold, not a wise thing to do.
soon after he starting pastoring the church his ex-wife found out, and called the "board" to let them know he had a divorce - his down fall was quick and painful. the response of the board was like this - "while we understand divorce (some of us are divorced), we do not want our pastor to be divorced - we expect better of our pastor."

for a postmodern generation (spiderman):
*looking like a normal person. postmodern pastors are not a pretty lot - we look like the people we serve.
*we have life issues - we all make mistakes, the secret is can we all learn from those mistakes and move on in christ?
*not the best - I know of one postmodern pastor who is very shy - very shy, and dealing with it everyday.
*lived life - people live in pain, and they are looking for people who understand that pain, and know of ways through the pain.

a good example of this can be found in a friend who pastors a postmodern church and deals with depression. when he made it known to the people that he was on meds for depression, the people gathered around him and prayed for him. others who were dealing with the same issue came forward and felt relieved knowing he understood them. people in the community saw that his heart was for Christ, even though he was not perfect.
to see the humanity in a pastor is the greatest gift of all - because we seek to see the humanity in christ. no pastor should claim perfection, or living a perfect life. all we should claim is that we are striving to live a gospel life, and live that life in community. I am not perfect, but what I am is transparent.
I deal with the same issues all males deal with, and any male who claims he does not deal with those issues is not being truthful; to either themselves or to others. paul, in his letter to the corinthians, tells of his faults - and that impresses me greatly. paul could share his heart, tell his faults and then let them see how God is working in paul's life to help him on his way. the best thing a pastor can be is honest - and let the community help.
I remember when the issue of "the death of superman" came out - I got email from friends who were "upset," to say the least. To see their "hero" fall caused great pain; they were crushed. this is what happens when you place a pastor on the same level as a superman - when they fall - people lose faith, because they put that faith in the wrong person - do not place faith in the person of the pastor, but in the person of jesus christ.
for a postmodern generation superman makes a bad pastoral image - let me be a spiderman, and any "x-men" you can think of - imperfect, and driven to make myself better.


Shok said...

that post was worthy of posting it 3 times

john o'keefe said...

thanks - i fixed it :) don't ya just love blogger at times :)


Dominique said...

Thank you for that post! I am totally with you and enjoyed reading every bit. I am afraid it will not even be spiderman for me... ;-) Great blog! Blessings.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I linked to it. I minister to couples dealing with affairs and not being real and attempting a pseudo-perfection sets Christians up for affairs when they don't talk about their struggles and pain.