Monday, May 19, 2008

Look! There in the Wilderness: It's a Pilgrim, It's an Exile, It's... Patiently Enduring Man!

When I initially saw the trailer for the film Iron Man, I think I actually laughed out loud (and not the good kind of laughter, mind you). But to my surprise, it has received a 93% on the Tomato Meter, which culls together of all the reviews a film receives nationwide. Plus, I was told today that Robert Downey Jr.'s character doesn't actually have superpowers, he's just rich and can afford to invent the cool gadgets that make him a superhero (you know, like Bruce Wayne). So maybe I'll swallow my pride and see Iron Man after all.

Still, I think the whole "superhero" phenonmenon betrays a not-so-subtle theology of glory that is very American, not to mention evangelical/postmillennial. By contrast, Reformed confessionalists ought to feel a certain discomfort when such "super," "amazing," and "fantastic" expectations are imported into the Christian life.

Now if Reformed amillennialists could sponsor their own superhero, it would be a huge box office flop. Picture, if you will, (drumroll please)... "Patiently Enduring Man." In addition to the "P.E." embroidered on his otherwise unremarkable chest, he would known for his ability to stand in long lines without getting too annoyed, sit in the waiting room at the dentist's office and calmly read two-year-old issues of People magazine while waiting for his name to be called, and basically be content to plod his way through largely ordinary and humdrum life.

And while Batman is portrayed on the big screen by Christian Bale, and Spiderman by Toby McGuire, Patiently Enduring Man would be played by Michael Gross, the guy who starred as Mr. Keaton on Family Ties.

You see, as woefully unsexy and unappealing as the virtue of patient endurance may be in the world's eyes, it is what the believer in this age is called to exhibit. And if such a calling just isn't "authentic," "urban," or "contextual" enough, it's best you bow out of the game now, rather than run the risk of facing the same fate as that archetypal Patient One, whose gig was such a box office flop that they crucified him for it.