But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
Today’s post is not a treatise on the permanence (or impermanence, as some believe) of grace. Rather it is about the decline of heroes.
When I was growing up, my father regaled me with stories of his semi-crazed neighbor, a little kid named Pete Rose. With the Edelen house right next to the Rose home (and the only two houses on the street) my dad had few playmates his age and often had encounters with the much younger Rose boy next door. At one point, Rose shot my dad in the foot over a bet about steel-toed workboots. My dad lost that bet—painfully.
In spite of this, I grew up in Cincinnati as a huge fan of the Reds. Fortunate enough to be baseball crazy right as the Big Red Machine—which I will argue is the greatest collection of ballplayers ever assembled—was winning back-to-back World Series in the mid-Seventies. And of all the players on that team, none was more of a hero to me than Pete Rose, the scrappy, tough, never-say-die local who went to the top of the sport.
We all know how that turned out, though.
I have a young son and can only hope that there will still be men worth emulating as he grows older, but I have my doubts. A disease is running rampant through our society that has as one of its worst symptoms a perplexing pedes problem: feet are turning to clay.
I’m not sure if it is a function of growing older, but I simply do not meet people of deep character anymore. The strong man or woman out there seems to always have a fatal flaw that keeps them from greatness or shatters the illusion of greatness they have erected for themselves.
The decline of heroes has a chilling effect on our society. It makes us more cynical, less hopeful, and less willing to believe the good rather than the bad in people. It may be true that all men are sinners from birth, but we once aspired to more than our birthright. Now we just assume it with a shrug.
The football coach is a pederast. The Sunday School teacher cheats on her taxes. The police officer beats his wife. The ballet teacher engages in one illicit affair after another. The baseball hero gambles his life away.
I know people of deep character, but so many are in the twilight of life and I wonder where their generational legacy is. We say we look to the Church, but are we truly people of character or are we faking it?
I’m weary of hearing the stories relayed and tired of seeing the bubbles burst. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve sat with other men and heard one story after another of porn addiction or infidelity. Newsweek recently ran an article on the huge boom in married women who are having affairs. Kids are cheating in school in numbers that are staggering. A college prof noted recently that almost all the papers he’s getting he’s read before or seen posted on the Internet.
We’ve lost our ability to be heroes when we decide that being as low as the next guy is okay. Truth is, the standard for being low is, well…getting lower by the day. More accountability groups exist within churches than ever before and yet we are more morally slack than any generation I recall.
Does anyone want to be a hero? Who still thinks that character counts for something? I may be forty-two here in a couple days, but I don’t want to believe there are no more heroes. Wisdom may say that all have sinned, but to believe that none overcome is more than anyone should bear.