The Lone Hero Myth and Lessons from Aurora

I have had some time to reflect on the Aurora Shooting in Colorado and on some of the reactions in the social space. Here are my thoughts:

  1. The lone hero is very strongly part of the Hollywood worldview which is deeply engrained in the mindset of everyone who has grown up on a soulish diet of mainstream films. The lone hero myth of most action films from Bond to Batman, sustain the notion that one person with a weapon is better able to save a city or even the world than all the ‘idiots’ in the government or armed forces put together. The lone hero myth also feeds the spirits of independence and loneliness which prey on the minds of people like James Holmes.
  2. We have entertained ourselves with decades of films showing how the authorities fail and the individual takes the law into their own hands. And in this case we already know of one area where there was a clear institutional failure. Holmes penned a cry for help to to the University Psychiatry Department which instead of being delivered was left lying around somewhere in the Post Office. Did his unanswered cry for help give Holmes an inner justification go ahead? Whatever the answer to that question we need to remember that entertainment is not the same as investigation; understanding of a problem and closing the organisational and legal gaps.
  3. The nature of short news reports forces us to stay at a superficial level as we attempt to make sense of such incidents. Thus we hear stories of the hero boyfriends who covered their girlfriends during the shooting and died to save the girl’s lives. That is heroic and I salute those guys and extend condolences to the familes. However, we should remember it is actually harder to live a life of sacrifice for your family and community than it is to die in one moment of selfless instincts.
  4.  The lone hero fantasy makes people think that if they had simply enough firepower, they would have been able to save the day and kill the bad guy before he killed all the others. Now people are running to the gun shops and sharing slogans like more power to the people and less to the government. If you question that, you are probably “a liberal, communist, lover of Obama the baby-killer”. Yes that was the taunt I received when I engaged in the debate on the subject of tighter gun controls.
  5. As someone well acquainted with some of the more dangerous regions of the world like Uganda or Pakistan, I can tell you that only strong local government and law enforcement can stabilise a region and make it really safe to travel and live. Private weapons can be a temporary solution, but disarmament is always a step towards greater peace and security.
  6. I believe that the devil and the spirits behind war and violence are impartial. There is such a thing as a just war, but the agents of war will destroy lives and drain the resources of both sides with no respect for your moral alignment in the original cause. That is why you can never overcome evil with evil. You have to overcome it with good. That is why Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek.
  7. Jesus told the disciples to arm themselves prior to his death: but it was at a rate of two swords between twelve disciples. Furthermore, Peter learned very quickly that the idea was not to actually use the sword. Of course everyone who believes in the right to carry a weapon believes that it is merely as a deterrent. We do that in the crusades I conduct in Pakistan. We have armed security with an open display of automatic rifles. But during my last trip, the Lord began to really speak into this whole area and challenge us on where we are putting our trust and what is our actual picture of the enenemy. Who is really threatening us? What is the Spirit behind the danger and how is it robbing us of our identity as sons and daughters of God? Our goal of course is that local police provide all the security we need and that we do not have to brandish our own weapons and this is possible when we cooperate with the local authorities and release so much blessing into a community that they want to support and protect what we are doing.
  8. If according to Jesus, looking at a woman with lust is morally equivalent to commiting adultery, and if calling you brother a fool is in God’s eyes the same as murder him, we need to rethink what we consider acceptable entertainment. No matter how sick he was, James Holmes chose the Batman premiere for a reason and that should make us think.
  9. Were there any real heroes that night who went against the grain and the peer pressure that evening and said to their girlfriends or peers: “I’m not going to the movie theatre. I don’t want to feed my mind and my soul on that kind of stuff”? Salvation is free by grace, but the to posses the kingdom of God there is a price to pay. We have to turn our back on the world and we have to turn our back on the spirit of independence, and the myth of the lone hero. We need to turn away from the culture of entertainment and consumerism and become a people who won’t just die to save a friend, but will die daily to their fleshly desires and instincts to rebuild community, close the organisational gaps and strengthen rather than undermine the God-given institutions that have been the basis of our past peace and prosperity.
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