I believe we are called to be helpers, not heroes. I know many believe that Jesus is the “Savior of the world,” but I am leaning more toward an idea that shows Jesus was the “Helper of the world.” When I think of the word “savior” I think of “hero.” When I think of the power of such a word, I am reminded of the words of Carter Heyward, an Episcopalian priest and feminist theologian who advanced a new understanding of erotic theology. In her book Touching our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God, she contrasts the distinction between “hero” and “helper” that has shifted my entire view on things. She writes:
“Heroes show us who we are not. Helpers show us who we are. As individual supermen/Wonderwomen, heroes diminish our senses of relational, or shared power. Helpers call us forth into our power in relationships and strengthen our senses of ourselves. Heroes have brought us ‘religion’ in many forms—theisms, deisms, atheisms, humanisms, even a wide variety of feminisms. They have brought us ‘solutions’ (that is what heroes are for) in forms of psychoanalysis, social analysis, cost analysis; and they have brought us a spectrum of political ‘solutions’ to the problems of western democracies ranging from the unfulfilled dreams of ‘the free white male’ to the false promises of ‘democracy,’ to the unrealized character of a fully socialized state.
Heroes have brought us causes and crusades, flags and battles, soldiers and bombs. As our liberators and leaders, popes and presidents, bishops and priests, shrinks and teachers, mentors and gurus, heroes have brought us pipedreams and smokescreens and everything but salvation. And this, I am persuaded, is because we tend to search everywhere except among ourselves-in-relation for peace.” (TOS, 11)
Heroes, as Marvel has often depicted, are what the world needs. We need authoritative super-human, mutated, science experiments and aliens to deliver to us the message of hope and protect us from…ourselves.
I don’t think this is the message Jesus sought to bring. Jesus came to help us, not save us. I believe Jesus knew he couldn’t “save” us, especially from ourselves. What Jesus demonstrated was how individual relations could help us learn to love one another more fiercely than we ever thought imagined. But that comes from the power of the right relationship. Heyward opines, “To speak of God is to speak of power in right relation.” (Jack Call, the author of Psychedelic Christianity, writes to a similar idea.)
Heroes don’t ever become friends. They are lonely and isolated and focused on saving the world. Where is the connection in that? Jesus showed us how to connect to others, not isolate ourselves from others. I mean, think about how lonely Spiderman ended up becoming. Alienating everyone from his life and his power.
Helpers, however, the ones who show us who we are, are connected to us, within our circles of influence and within our own homes. These are the people that believe in us and our own abilities. Helpers guide us to find our own power so that we don’t need to rely on the power of others. And that’s precisely what I believe Jesus came to show us. He didn’t come to end evil or defeat the enemies, he came to help us see how to love the enemy and learn that evil can only end so long as we are individually acting as the force that thwarts it.
Couldn’t we all benefit from receiving the help of another who sees us for who we are and understands the message we want to deliver and the purpose we wish to fulfill?