Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Need for Heroes and Heroines

David Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character (Random House: 2015), attempts to understand what motivates people to serve and sacrifice for others. He begins with the Creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2, which describe two different visions of humanity that he calls Adam I and Adam II:

While Adam I wants to conquer the world, Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world. While Adam I is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam II sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose. While Adam I asks how things work, Adam II asks why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for. While Adam I wants to venture forth, Adam II wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal. While Adam I’s motto is “Success,” Adam II experiences life as a moral drama. His motto is “Charity, love, and redemption” (xii).

Brooks admits that he’s an Adam I personality. A newspaper columnist and political pundit, he is more anxious to look good than to be good. To put it in his own words,

I was born with a natural predisposition toward shallowness…I’m paid to be a narcissistic blow-hard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am, to appear better and more authoritative than I really am…Like many people these days, I have lived a life of vague moral aspiration—vaguely wanting to be good, vaguely wanting to serve some larger purpose, while lacking a concrete moral vocabulary, a clear understanding of how to live a rich inner life, or even a clearer knowledge of how character is developed and depth is achieved (xiv).

What a striking description of the kind of person who reads our novels! He may seem eminently successful by outward appearances, but inwardly he knows how deficient his life is. He wants a life that really matters, so he looks for moral heroes and heroines.
Make no mistake: The world is desperately wants decent life models. As Christian authors, are called to describe such people. And yes, we are called to be such people.


  1. Bingo, Joe. One of my hopes is that fictitious hero Roger Greene helps to provide a model of the person who may not always understand why God allows things to happen, but who still learns to trust in Him and do what is right.

  2. There's some things to think on here, Joe. I always thought heroes inspired us to be like them, showed the worth of choosing the moral high road. However, I suspect this is probably closer to the norm.

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