I am a sucker for superhero movies–X-men, Ironman, Hulk, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Daredevil. I still have a huge box of comic books I collected during my college days, each and every one sealed in its own protective plastic bag. (Can you say “geek”?)

I know. I know. But ANY of us would be lying if we said we didn’t want to be a superhero at some point in our life. To be faster or stronger, telekinetic, psychic, to be able to teleport at will, to be able to heal yourself or others with a thought. This desire is undeniably strong in us as youths, especially during our teen years when we feel like freaks anyway. We want our freakdom to mean something. We want it to make us not just different, but special, important, unique.

If the baby boomers out there are honest, I think that the desire to be extraordinary only gets stronger as we get older. We never REALLY outgrow our teenage insecurities, we just learn to dress them up. We look better in the newest runway fashions (even if most are incredibly uncomfortable). We feel cooler with the big-screen plasma TV (even though we don’t have time to watch it). We look successful in the newest SUV (even though filling up the tank empties our wallet). Somehow all these accoutrements make up for what we feel we lack.

So it’s no wonder that a movie like Avatar would reach $1 billion in world-wide revenue in less than 3 weeks.  Jake Scully is a paraplegic soldier who is literally changed in everyway when his mind is put inside the body of a genetically-altered human-alien hybrid. He even refers to himself as being re-born. He looks like one of the Na’vi natives. He breathes their noxious air. Over the course of the film, he learns to be like them, talk like them, he even submits to their cultural training, all in the pursuit of completing the mission given to him by his superior.

Essentially, he has to be made like his “brothers” in every way so that he could become their leader in service to his commander. Sound like Somebody else we know? Jesus became the high priest, Jake the multi-tribe chieftain, the only Na’vi in generations to ride the dragon-like leonopteryx.

But Jake is a flawed savior, ready to sell out his new people to regain the use of his real legs. But so was Nathan Algren, the Tom Cruise character from The Last Samurai, who was willing to assist in the slaughter of thousands of Japanese villagers for a cushy retirement fund and alcoholic oblivion. And John Dunbar, Kevin Costner’s character from Dances with Wolves, whose suicide is mistaken for heroism catapulting him to the edge of the civilized world and into Native American arms. We LOVE these movies because they call to us as flawed examples of humanity, and reach out to us at a subliminal level to remind us that we too can be heroes, just like Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have more in common with Jake, John, and Nathan than we do with Jesus as we lost our opportunity to be perfect saviors at birth. We can, however, like these three champions, change the mark we make on the world of men. Jake became a Na’vi, John a Souix Indian, Nathan a samurai. They truly gave up who they were to become all things to their adopted people.

We, however, have one advantage over Jake, John, and Nathan. We are not soldiers in a man-made army. Our “general” has not sent us into battle for the rewards of money, real estate, or power. Our “spoils of war” are much more valuable–the purification of other broken men…just like ourselves.

Heroes all, in the making.

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