The scandal du jour across the morning news shows today was Lance Armstrong's decision to stop fighting doping investigations. It means he is stripped of his record seven victories in the Tour de France and his bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics.
While saying uncle in the doping fight doesn't necessarily equal guilt, the presumption is that Armstrong knew things were going to come out in the investigation — that there was some evidence or testimony that would not look good.
Today on Morning Joe, I thought MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart hit the nail on the head:
"This is yet another institution that has failed. … We've seen everything that people believed in — whether it's the financial institution or government itself or just heroes — just falling by the wayside. You're seeing that this world that we have constructed of sort of purity and perfection, it's just not real."
My friend Tom Day had a similar take following the Penn State scandal last year in his Washington Post piece, "Penn State, My Final Loss of Faith." In it, he decries the failure of our parents' generation of leaders — pointing to Penn State, but also a laughable Congress and a corrupt church system:
"We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. … Instead we were told to go shopping.
… We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage."
I'm not one to elevate sports stars as role models or some kind of symbol of perfection. (Though if I had to choose one, it would most definitely be the Admiral, David Robinson.) I respect their talent, their dedication and perseverance in one thing, but it's hardly a reason to thrust a cloak of infallibility upon them.
It's just not real.
So here's my question: Who needs a hero?
Personally, I'm good. I don't really need someone to show me I'm doing it wrong. That's what Pinterest is for. I don't need someone to lavish with anonymous praise because they're really, really good at something (drugged up or not). I have enough real-live people — read: not ideas of people — in my surroundings who are awesome.
Just like I don't need a man on a white horse — though if my husband wanted to pick me up from work atop a steed mid-D.C. traffic, it'd be pretty awesome — I don't need to worship a golden calf-person.
I think the Bible says something about that …
If your kids want to look up to someone, make sure it's you. Or, y'know, Jesus. Teach them that failure is part of life and that mistakes don't diminish the glimpses of God they see in victory, in triumph over adversity, or in striving for something outside of yourself.
If you need to restore your faith in humanity after yet another body blow, put the pointer fingers away and crack open our handy guidebook.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2
This was the identifying verse of a youth group I helped lead in Minnesota. We wanted them to fix their eyes not on what the world worships, but on higher things — to show them there is something that is good and acceptable and perfect.
That is real.
Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sandi.
Superhero image by file404 / Shutterstock.com. Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners.