Heroes have disappeared. They have been replaced by superheroes—fantasy creatures.

If the 1960s and early 1970s became an age without heroes, an age of the anti-hero in literature and on the stage and the screen, the past few years have seen the emergence of a new and somewhat perplexing phenomenon, the superhero. Since “superheroes” are confined in large measure to the pages of children’s comics, it may seem out of place to take them seriously enough to discuss them in CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Yet what children are taught to a large extent determines how they will act as adults, and what adults teach children tells us a great deal about how adults think—or, as the case may be, fail to think. Of what significance is it that true heroes have disappeared, to be replaced by superheroes?

A hero is a human being who through discipline, bravery, determination, and perhaps divine assistance accomplishes seemingly incredible feats. Heroes generally must be good and serve a good cause, though sometimes brave and generous men in the service of an evil cause are deemed to be heroes—usually tragic but noble figures. Thus Robert E. Lee is honored by most of those who disapproved the cause of the South, and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox,” appears as one of the last heroes of modern times, though the cause he served was truly evil.

A superhero, by contrast, is not a real human being, but a fantasy creature—Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, et al. Superheroes, unlike the heroes of Greek mythology, have no Achilles’ heel. Superman himself is vulnerable to the mineral kryptonite, but of course he will never be killed by it—unlike the great Achilles. Unlike the more traditional heroes of folklore and of reality, modern ...

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