Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Anti-Hero

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Literature has changed. Gone are the days when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. This is a new day--the day of the anti-hero.

"What's an anti-hero?" you may ask. It's a morally complex character who wants to be heroic, but who struggles with his or her own inner demons. The anti-hero can be a rascal, a would-be good guy but for all his flaws. Or he can be a villain who has some redeeming characteristics.

In the postmodern era, traditionally defined heroic qualities, akin to the classic "knight in shining armor" type, have given way to the "gritty truth" of life, and authority in general is being questioned. The brooding vigilante or "noble criminal" archetype seen in characters like Batman is slowly becoming part of the popular conception of heroic valor rather than being characteristics that are deemed un-heroic. (Lawall G, (1966). "Apollonius' Argonautica. Jason as anti-hero". Yale Classical Studies 19: 119–169.)

The anti-hero gives all of us hope. While we long for the days when you could tell the good guys from the bad by the color of Stetson they wore, we are increasingly aware that life isn't always that clear-cut. Moral ambiguity haunts us all. Of course, there are definite rights and wrongs, but they're not always easy to see. The anti-hero gives us hope by reminding us that even though we fail, even though we make mistakes, we can still turn out okay in the end.

The Bible is full of anti-heroes. From the trickster Jacob to Samson with all of his flaws, we see that God isn't done with us just because we've made mistakes. David the adulterer/murderer, who wasn't allowed to build God's Temple because his hands were stained with blood, is still a "man after God's own heart."

Death Angel, the book I'm writing, is about an anti-hero. Karath is a death angel who doesn't like his assignment. Of course, none of the Guardian Angels either like or respect Death Angels, because their two missions are very opposed to one another. Karath questions his own identity and purpose in God's plan, sinking deeper and deeper into depression and rebellion. Will he find a way of redemption, before his inner demon claims him?

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This is actually the question that is asked of us all. Each of us struggles to defeat our inner evil. The apostle Paul said in Romans 7:21-24a (NIV), "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

That last phrase, "Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord" is important. It's only through Jesus that we can know peace. We can't defeat our inner demons--only Jesus can. Personally, I'm not all that interested in stories of anti-heroes who never find redemption. Redemption is what it's all about. And it only comes through Jesus.

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