Signs and Wonders
Bruce Springsteen performing Nov. 6 at New York’s Madison Square Garden
Associated Press/Photo by John Minchillo/Invision
Bruce Springsteen performing Nov. 6 at New York’s Madison Square Garden

Signs and Wonders: Heroism, redefined

Newsworthy

Rock hero or theologian? Rutgers University is planning a theology course based on Bruce Springsteen’s music. As a Springsteen fan, I am well aware of the spiritual and sometimes biblical content of his lyrics. I have thought for more than 30 years that he is one of the most interesting entertainers alive today. But a theology course? Really? This class is another example of the “mission drift” evident at most colleges and universities today.

The mainstream media’s new heroes. Last week, a college swimmer announced he was gay and the mainstream media hailed him as courageous. Two weeks ago, a Maine congressman running for governor said he was gay, and the media likewise hailed his courage. First of all, I’m not sure what’s courageous about making an announcement that is almost sure to result in fawning adoration from the mainstream media. Neither am I sure that such announcements would be news stories at all were it not for the media’s near-obsessive quest to portray homosexuality as heroic. Theologian Robert Webber once said, “The most pressing spiritual question of our time is: Who gets to narrate the world?” He’s right. Ironically, as these stories indicate, no one understands this “spiritual question” better than the “secular” media.

Lowering the bar of heroism. A rabbi from Connecticut bought a $200 desk on Craigslist and found $98,000 hidden inside. He returned the money. A homeless man in Boston found $42,000 in cash and travelers checks and returned the money to its rightful owner. Both events became national news stories. Given the sinful nature of humanity, I guess I should celebrate any time someone actually does the right thing.  But I also can’t help but ask:  Since when did returning to its rightful owner something that doesn’t belong to you become an act of heroism?  I also wonder if we’re not seeing a new genre of news story—a genre that celebrates people for behavior that used to be considered ordinary. 

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The Norse hero conquers. In its second week of release, Thor continued its reign over the box office. It brought in $38 million, pushing its two-week total to $147-million. The real surprise of the weekend was the sleazy, R-rated The Best Man Holiday, the sequel to 1999’s The Best Man. Made for just $17 million, it pulled in $30 million in its first weekend. Gravity remains a juggernaut sure to hit $250 million in domestic box office returns alone. Ender’s Game continues to fade. The movie has recovered barely half of its $110 million production budget. Its per-theatre showing is also weak. Still, the movie will likely have a strong afterlife (DVD, streaming, and cable) and will likely break even. Don’t look for it to be the beginning of a new franchise.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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