The Problem With Secret Identities…

Batman Drawing

When did our heroes begin wearing masks? My idea of a hero is someone who boldly stands for what they believe in, shining for all to see as a beacon of courage and resolve. But instead, our modern heroes tend to hide their faces out of fear – fear for their own safety, or for that of their loved ones (which is something of a joke, by the way… the masks rarely end up protecting their family and friends from being kidnapped by giant lizards or hurled from the top of 50-story buildings!).

This unfortunate phenomenon has had far-reaching effects. Along with influencing the world of comic books, it has also taught our younger generations to idolize “hidden courage.” I’d like to argue, however, that hidden courage isn’t courage at all.

Masked Marvels: A Quick History

It all began in 1903, with a play entitled The Scarlet Pimpernel. Set during the French Revolution, this adventure tale by Emma Orczy described a hero named Sir Percy who was a master of disguise, and worked to rescue those who had been sentenced to death by guillotine.

After this, the idea of a hero with a secret identity caught like wildfire. Secret superheroes began popping up everywhere, with Zorro (1919), the Phantom (1936), and Batman (1939) rising to stand among the most popular of them all.[1]

The Problem With Secret Identities

So what’s the big deal? The problem with romanticizing masked heroes is that it teaches young people that it’s not only okay to keep their convictions a secret, but that this can actually be honorable.

But it’s not. This past Sunday I taught a lesson on Christian liberty in my Young Adult Class (it seemed to fit nicely with the patriotic weekend). But my jaw hit the floor when I had a young man tell me that while he believes in Christ, he refuses to call himself a Christian. He said that he knows too many people who “wear Christianity like a badge” and hold it over other people’s heads, and that he would rather just let his life speak for itself and keep that fact that he’s a Christian a deep, dark secret.

Needless to say, we had a lively debate! See what our society has done to us? It has taught us to keep our heads down, and that keeping our faith to ourselves is an honorable cause. During the 4th of July we stood boldly, waving our flags and setting off fireworks and letting the whole world know that we are proud to be Americans! But when it comes to letting others know that we are Christians, our young people are being trained to not be so proud.

What a disappointing turn of events. As far as I’m concerned, this is a dangerous way of thinking. Refusing to let others know about your faith is prideful (it causes people to admire you for the blessings in your life instead of drawing their attention to Christ), and it’s a cop-out. In the end, we hide our faith for the same reasons those “mighty” super heroes hide their face: good, old fashioned, yellow-bellied fear.

The Danger of Hiding Behind a Mask

Not only is hiding our faith a sure way to disappoint our Savior, but it also puts us at danger of eternal judgement. Consider this verse:

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

-Matthew 10:32-33

Our young people may not be verbally denying Christ, but by choosing to remain silent about their faith or by keeping their Christian identity a secret they are denying Him. And that is simply not okay.

You know, I enjoy a good Batman movie as much as the next guy, but when it comes to living out our faith, I wish we would take off the mask and live out loud, for everyone to see. Christ has done amazing things for us, and this is something we should be proud of! We should be shouting this news from the rooftops, not cowering in fear!

How do you advertise your faith? Are you living with a Secret Identity?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Lovece, Frank. “Superheroes Go the American Way on PBS,” Newsday, Published on October 11, 2013: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/tv/superheroes-go-the-american-way-on-pbs-1.6239837

Photo Credit:  Carlos Gabriel Morales Toro, Wikimedia Commons

 

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10 thoughts on “The Problem With Secret Identities…

  1. Wow. This is a great read, and I believe you are dead-on, John Mark. My husband and I have often talked about “Christians” who do not actually desire to claim Christ because non-Christians may have been “hurt or offended” by Christians in the past. They feel like the word Christians conjures up images of hypocrites. This ideas (which as you indicated can translate into a “secret” sort of Christianity) grieve me deeply. We should not shrink back, hiding the source of our peace and joy and salvation, nor should we placate to the world from fear of offending, but rather we should boldly love in Christ’s name and speak of His truths for it is by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that we overcome Satan. (Rev. 12:11)

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  2. Thoughtful observation and well written. I appreciate and enjoy your blog always. . I wanted you to know that I’m nominating you for a Very Inspirational Blogger Award without realizing that you already are a Very Inspirational Blogger. Please know that you are an inspiration to me.

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  3. It’s very true, John. I’ve heard it too … that young people are refusing to declare that they are, in fact, Christians. They use the same logic as your student, stating that the term “Christian” has come to put a bad taste in people’s mouths. I believe there are numerous reasons for that, one of which is … the Christian body. We are so focused on doing what is right, by Jesus, that sometimes, we Christians miss Jesus’ message entirely.

    As the Bible reminds us, Jesus didn’t come to condemn. He came to save. Unfortunately, it seems that – at times – those who love Him the most misrepresent that.

    It’s troubling to realize that we may often act as the enemies of the Christian faith, of our Savior’s teachings, even when we believe our intentions to be pure. It’s equaling as disheartening to discover that our young people – those who will carry on the Truth of Jesus, are afraid to stand up and proclaim the God who created, protects, saves, and delights in them.

    I pray that our youth will seek and find the courage to speak the name of Christ and, in so doing, will help doubters understand the truth of what Christianity is.

    Thank you for this touching, thought-provoking, and emotion-provoking article!

    Bless you, friend.
    Shawny Lou

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    1. Thanks, Shawny Lou! Our young people need our prayers for sure… the world is becoming more and more hostile to the Christian faith, and it will take more and more courage on their part to let their light shine!

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  4. Having hidden behind a mask for different reasons, I love taking off my mask and revealing the healing power of Christ in my life (actually just wrote a poem about this subject). My children love wearing their Christian t-shirts around town proclaiming Him. He saved me from hiding behind masks because of depression…..I am so very thankful and want to shout to the world. “Be transparent in your proclaiming Him and what He has done for you–it can save lives.” Again, a wonderful post!!

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  5. I completely agree with the importance to “live out loud” that we are Christians, acknowledging our Lord before a world in such great need of His love and saving grace. But please let me humbly disagree that masked superheroes have too much affect on our youth in sharing their faith. My position is that fictional heroic characters (masked or unmasked) can and do inspire us, especially boys, to strive to become more than what we think we might be capable of. Still, I think you’ve made some good points with your post. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I happen to enjoy super hero stories myself, and I agree that they can inspire us to believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. However, I do think that art reflects culture, and that the fact that our heroes now hide in secrecy reflects the cultural ideal that it is more honorable to do good deeds and serve God in secret. While the Bible does talk about not advertising the gifts we give to the poor or the fact that we’re fasting (Matthew 6:1-4), Jesus also commanded us to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:19-20). If we’re keeping our Christian identity hidden, this will be hard to do! So while there is a place for humble anonymity, I stand by the concept that we don’t need Christians who don a mask on Sundays and lead a double life, but who live boldly as Christians in all places and at all times. I’m glad you joined the conversation – I enjoyed your thoughts!

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