In 1919, pulp fiction writer Johnston McCulley introduced the world to Zorro, one of the many masked marvels who has graced the pages of our most beloved comic strips. The name “Zorro,” which is the Spanish word for “fox,” captures the crafty skill and sly cunning of Don Diego de la Vega, a wealthy nobleman who secretly fights to defend the cause of the common people.
I love Zorro and other masked heroes as much as the next guy. They lead exciting lives, and the mask allows them to shroud themselves in mystery. But we have to ask the question: 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.
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.
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?
This post concludes my contributions to the 2015 A to Z Challenge! Congratulations to all my fellow challenge survivors, and thanks for traveling with me from A to Z!
Photo Credit: The Mark of Zorro Movie Poster (1920); Public Domain