With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II there has been a lot to reflect upon. One thought that came to me was, what kind of person do we need to be the savior of our world? Do we need Superman, some kind of superhero with supernatural powers? Do we need a warrior king to vanquish all our enemies in battle? Do we need some wise judge to pass better laws? The Queen said that she was none of these:
I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.Queen Elizabeth II, 1957
Indeed, she was not a warrior king or superhero with magical powers, or a political leader or judge. She offered something else, and that something else was what caused tens of thousands to line up for hours to see her coffin lying in state, to bow their heads in silence as the coffin drove past, for millions to watch on television and online, for heads of state from all over the world to travel to attend her funeral, for the world to stop … to stop talking about whatever it was that had consumed our attention and bring us all together to witness the end of an era. What did she offer? Her heart and her devotion, and she gave it steadfastly for 70 years. That is a special kind of hero!
History tells of past heroes and heroines, who made a difference in the world. What kind of people were they? Were they the warrior kings or superheroes? Well, Moses performed a bunch of miracles and signs to get his people out of slavery in Egypt. He bravely stood up to Pharaoh, parted the Red Sea, and drowned the Egyptian army. What more could the Israelites have wanted? Apparently, better food and a golden calf to worship!
Noah built a giant boat in the desert to save his people. They laughed at him, but then they drowned when the rains came. He could have saved them, if they had trusted him.
Jesus came to save people. The Jews were expecting a Messiah. They expected some kind of great leader to defeat the Romans, and they got a peacemaker. Jesus told them to love their enemy, to be like little children, and he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” That didn’t go over too well. He was crucified.
Who were my heroes? Honestly, I enjoyed shows about superheroes, but I didn’t really think they could change the world. I was much more inspired by “The Lord of the Rings.” It was the little, unassuming hobbits who were the heroes who saved Middle Earth. The magical creatures, the elves, the dwarves, and even the wizard, were just helpers.
I was also excited by “Star Wars.” The heroes there are human beings (well mostly!) who used the Force to defeat the darkness. The Force may be supernatural, but actually it seemed plausible that it existed and was available to many people to use for good. Really, isn’t supernatural just something that operates in a realm beyond the material, physical world? It doesn’t have to come from another planet, or a mutated spider. It could be some kind of spiritual energy. It seemed that way to me.
As far as real people who inspired me there was Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Joan of Arc. Yes, Joan of Arc was a warrior, she led her troops into battle with a big sword. But why did she do this? She believed that an archangel and some saints had appeared to her and given her a mission from God, the mission to drive the English out of France. She was just a teenager, but she believed and she acted. Then the politicians and the Church stopped her and burned her at the stake for heresy. But she’s remembered as a heroine, and canonized as a saint – tragic but inspiring.
Gandhi impressed me too. He was just a little, half-naked man who fasted a lot, and was very cold when he visited London! But through his non-violent resistance he inspired Indians to act peacefully, and wore down the British colonialists and won independence for India. He didn’t win the support of all Indians though, and was assassinated.
Then there was Martin Luther King, Jr. who had a dream that continues to resonate today:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963
To achieve that dream he led his forces into battle – encouraging them to go to coffee shops and sit at the counter and wait patiently to give their order, to get on a bus and sit in any empty seat, and to respond peacefully, calmly, without any violence, when trouble came their way. He led his followers into jail for acting as human beings in a society that wanted them to be less. He too was assassinated.
It seems that my heroes and heroines were not welcomed by everyone!
How did Queen Elizabeth win our hearts and minds? She didn’t fit the bill as a superhero. Sure, she wore the crown, which she commented was rather heavy. She did all the ceremonies, dressed up in the robes and uniforms required of a monarch. She appeared at every public event dressed in her nice suits, with her hats, her eternal hairdo, and her famous large handbag. But she also rode her horses, drove her Land Rover, and walked with her dogs in the damp British weather wearing the typical British outerwear of raincoat, scarf, and wellington boots! She also had a great sense of humor, often coming up with clever comments in her perfect British accent. She obviously enjoyed a bit of fun, joining James Bond to open the London Olympics and hosting Paddington Bear for tea, revealing that she kept a marmalade sandwich in her handbag, “for later”! A different kind of superhero.
My conclusion is that we don’t need a super warrior to defeat our enemies in a physical battle. We don’t need supernatural miracles to fix our broken world.
What we need is to become true human beings, to love with true love, to care for one another as one family, and to be good stewards of our environment, this amazing planet earth. It was all spelled out for us in Genesis 1:26-28 which says that the first human beings, created in God’s likeness, received these blessings from their Creator. We have known this for thousands of years! We just need someone to remind us; and perhaps it is time we made it happen.