I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a dork, and I’m not ashamed of it.
I love fantasy, and always have, all kinds of it. Video games, books, movies, you name it. As a kid, my dad and I bonded over hours of Galaga and dozens of other video games. My first R-rated movie was Terminator 2: Judgment Day. My pre-teen obsession was Goosebumps and Fear Street novels. And even now, I’ll confess to enjoying the occasional visit to the World of Warcraft.
I love the allegory of fantasy. It stimulates your mind in ways that most day-to-day interactions don’t. It draws us into a world that doesn’t exist, in order to teach us about the world that does. Even in the case of Firefly, where rogue independents fly from planet to planet fighting an intergalactic battle against a corrupt, oppressive government, the viewer finds himself easily identifying with the characters on the show through their interactions with other characters, the way they react to challenges, and their moral stances in times of crises.
Which brings me to my latest obsession: Heroes.
Heroes is set primarily in present-day. The basic premise of the show is that some individuals with unique genetic mutations express extraordinary, superhuman traits - what they call “abilities”. These abilities can be anything from rapid cellular regeneration to psychokinesis (moving objects with the mind). However, there’s one character in particular whose ability has really intrigued me, and even challenged me as a Christian.
Matt Parkman, a run-of-the-mill police officer, is telepathic.
In the beginning episodes of the show, Parkman’s ability manifests as him hearing the thoughts of people around him, similarly to the scene in Bruce Almighty where the prayers of everyone around him started popping into his head uncontrollably.
For example, during a murder investigation, Parkman hears the terrified thoughts of a little girl who the police had assumed was missing after her parents were brutally murdered. Because he heard her thoughts, he was able to find her hiding in the house and rescue her.
Parkman also uses his ability to hear his upset wife’s thoughts about him [something I’m sure a lot of men wish they could do once in a while]. Even though she is being stubborn and not communicating with him, he knows what is bothering her and takes steps to resolve the problem.
But this seemingly awesome ability has some downsides as well. Just as clearly as he hears the thoughts that he can use for good, he also hears the ruthless insults. The frustrated thoughts that people would never actually say, he hears with complete clarity. To make matters worse, he sometimes has trouble focusing when he is around a lot of people.
In an episode from the first season, there was a really powerful scene that spoke volumes to me about our nature as people…
After a romantic dinner with his wife, Parkman heads to a local convenience store to pick up some coffee-flavored ice cream. He grabs the half pint and heads to the counter to pay. As he is waiting in line, the thoughts of everyone are jumping in and out of his head. “I can’t remember what kind she wanted … Ugh, I’d have to work out if I ate this … These are so expensive!”
But in the midst of those random thoughts, he caught the malicious thoughts of a man intending to rob the store. Parkman glances around the store and sees a young man glaring angrily at the cashier, hands in the pockets of his denim jacket. “Just shoot him and run … the security cameras won’t see you … just do it!”
Being the upholder of public safety that he is, Parkman decides to intervene. He cautiously approaches the man in the denim jacket and has a hushed conversation about how he knows what the man is planning to do, and that he himself is a cop. Parkman convinces the man to leave his gun on the shelf behind him and go home to his girlfriend who is pregnant.
The man who intended to rob the store leaves the store, and Parkman breathes a sigh of relief. He then grabbed the gun that the man left on the shelf and proceeded to get rid of it. Just then, the thoughts of every other customer in the store hit him like a ton of bricks. “Oh my God, he’s got a gun! … Is he going to shoot me? … What is he doing!?”
Parkman puts his life on the line to save the cashier (and perhaps others in the store), and he ends up scaring everyone in the store into thinking that he is the criminal looking to rob the store.
Now, I’ll leave you to dwell on how that scene is a pretty good representation of how Jesus was treated by the Romans, the Pharisees, and even his own disciples. But, what really struck me about that whole scene is that after convincing the man not to rob the store, Parkman was ready to feel like a Hero. But, because of his ability, he got the real story. In a way, he got a glimpse of God’s perspective.
God sees straight through to our hearts. Despite what we say or do, God understands perfectly what we’re actually thinking.
- When that annoying person at church comes to talk to you and you greet them with a “Hey, how’s it going?” God hears the, “Great, this guy again.”
- As you drop change into a homeless person’s hands, God hears the self-inflating “You’re a good Christian!”
- And even before you open your Bible to read, God hears the “Gosh, I’d really rather be doing something else right now.”
Those are only examples, but I think you see what I mean. Just because we don’t act on evil thoughts we have doesn’t mean we’re somehow justified. Those things that come into our minds came directly from our hearts. And if those thoughts are reflections of our hearts, then I think we have a pretty good reason to be thankful for grace.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with a challenge. Think of a person who really tries your patience, someone who annoys you to no end, or even someone you have chosen to ignore entirely for whatever reason. The next time you see them, act as if they can hear what you’re thinking. See how it changes your behavior. See how it makes you feel.
I think you’ll end up thankful that we have a Hero to worship.