Of Wooblers and Heroes

by Jeremy Parks on December 26, 2013 · 16 comments

There’s a profession out there, a noble and honorable one on which society depends, that has earned my contempt.

I won’t name it here; I see no reason to earn what would ultimately be a warranted amount of scorn and enmity by actually naming the career path in question.  As well, I lack any desire to besmirch the fabulous members of what is – again – a great and wonderful profession.  I must, however, have some way of referencing the job and those who labor at it, so I’ll simply call the members of this profession wooblers.  The infinitive form is to wooble.  The verb conjugates regularly: woobled, woobling, to have woobled, etc.

I realize the contradiction, of course; I’m confessing a certain disregard for a noble role filled by wonderful people.  Cognitively, I realize the benefit of wooblers as they wooble their way through our lives.  I would hate to live in a world in which no one woobles at all.  Even so, in my heart I wish I didn’t have to tolerate them.

Sometimes I hear someone say, “Oh, I met up with a woobler I knew years ago!  It was so great to see him!  Oh…he was a WONDERFUL woobler, better than all the other wooblers I knew.  He made such an impact on me when I knew him.  He woobled  me for a short time, but WOW what a difference he made.”  Every single time, my gut-level response response is, “What sort of a sad-sack existence did you suffer through if a woobler was the one who made a difference in your life?”  So far I’ve been smart enough not to voice such thoughts, though.  Usually I just smile and nod and throw up a little in my mouth.

I remember reading an article by some guy who was voted Woobler of the Year.  He touted the training of those in the profession, and trumpeted the various improvements in woobling techniques that had come along through the years. He especially lauded the great professionalism he had seen in wooblers all across the country – and that’s where I saw the problem.  He knew his fellow-wooblers as great professionals with high standards and all that rot.  I perceived instead a bunch of flawed, biased, mistake-filled human beings who happened to be striving for wooble-based professionalism along the way.

I suppose the Case of the Wooblers captures the basic reason why I have no heroes.  I have no autographs, never had a poster on my bedroom wall.  I’ve never had an answer for teachers who asked me, “Who is your hero?” as a starter question for a 500-word essay.  I cannot answer the question, “Name someone whose life has impacted yours.”*  No matter how great someone is, no matter how noble, no matter how holy – in the end, he’s gonna fail, flail, fall, stumble.  He’ll do so because he’s a flawed, biased, mistake-filled human being.

*(Not entirely true: my wife bears the honor of being my greatest influencer, but I’m not sure if that counts here.)

And before someone starts yelling in the comments section below, I’m not thinking of the unhealthy hero worship which plagues certain age groups in society.  I guess I mean there are few people out there who truly inspire me on a deeply personal individual level.

I recently spent a year taking classes on an SBC seminary campus.  It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me in that most everyone wanted to cite Someone.  I heard of Platt and Stezter and Aiken and a bunch of other Big Names while I was there, names not tossed around so much as reverently placed on the conversational table for all to admire.  I wasn’t impressed.  I took to passive-aggressively mispronouncing names (” Who?  John Peeper?  John Pooper?  Sorry – I don’t hear well.”) and wandering off when certain Names were airily lofted from lips to the square-tiled heavens in the hallways.  I’m sure everyone mentioned was a great guy – human through and through.  And therein lie the rub.

I’m just so acutely aware of humanity’s imperfections and its tendency not to live up to the greatest ideas.

Ahh…ideas. Now there are some heroes.

An idea can be great.  If it is holy in origin, an idea can be perfect.  A well-formed idea can be theorized, extemporized, examined, and improved.  It can withstand the test of time.  You cannot tempt an idea, lead it astray into ideological adultery or pettiness.  I can admire an idea far more easily than (appropriately) honor a hero.

I’m not sure if my lack of heroes is an indication of something more spiritually sinister.  My relationship with wooblers notwithstanding, my lack of heroes is not due to a failure to forgive others for their human flaws.  I see myself in their mistakes and realize I’m not so different; I can identify with flaws far more easily than I can with perfection.  What’s more, I don’t believe my standards for others are unreasonable nor unbending.  I can’t observe any real spiritual failure at play, so I guess I’m on safe ground.  Perhaps an awe for ideas is simply the flip side of near-worship for those who have the ideas.  I don’t know.

There is one strength to my approach, though: the same apparent contradiction with respect to wooblers helps me see past those of us (read: all of us) who sometimes fail to hold to the standards we hold dear.  A bad cop doesn’t make law enforcement evil.  A lazy doctor doesn’t mean medicine is sinister.  And a stumbling Christian – hero or not – doesn’t invalidate the whole of Christendom.

I do wish sometimes, especially when I see Facebook comments memorializing someone special, that I could find it in myself to believe in someone.  I think there is a relational depth, a passion that I’m missing out on by not having Someone Special out there to revere.  I think I’d like to be able to adapt myself to sitting at the feet of some master and learning all I could.

Just so long as it isn’t a woobler.

1 Todd Benkert December 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

I have long recognized the dangers of hero-worship and the cult of personality you describe. At the same time, I recognize there is great value in learning from the faith journey of others or their deep thinking and study of great truths. In many cases, we ought to see such wooblers as a gift of God to the church — not to be put on a pedestal and admired, but to be edified by their use of the gift God has given them for the benefit of the body.

2 Jeremy Parks December 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Absolutely! I should have just asked you what to say; you’ve done a brilliant job in summarizing.

Regardless of what wooblers represent for each of us, the gifts they bring – and the Giver from whence they came – are what we should see.

3 ocdinstructor December 26, 2013 at 8:42 am

This is not original with me, but it has since become somewhat of a mantra.

“I have found that the secret to contentment in life can be summed up in two words – lowered expectations.”

I have found that the chief cause of atheism in the people I talk to has nothing to do with God himself, but comes from a profound disappointment with a god who refuses to live up to the press clippings of his publicists. No one speaks of a God who promises an old man that he will be a father of many nations and then disappoints him year after year after year until decades pass. Even when this man of faith takes matters into his own hands and delivers a son by slave woman, God says, “Nope. Not the one.” Imagine living with disappointment until all hope of fulfillment is gone, when old age, menopause, and impotence take hold. Granted, God is true to his promise and yes it does work out in the end, but what about all those years of waiting, longing, being disappointed, and never once seeing God move an inch closer to fulfilling his promise?

And what of the disappointed king-to-be who says, “I shall one day perish at the hands of Saul” and how long it was before he saw God’s promise fulfilled in his life? Read the psalms and see a heart that grappled with disappointment, despair, and dejection.

Sometimes we are too quick to get to the happy ending. There’s is a whole lot of living that needs to happen and a whole lot of wooblers we will meet on the way. It’s part of the journey. I appreciate the harangue, and I don’t want to sound fatalistic, but an appreciation for all the times God DOESN’T strike people with lightning bolts who really, really deserve it, should give us a deeper appreciation for the practical grace he exercises in our lives and the lives of those around us.

4 Rick Patrick December 26, 2013 at 8:54 am

” Who? John Peeper? John Pooper? Sorry – I don’t hear well.”

Jeremy, so many are using John way too much. Thank you for flushing his hero worship from our system. May you succeed in wiping it out completely.

5 Jeremy Parks December 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I have nothing against John Piper, or Ed Stetzer, or David Platt, or Danny Aiken. I’ve read one of Platt’s books and I check Stetzer’s site periodically. Anyone who serves the Kingdom as diligently as they deserves at least a bit of respect.

I love their hard work and contributions to His goals and mission. I just struggle to grasp those who look to our leaders with such awe. It surpasses my ability to comprehend, and yet sometimes I wish I had even a little bit of that ability to heap respect and praise on someone in a near-hero sort of way.

6 William Thornton December 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

On this I agree with Rick.

BTW, Jeremy, I am initiating an examination of your SBC bona fides. You are making far too much sense here.

7 parsonsmike December 26, 2013 at 10:46 am

“I think I’d like to be able to adapt myself to sitting at the feet of some master and learning all I could. ”

Well have i got just the right person for you:
Not Mary, but…

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

8 clark December 26, 2013 at 11:37 am

Masterful! But I won’t drop your name at Seminary. If and when I return. BUT, I know what a woobler is. I won’t tell though. Seltzer? Smeltzer? Sorry I don’t hear well. Kim Teller Who? Splatt? Flatt? I could go on…

9 Todd Benkert December 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I would caution on erring on the other side as well. We should not take an anti-woobler stance in which we ignore or reject a woobler merely because they are popular (or worse, because we resent that their particular point of view is gaining traction because of their influence). Often, a woobler is popular for the very reason that they are persons of substance who are asking and answering the right questions or are articulating deep truths well. Not all wooblers are worthy of our attention, but many we ignore at our peril.

10 Ken Hamrick December 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s a hero. And an heroic profession is one in which a person routinely puts his life at risk for the protection of his country, state, town or neighbor. Not only is it the norm for society to hold up such professions as heroic, it is morally appropriate. Of course, the main three immediately come to mind: firefighters, police officers and military (but there are others).

As the son of a slain police officer, let me point out some facts regarding the middle group. From FBI.GOV on the 92 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2012:

12 officers died from injuries inflicted while investigating suspicious persons or circumstances, eight who died were conducting traffic pursuits or stops, five were engaged in tactical situations, and five officers were killed as a result of ambushes (four due to entrapment/premeditated situations and one during an unprovoked attack). Four officers’ deaths occurred as a result of answering disturbance calls (two of which were domestic disturbance calls) and three officers were transporting, handling, or maintaining custody of prisoners. Two of the fallen officers sustained fatal injuries during drug-related matters, two were attempting to make other arrests, and two were performing investigative activities. Two officers were responding to robberies in progress, one was responding to a burglary in progress, and one officer was killed as a result of handling a person with a mental illness…

…Offenders used firearms in 43 of the 47 felonious deaths. These included 30 incidents with handguns, seven incidents with rifles, and three incidents with shotguns. The type of firearm was not reported in three of the incidents. Two victim officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons; one was killed with a knife; and one officer died from injuries inflicted with personal weapons, such as hands, fists, or feet.

Twenty of the slain officers were wearing body armor at the times of the incidents. Six of the officers fired their own weapons and two officers attempted to fire their service weapons. Three victim officers had their weapons stolen; however, none of the officers were killed with their own weapons…

…Of the officers who died as a result of accidents, 22 died due to automobile accidents, 10 were struck by vehicles, and six officers were in motorcycle accidents. Three of the officers were killed due to aircraft accidents, two in accidental shootings, one from a fall, and one officer died as a result of an ATV accident.

You are correct when you describe such men as “flawed, biased, mistake-filled human being[s];” however, it is only because such mistake-filled human beings are willing to give their lives in such service that people like you (and me) get the opportunity to continue living and making mistakes.

You say that there are heroic ideas. But ideas cannot die for you or protect you. Your life has benefited greatly from ideas such as freedom, God-given rights, and civil justice; but unless there were heroes willing to die to bring the benefits of those great ideas to your life, such ideas would be nothing but reading material.

Even the ideas of righteousness, redemption, and salvation would be powerless without the heroic Savior to lay His life down for us so that we could benefit from these ideas.

11 John Fariss December 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Well said, Ken! As a former police officer and the son of a career officer, as well as the cousin, nephew, great-grandson, great-great-grandson, and great-great-great grandson of men who served in the military from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam (one of who was killed and one of whom received the Medal of Honor) you have well stated your point.

John

12 Ken Hamrick December 27, 2013 at 8:25 am

Thanks, John!

13 Adam G. in NC December 27, 2013 at 1:39 am

Oh, I get it!
Woobler=cynical blogger

14 Jeremy Parks December 27, 2013 at 1:47 am

No, I said it was an honorable profession.

15 Debra December 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

That comment gave me a good laugh!

16 Debra December 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

I think what you are dealing with is the worship of man. When people begin to worship a woobler, it becomes distasteful to many of us. But if people worship them, and not the God they speak of, that is not their fault ( if they truly godly men/women). I have to overcome my distaste of many a woobler because of the status put on them by man. But God often calls my heart back to the truth they preach. They often preach/teach God’s word in new and inspiring ways, making us sit up and listen. It is the truth they preach that can change lives, not who they are themselves. What infuriates many of us is how others worship these wooblers. We must only worship God!
Honoring our heroes is different. I see our heroes as those who are willing to put their lives in danger in order to give us freedom and safety, men and women in Law enforcement and the military. Honoring men and women for what they do, is very different. So I don’t have any problem with having heroes. I honor them for what they do, not for who they are. Because who they are is human, and they will fail…and thats ok. I think there is less hero worship than there is woobler worship amongst the Christian world.

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