Our Heroes - An Indictment

So, I'm taking a GRE practice test and I'm asked to respond to this statement "Sports stars and movie stars have an obligation to behave as role models to the young people who look up to them. In return for the millions of dollars that they are paid, we should expect them to fulfill this responsibility." Here's what I said. Pretty sure it's barely adequate, but I found it interesting to reflect on nonetheless. Many in our society assert that sports and movie starts are obligated to behave as role models because young people look to them as such. Furthermore, they have declared their enormous salaries as all the more reason to demand respectable living. While it is easy to sympathize with this position, the moral imperative that requires these cultural icon behave admirably is less defensible than the requirement of virtue that society as a whole must lift up only admirable persons into the limelight. "The test of any culture is the stories they tell and the heroes they raise up," I once heard Nancy Ortberg, a Pastor in California, say. This truth is a grave indictment on our own culture. Indeed, our stars are a reflection the values we cherish. It would seem that our heroes are chosen on the merit of their physical appearance and ability and dramatic personalities. It is because our society values beauty and intrigue above character and integrity that our heroes so often lack virtue. However disgusted we may be with their failings, we must admit that these are the stars our own collective choosing. Claims that our society wants something different are disingenuous. Rather than railing against those who collect millions of dollars but live so poorly, we must learn to ask why it is that we are willing to make heroes of such individuals. Some have suggested the salaries of stars should motivate them to behave as role models. While their exorbitant salaries do make their negative effects on our youth all the more disturbing, closer examination of this reasoning is needed. A persons behavior is always a reflection of their character. The notion that one can positively reshape behavior without transforming their character is false and this has been verified by millions of failed New Year's resolutions. With this understanding in place, it is clear that fundamental character reformation will not be instigated such by motivators such as money. This faulty logic could be compared to offering fame on the condition of genuine humility. Anyone who would be so motivated toward fame would have already disqualified themselves from the pursuit of genuine humility. Likewise, one who would attempt to use virtuous living as a means to acquire great wealth has already belied their lack of virtue. It is a misapplication of blame to revile stars for failing to behave admirably. Stars will inevitably and always be those who do best what the culture values most. Stars do what they are paid to do, and very clearly ours are not paid to be role models. To the contrary, they are paid to entertain either through the drama of film or the competitive spectacle of sports. It is society as a whole that must accept the responsibility for the heroes it has created.


  1. Chris, I like this a lot! think it's completely true, and that we shouldn't be surprised that "we get what we pay for."

  2. I definitely agree with your essay. So what does it say about the values inside our churches that so many of the pastors we lift up end up having major moral failures? Perhaps we overvalue charisma, arrogance?