Records were set on social media yesterday when the world was introduced to Caitlyn Jenner, the transformed individual we have known as Bruce Jenner. Before you settle back and think that this post is about what is right or wrong about that story . . . stop. I have some opinions about that. But this post is about a larger theme.
When something different emerges, whether it is a different thought, a different approach to a problem, a different ideal, or a different lifestyle, those who are inclined to the difference go out in search of a champion.
“If we could just find someone with an established reputation and reveal them to be ‘our different,’ our cause will be catapulted forward.”
I don’t fault that logic. It’s much easier to create a buzz over a household name or a public figure than it is to take an ordinary person as a spokesperson.
We want champions. We select people who have a public presence and we gladly sacrifice their image. We happily stand by as critics draw beads on them personally and subject them to ridicule and tear them apart — less as champions and more as sad objects of ridicule.
As I watched the news and social media this morning, many were praising Caitlyn Jenner for her courage, many were pitying her for her plight, many were vocal about what went wrong, many were expressing alarm over what the world is coming to, and many, many, many were making jokes and reducing Caitlyn to less than she is . . . a human being made and loved by God with strengths and weaknesses, just like the rest of us.
Despite the claims that Bruce Jenner is now free to be who he wanted to be and that Caitlyn Jenner is gloriously happy in her new life, there is a more sordid side.
The darkness comes from those who were glad to see Jenner become a champion in this. And the glad people aren’t on just one side or the other of the controversy.
You see, when something different needs a champion, we often choose based on who is expendable. And if we oppose the change the difference foretells, we focus our negative thoughts and hatred on destroying the champion.
Let’s get away from the glitz and the hype of our entertainment industry heroes. We do the same thing for other different and often unpopular causes.
Those who have spoken out against racism are often ostracized and physically threatened. Unpopular political positions on the economy, immigration, gun control, and healthcare, to mention a few, are rarely discussed in productive dialog. Instead, those who speak out on both sides are targeted and subjected to hateful speech and behavior. Sometimes these “champions” are often outspoken using the same vitriolic bile as their opponents because they naively believe that their fate will be written as conquest instead of sacrifice.
The rest of us stand away from the violence of the words and the fists. In a morbid moment, we look forward to the day that our champion will be our martyr. You see, we never really expected them to win the war. We just wanted them to buy us a few more bullets.
I don’t know if Caitlyn Jenner is happier now. My view of celebrities is that very few of them are ultimately happy. My sole point here is that it is sad what we will do to the champions, regardless of their cause.
As you think about your cause and about the way you want to make the world different, be careful in choosing a champion. You have, in all likelihood, turned them into a living sacrifice.
There are real champions, of course. Look around you. They are the ones who quietly serve and make a difference. The measure of their impact is often one person at a time. You may not know their names, but real champions don’t need publicists or social media accounts.
Real champions aren’t always conquerors. They can be sacrificial offerings, as well. Yet, real champions choose neither the path of conquest or of sacrifice. Real champions choose only to serve.