by Joanie Butman
Over the weekend my daughter was telling me about the current book she is reading, You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero's #1 New York Times Bestseller on how to take charge of your life. Bookstores (those that still exist) are bursting at the seams with a plethora of self-help books. After reading my share of them over the years, I contend that the Bible is the most successful of the lot – at least it has been for me.
Curious as to the content of the book, I looked up the synopsis. First of all, the subtitle is How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Funny, that sounds like a challenge Jesus might present because so many of us doubt that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in us. He also reminds us of why He came in John 10:10 I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full. Does that not imply an awesome life?
The reviewer makes some lofty promises; namely, by the end of the book, you'll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can't change, how to change what you don't love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass. Again, sounds eerily similar to some of the promises of the Bible, though the vocabulary is notably different. I don’t know what ‘Force’ the author is referring to, but there is only One that I know of who can make good on those kind of promises.
Being of a certain age, I knew I needed to research the current meaning of badass because the visual that immediately came to mind was the Hell’s Angel boyfriend I regrettably once had, and I certainly didn’t want my daughter taking advice from someone like him. Apparently, the upcoming generation has developed its own slang, where many negative words are now used as flattery such as sick or bad – a type of one word oxymoron I suppose. So off to urban dictionary I went.
As this is a Christian blog, I can’t repeat most of the definitions I found. The tamest was: a general term used to describe behavior that is fearless, authentic, compassionate, and ethical. Still unsatisfied, I dug a little further and came across an intriguing article by Jim Taylor Ph.D., a teacher at the University of San Francisco. Below is an abbreviated summation of his article.
Badassness isn't about all of the macho things that are commonly associated with being a badass. A real BA is driven by values such as responsibility, justice, honor, courage, compassion, humility, integrity, and selflessness… someone who does the dirty jobs, the jobs that other people don't want to do…someone who does what needs to be done, no matter how difficult it is, without complaint or need for fanfare…someone who doesn't take the path of least resistance... someone who stands up for the weak and oppressed, speaks the truth, and calls out those who lie, cheat, and steal… someone who takes a "hit for the team" meaning puts others' needs ahead of their own. Batman is a BA, not because he is rich, suave, handsome, and has a lot of cool gear (and is portrayed by Christian Bale), but because he suffered in his life and devoted his life to justice. Real BAs are, more often, not people you would likely think are BAs like the guy standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989. My mother who, while dying of cancer, kept herself alive long enough to attend my wedding and died shortly after, was a BA.*
Given this new perspective, Taylor concludes the article questioning the reader whom they would define as a BA. At the risk of sounding irreverent (which has never stopped me), my immediate answer was Jesus of course. Be that as it may, it’s still a stretch (even for me) to assign that title to someone as holy as Jesus. Though it lacks the same punch, I’ll use Divine Superhero instead. After all, His persona is the model Marvel uses for all their Superheros – humble and mild-mannered except when fighting for truth and justice. Granted, a manger or a donkey can’t compare with the Batmobile, but Christ’s majesty didn’t need a flashy entrance. Perhaps that’s why the Pharisees failed to recognize him. They were waiting for someone more impressive, a mighty warrior ready to liberate them from Rome’s oppression. Plus, they considered themselves the real BAs of the time, which they were but in the original bullying context.
Taking my answer one step further, not only do I maintain that Taylor accurately portrays the character of Jesus, I believe it’s exactly how Christ calls us to live. He’s left us His own how-to manual should we choose to answer His call to become CBAs (Christian Badasses.) The Bible is full of them – ordinary people empowered by God to live extraordinary lives. When we submit ourselves to God’s will, our humility and God’s ‘Force’ (aka Holy Spirit) enables us to do heroic things. Are you up to the challenge?