Wyatt Earp for Messiah

I’ve been reading the Allen Barra book “Inventing Wyatt Earp.” I love Tombstone, so I was glad to read this book and find that most of it was fairly historical–although the events are told out of order to make a tidier story, and of course certain theories put forth as history.

But I found myself dismayed that before the events of Arizona, Wyatt Earp stole a horse (or probably did). Not a recurring event, but it seems it happened once. Wyatt Earp, my sometimes hero, a horse thief? Oh well, he cleaned up. And then I read his other exploits, a lot of them, most of them I suppose, I can . . . stomach. For example, he owned/operated a couple saloons. I’m not opposed to drinking, so what’s the problem? He was also a part-time to full-time gambler . . . well, gambling isn’t against the Torah either . . . per se.

As the accounts progress, I see that while he seems like a “moral” guy in the sense that he upheld the local law (for the most part, even impartially against friends and relatives), and helped fund a church, and was always generous, refusing to be paid back when he helped someone. And certainly was brave and cool-headed, and very loyal.

But, as I read, I find that while he isn’t greedy, most of his problems come about because he’s always looking for the next boom town. He’s very good at making money and predicting where it will flow in abundance. He lives the fast life. Is it wrong to be good at business? Or to make a tidy profit? No, but it does seem to be central to his motivation.

And then, while gambling and drinking aren’t necessarily sins, saloons usually come with prostitution. So then I’m forced to ask: the cowboys were bad because they held life cheap (shooting up towns, having no regard to Mexicans) and they were organized criminals, stealing cattle en masse. They were certainly bad criminals. But Wyatt Earp and his posse were making a lot of money on the misfortune and bad choices of others, plus again probably allowing or even providing for prostitution.

In the eyes of the law, Wyatt and his friends were good because they were doing lawful things (even the prostitution). But so was segregation and slavery in the south. And even in the eyes of the Torah, what they were doing was not as bad (in terms of consequences) as the list of the cowboys crimes, but . . . they were by no means righteous people. Albeit, it seems they wanted to be and probably thought they were based on the curve of the culture they were in.

Is any of this surprising? No. But I thought it was interesting that I wanted Wyatt Earp to be . . . good. And I’m not saying he was thoroughly rotten and corrupt, plenty of “good guys” in the Bible who weren’t sparkly. But I wanted him to be good. Like Yeshua.

And I thought that was interesting, because Allen Barra seems to want the same thing. This makes me think of our collective desire for heroes. Even in modern times, we look at candidates and we want them to be good. We discount the stories against them, and read good motives into actions that could just as easily be explained by corrupt ones. People got so excited over Obama. They wanted him to be great.

Why is this? Even atheists and the irreligious want to find good guys. The grittiest, try to make it sound futile. They say everyone is dirty. There are no good guys. No bad guys. No box. Just people and we shouldn’t hope for anything more. Which of course, leaves you with . . . nothing.

And despite those claims, the world remains full of stories about impossible heroes. People who do something good against impossible odds. We love our Superman, Batman, Captain America, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. Everyone is looking for something better. No matter how hard we tell ourselves, it isn’t out there.

And in that, what I see, is people who are looking for Mashiach. Messiah. In the heart of everyone is the knowledge that there is goodness, and a human being can personify that goodness and righteousness. The world may reject Mashiach (as it has and as it will), but the heart knows that it’s looking for Him.

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