Our church group was asked to pick out a great superhero or two from our field who use their faith to guide them. I could have picked a variety of political figures who wore their faith on their sleeve while in office. I could have taken a Democrat like Woodrow Wilson, or a Republican like George W. Bush. Perhaps I could have opted for a leader from abroad who embraced their faith, like Angela Merkel or Modi, the Hindu nationalist expected to be India’s newest prime minister. Or someone from religion, like Pope Francis. Or someone from history, like Charlemagne. But I didn’t.
I picked someone, or some folks, much closer to home. Unlike “D.C.” superheroes, who all have mild-mannered secret identities and act at night, they’re more like most “Marvel Comics” superheroes, like “The Avengers” who operate in public in the day, and everyone knows who they are. We all know that Tony Stark is Ironman. Thor’s not posing as some guy named Theodore, who works in construction, hammering in stuff. When it comes to faith, sometimes you need to be in the public eye. And that’s not always very easy. Sometimes, maintaining that secret identity is the less stressful path. We’ll call this team “The Redeemers.”
The first Redeemer is Quincy Brown, our Vice President of Spiritual Life and Church Relations at LaGrange College. His special powers include coming up with sermons you can’t forget, helping you when you need it the most, and making you think about what matters. I can still remember classics sermons of his, like “The shape of the river” and “A wise fool,” that guided my thoughts, through the bright times and the bad times.
The second Redeemer is Debbie Ogle, our music professor, choral director of the LaGrange Symphony Choir, the LaGrange College chorus and had previously served as the choir director for the First United Methodist Church. If you want a taste of what her choirs can do, download the LaGrange College graduation. Her singers are talented with their voices and their hard work in classes. She’ll bring out your music talent, and keep singers like my wife alive with the spirit. She’s a regular nominee for the college’s “inspiring the soul” award, nominated by students.
The third Redeemer is Blair Tolbert, who served as our college’s campus chaplain. A former LC graduate, she was able to get the students to worship, and to service. If you could see the fellowship hall packed with students at 8am on a Saturday, gleefully preparing meals for “Stop Hunger Now,” for the next several hours to be beat of the latest music hits, you would have thought you had walked into a rock concert.
I’m not sure how many souls these three have saved, but I know at least one they saved: me. When I was in Washington, DC, I was in serious danger of leaving all organized religion, thanks to the overly-zealous politicized church I belonged to. I would have kept my Bible and read it, but it’s not always the same. These three Redeemers helped bring me, my wife, and my kids back to the community faith, and probably so many others.
All three Redeemers have something else in common. They are all departing LaGrange College. What will we do without them? But in the best superhero movies, it’s the spirit, and what the superheroes fought for, that matters, when the people are inspired to get involved themselves and help out. And that is hopefully what will happen when we bid farewell.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College.