Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Childhood Heroes

Written by: on October 22, 2022

I graduated high school as an agnostic, believing God’s existence could not be proved or disproved. During my last year of high school and throughout my years in undergraduate school, I buried myself in mythology. As an English Literature major in undergraduate school, I enjoyed reading the Odyssey, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Dante’s Inferno as a few examples. But before I read the classics, as a child, I regularly read comic books. I could transcend the poverty of my youth through the superheroes of Marvel and DC Comics. I didn’t believe in the myths, but I loved the adventures.

Thinking back to why these stories intrigued me, I believe the hero’s journey adventures were the underpinnings.

I loved the journeys the heroes and heroines traveled—leaving a place of familiarity to discover or confront known evils and other unknown challenges. Conquering their fears, overcoming the evil villains, and at times dying in the process, only to be resurrected by an angelic being with superhuman powers that could bring to life what was once dead. The hero is revived, returns home with the prize, and is forever changed for the better. Sometimes the hero conquers selfishness, low self-esteem, and fear of the unknown – whatever the original challenge – the hero returns having triumphed over so much more.

At an early age, Campbell was also fascinated by mythology.[1] As a result, Campbell conducted extensive mythological research. He identified the common themes of heroes within traditional storytelling and labeled his theory as the monomyth. Campbell’s understanding of the “hero myth’s central plot is in Jungian terms, defining it as the male or female hero’s journey to a strange, new, divine world…psychologically, the journey symbolizes the rediscovery of the unconscious, from which an adult has lost contact in the process of growing up.”[2] Campbell’s theories fuse his extensive research in mythology, English literature, Native American artifacts, and subsequent studies of Sanskrit and Jungian influence to formulate how myths contribute and impact cultures in the East and West.[3]

In the prologue of Hero of a Thousand Faces, Campbell asserts that the myth is the secret opening that the creative energies pour into our culture.[4] Essentially, Campbell believed that myths are the source of our knowledge, discoveries, and religions.

I commend Campbell for the tremendous work compiled in The Hero With A Thousand Faces and the identification of the similarities of the traditions and myths from various cultures worldwide. However, I prefer to stick with my simplistic childhood understanding of heroes. Good versus evil. Uncomplicated people rise to the call of an unknown adventure—people who aspire to become better for the greater good.

Perhaps my simplistic view is outdated because, today, heroes are very complicated in our culture. For example, in the series Dexter, the main character was a villain, and in Breaking Bad, the main character, Walter White, was forced to turn to the dark side. Nevertheless, both these villains were dearly loved by the fans and critically acclaimed by their acting peers.

So, was Campbell right in his assertion that there are deep psychological currents within our heroes, fighting for access to the unconscious? Was Campbell correct in advocating “myth as a panacea for not only psychological woes but also social woes, and he attributed almost all human problems to the absence of myth…Rather than confine his subject matter to myth and the human mind, Campbell found in myth the key to the cosmos as a whole.”[5]

In conclusion, my faith leads me to believe the following concerning myths:

Romans 1:21-23, 25 NIV.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.













[1] R.Segal, “Joseph Campbell.” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 22, 2022: 1, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Campbell-American-author.

[2] Ibid., 2.

[3] Ibid., 1

[4] Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 3rd ed. (Novato: New World Library, 2008), 1.

[5] R.Segal, “Joseph Campbell.” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 22, 2022: 3, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Campbell-American-author.

About the Author


Audrey Robinson

13 responses to “Childhood Heroes”

  1. Caleb Lu says:

    Out of curiosity, and probably not a “deep” question, but who were your favorite heroes/heroines from the comic books your read growing up?

    I think you’ve made an interesting observation by noting our society’s current love for the anti-hero. I wonder if it’s because featuring an anti-hero is like a nod of understanding to the complicated relationship people have with the ideas of good and evil. Personally, I think I feel the tension of Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-20 that begin and end with: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      I was actually thinking about who were my all time favorites after I wrote the post. I would say Superman and Superwoman, then the Fantastic Four, Spider Man and Wonder Woman. All time favorites.

      Your quote from Romans spoke to me many years ago and I knew then that Father understood the dual nature of our existence. Then one night I read Romans 8:1-10 and it was an “AHA” moment. We were never meant to live this life in our own strength.

  2. Tonette Kellett says:


    I love that you ended with Paul’s quote from Romans… Many times in our mythology we chase after our own ideas of how things are or came to be. We exchange God’s truth for our own lies and thereby deceive ourselves. Well said.

    I am wondering, what was it that made you turn from being an agnostic?

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      I am a Type A personality and I thought I had everything under control. College educated, working for a Fortune 100 company, owned my home – all the outward appearances of success. Inwardly, I was an emotional wreck. Then one day I cried out to the Lord to be saved and I’ve never looked back.

  3. mm Daron George says:

    Audrey, great post! I have a question about your comment “However, I prefer to stick with my simplistic childhood understanding of heroes. Good versus evil. Uncomplicated people rise to the call of an unknown adventure—people who aspire to become better for the greater good.” In your life, have you seen uncomplicated people rise to the call?

    I ask because I believe we are all complicated, including our heroes, so our culture gravitates to the anti-hero. There is a blog post about the rise of the anti-hero by Psychology Today. The author says,

    “It might be because their moral complexity more closely mirrors our own. They’re flawed. They’re still developing, learning, growing. And sometimes in the end, they trend toward heroism. We root for their redemption and wring our hands when they pay for their mistakes. They surprise us. They disappoint us. And they’re anything but predictable.[1]”

    I think that sums us up as people, we are complicated and messy, and sometimes we make the wrong choice on purpose. We are the anti-hero in our story and in God’s story. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    [1] Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Rise of the antihero. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/broadcast-thought/201309/rise-the-antihero

  4. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    Good question. When I think of simplistic heroes, I think of the following:
    1. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes there is nothing new under the sun. So, from God’s perspective, we humans are just catching up to the idea of just how complicated our souls and emotions are (coupled with a sinful nature). Also, Hollywood is no longer whitewashing the heroes as the audience becomes more aware. So we see the anti-hero on the screens.
    2. However, God has chosen to deal with us not according to our sinful nature. Take, for example, Abraham and David – both immoral heroes. God doesn’t dwell on their sin but treats and writes about them positively in scripture. (David is a man after my own heart. Abraham was a faithful and righteous man.) Is this a simplistic or uncomplicated view of them?
    3. More recent uncomplicated heroes: Those who love the Lord. Treat others more highly than themselves. They lay down their lives for others and try to live, based on 1 Corinthians 13. It’s easy to point out the sin – much more challenging to see the good. (Current uncomplicated hero, Archbishop Tutu (for now). Past heroes examples: MLK Jr., John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X – at least until people came forward to point out their sins.)
    4. I am not discounting the complexities of human nature. I am grieved about the times we call good evil and evil good. Have we crossed a line in our desire to portray complex human nature accurately?
    5. Jesus kept it simple.

  5. mm Becca Hald says:

    Audrey, thank you for a great analysis of Campbell. Your discussion of the anti-hero makes me think of Peter Berger’s “The Sacred Canopy.” From what I remember (I read this in college, so long ago), he talked about the fall of the Sacred Canopy in Europe (the over overarching Christian perspective). I remember discussing the imminent fall of the Sacred Canopy in the United States. How do you think the decline of Christianity in the Western World has impacted the portrayal of the hero or anti-hero in Hollywood?

  6. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    That is a good question. But, unfortunately, I believe the church is partially to blame for the anti-hero’s rise. When the church loses its way, it ceases to have a divine voice in the culture. With the rise of Christian Nationalism and white supremacy groups, people in our culture (including the church) call good evil and evil good. Hence, the villain is now the hero.

  7. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Audrey,
    Based on your own love of mythology, what did you think of Campbell’s observation of a common theme among the various stories? In some way, it may reduce the stories to a point that they lose their own particular distinction or does he capture that thread that drew you in to all the different types of stories.

    I can’t believe we didn’t talk comics in South Africa! We will have much to talk about in Oxford!

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      Your questions are insightful and makes one think.

      I admire the research Campbell did with the various cultural mythical stories and his ability to find the common threads. I don’t think it diminishes the stories because each culture still embraces it’s own – hope that makes sense. Yes, looking back, what he captured is probably what drew me in.

      I will have to revisit my favorite super heroes in preparation for our conversations in Oxford. If only I had kept some of those comic books!

  8. Michael O'Neill says:

    Audrey, your story is so real and awesome. It matches Campbell’s model and the fact that you have this mythological background and real-life hero story makes it even better. You have been able to cycle through and live in your new status quo. I have not had that kind of experience yet and I am envious in a weird way. Not that I want to struggle in faith or with God, but of the fire that comes from being lit up and never looking back once you establish your faith. You are Wonder Woman! Thank you for sharing.

  9. mm Sara Lattimore says:


    Thank you for sharing about your journey. You mentioned at the begging you loved the idea of hers, “leaving a place of familiarity to discover or confront known evils and other unknown challenges. Conquering their fears…” Do you think this has any relation to your journey your desire to conquer your fears? I have found I love to hear stories that have an ending to a story that I find connection to… maybe its my way of trying to see the possible ending of my own journey.

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