The late, fairy-tale addition of the dragon to his (St. George's) otherwise factual life still I think still has a place in the Church's heart. We need our ecclesiastical bed-time stories the same way we need Franklin's electrical key or Washington's cherry-tree. They serve as shorthand for the larger virtues that so dominated their lives.
This post reminded me of one of my favorite lines from a movie, Second Hand Lions, which I used as the title for this entry.
I think that is one of the things that make certain movies so compelling that they are still great decades after they were produced - they provide a shorthand of virtue that we yearn for. My dad runs a virtue night at the movies for teen boys that has been very successful for the past three years. They watch movies like Master and Commander, Glory and I am David and instead of watching solely for the entertainment value, they look for what the movie has to say about virtues. He uses the book Boys to Men as the guide for the discussions.
John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart will always be popular because they are icons of virtue. They are part of the American shorthand of patriotism, guts, decency (especially Jimmy Stewart) and bravery that people associate with America. I think that this is why there is so much deconstruction going on in history today. If you destroy the icon it is much more difficult to explain the virtue that it represents. If there are no heroes to lift up as examples of virtue, how can you explain virtues in a "real" way? You can read about bravery all you want in the dictionary but there isn't anything like seeing the 54th Black Infantry Battalion charging Fort Wagner at night to bring it to life.