“We have celebrities but not saints”

celebritiesEugene Peterson wrote in 1983, before the Internet and smartphones:

“The puzzle is why so many people live so badly.  Not so wickedly, but so inanely.  Not so cruelly, but so stupidly.  There is little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are prominent in our culture.  We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs.  In famous criminals act out the aggressions of timid conformists.  Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators. People, aimless and bored, amuse themselves with trivia and trash.  Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness gets headlines.

“This condition has produced an odd phenomenon: individuals who live trivial lives and then engage in evil acts in order to establish significance for themselves.  Assassins and hijackers attempt the gigantic leap from obscurity to fame by killing a prominent person or endangering the lives of an airplane full of passengers.  Often they are successful.  The mass media report their words and display their actions.  Writers vie with  one another in analyzing their motives and providing psychological profiles on them.  No other culture has been as eager to reward either nonsense or wickedness.

“If, on the other hand, we look around for what it means to be a mature, whole, blessed person, we don’t find much.  These people are around, maybe as many of them as ever, but they aren’t easy to pick out.  No journalist interviews them.  No talk show features them.  They are not admired.  They are not looked up to.  They do not set trends.  There is no cash value in them. No Oscars are given for integrity.  At year’s end no compiles a list of the ten best-lived lives” (Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, 11-12).

David wrote in the 10th century BC, before electricity:

“Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked . . .
I have seen a wicked, violent man spreading himself
like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
for the man of peace will have a posterity.
But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
the posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their strength in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in Him” (Ps 37.7, 35-40).

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