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We should set higher standards
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New York congressman Anthony Weiner insists on running for office despite a history of tweeting his private parts, and former governor Eliot Spitzer is eager for political comeback as New York City comptroller, despite a prostitution scandal that ended his tenure upstate. Politicians are neither princes nor role models. But, really, couldn't someone be a role model?
Role models exist, of course, but don't always make news as much as people in the throes of scandal. Politicians don't necessarily make pleas for forgiveness and redemption so much as they do for tolerance.
So we raise kids to not even know they can have better, that they should demand better. And so we wind up with a Glamour magazine poll determining that women consider John F. Kennedy "The Sexiest Man (Not) Alive." Given what we know about him in the light of history, you'd think we'd want better.
Is it any surprise that if we'd settle for infidelity, we've lost sight of what we owe one another?
We feel good about ourselves if we contribute to the latest disaster relief fund or sign petitions that we pretend can work miracles. But it is in civil society where our common humanity is realized.
As Americans were taking a long Independence Day weekend, Lumen Fidei, an encyclical drafted by Pope Benedict XVI and issued by Pope Francis, was released. In it, faith is described as that which illuminates all of life. "Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith." The faithful demonstrate an "openness" to an "offer of primordial love," in which "their lives are enlarged and expanded."
We don't all believe the same things about the meaning of our lives. But when even those who believe in God, who believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, have succumbed to believing that their faith is but "a beautiful story" or "a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life," sooner or later, we're all going to find ourselves settling.
All is not lost, however. I take some hope in the cover of the current Italian edition of Vanity Fair. Pope Francis is actually the cover story, dubbed Man of the Year. There's something about him that is drawing people in. May it not be a cult of personality but a personal and cultural challenge. He happens to believe that God's love is "tangible" and "powerful," and "really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ's passion, death and resurrection," as Lumen Fidei puts it. Italian magazine editors may have found us some common ground for cultural renewal. Believe it or not, people who are truly called by that supernatural reality during the course of our temporal interactions aren't all that bad to have around.
It might just make a difference in the neighborhood, schools, politics, the arts, and the lives of the most forgotten and yours and mine. They might not settle, and challenge us to expect more for and of ourselves, too.
Kathryn Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online. She can be contacted at