Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Pretty People

Near the end of their lives, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson wrote letters, discussing many things as they rekindled their friendship. The close friends had been separated by politics for almost 25 years, but as the ice of their estrangement melted away the two patriots had much to say about the culture of the early 1800's. As the conversation turned to the aristocracy, or as we would say "The Pretty People", Adams wrote:
The five Pillars of Aristocracy are Beauty, Wealth, Birth, Genius and Virtues. Any one of the three first, can at any time, over bear any one or both of the two last.
His point was simple. If you are good-looking, rich or a part of a "good" family then you are set with The Pretty People. As I read that quote, I was taken with the fact that not much has changed in 200 years.

The Pretty People today are the ones who regularly make People magazine and the like. You know. . . celebrities. They are adored from afar and from closer distances as well. Impressionable young girls long to be like Paris Hilton (hard as that is for me to believe) and many long to have the power of Donald Trump. Why are these people celebrated? Beauty, wealth and birth. The whole issue of genius and virtue is swept away when one of the Big Three are present. Hilton has proven her lack of genius and virtue. Donald Trump certainly lacks virtue (don't we all at times?) but isn't he pretty smart to get that rich? Don't forget that Mr. Trump has seen the inside of bankruptcy court a couple of times. Let's face it - the reason Donald Trump is popular is because he is rich. The reason Paris Hilton is popular is because she's physically beautiful. Beauty and money are the Trump cards (pun intended).

Last weekend, Trump was married for the third time. His bride wore a wedding dress that cost more than my house, not including the jewelry. The Idol of Materialism did some good business that day. How people longed so much to be there! How they wanted to live like that! The coverage of that wedding fed the monster. Television feeds that same monster. And gives it steroids.

Did you ever see the reality show, Average Joe, which featured a woman trying to choose a possible husband from a group of 20 guys who were on break when the Beauty Fairy came calling? I didn't see much of that, but from what I saw the producers eventually brought in the Pretty People to make the woman choose between beauty and, well, the average Joe. Guess which she picked. That's right.

Let's not forget what Adams referred to as "Birth" or being a part of a preferred family. The daughter of O. J. Simpson got into trouble with the law a week back and it hit the newspapers. Now if she was the daughter of a longshoreman I doubt that Entertainment Tonight would have sent a camera crew. Some people are popular because of their family connections. Even if Paris Hilton was as ugly as my feet, she would still get attention because of her family's hotel chain.

While the world looks for beauty, money and family connections, God always seems to care about character - or "Virtues" as Adams wrote. Even brains aren't the big concern for our Creator. When the prophet Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons as the new king of Israel, he fell for the fallacy that The Pretty People are the best. Samuel assumed the oldest and best looking was the man for the job. He sounded almost despondent when he asked Jesse if there were any more sons around. And Jesse had all but forgotten about the kid watching the sheep, but David was the one God wanted. And He told Samuel that while man looked at the outside of a person, He looked at the heart. Or in Adams' terms, Beauty, Wealth and Birth mean nothing if there is no Virtue.

In a culture where The Pretty People are worshiped, God still looks past the exterior.

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