A Tale of Two Cultures

A Tale of Two Cultures

Sometimes Providence furnishes life lessons in unexpected ways. One of those for me was the juxtaposition and the timing of the death of one of my mentors, president emeritus of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, on Saturday — and the speech of one of my idols, Meryl Streep, at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony the next day.

Meryl Streep is one of the great actresses of our time. No debating it. From The Deer Hunter to Kramer vs Kramer to Sophie’s Choice to Iron Lady — give me a break, she’s an extraordinary entertainer. But like all celebrities who are paid inordinate amounts of money to entertain us, someone close to her probably should explain that she should stick to the item on her resume marked “Entertainer.” It’s what they do best. Proffering politics isn’t.


Her astoundingly tone-deaf speech at the Golden Globes represents Exhibit A showcasing the difference between a culture based on self-promotion and one based on self-donation.

Three small samples from her speech (comments by me in bold):
“Just to pick up on what (actor) Hugh Laurie said, you and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments of American society right now.”

Um, Meryl, I adore your talent — I do — but listen to yourself. You’re wearing a $18,000 gown; a sleek limousine will float you home to Malibu; your net worth is north of $65,000,000; people seek your autograph, signed photo, and opinions every day of the week. I know you were going for facetious here, but…

“So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

Hahahahha! I though she said we are going to need Hollywood celebs to safeguard the truth!

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It — it kind of broke my heart when I saw it.”

This is an allusion to the claim that Donald Trump did a mock impersonation of a handicapped reporter who wrote something negative about him (Trump). I have no idea where the truth lies on this, but for now, let it be said I don’t support the mocking of people based on things they can’t control, like physical looks. But have you seen the bazillion mocking images and impersonations liberals come up to mock Donald Trump’s looks? I’ll go out on a limb and I say I doubt these break Meryl’s dear heart.

As for her advocacy of the underprivileged and the disabled — I say, fantastic. But wasn’t a disabled teenager tortured on Facebook Live only days ago by four African-American adults, who forced him to say “F*** Trump, f*** white people,” and all manner of other vile things, while being gagged with tape, cut with a knife, and forced to shove his head into the toilet. Beyond terrifying.

Still waiting for Ms. Streep (whose ability to entertain I greatly admire) to weigh in. Oh, and Donald Trump won the election. Meryl et al in the room, you lost.

And then there was young Michael Scanlan. Fresh out of Harvard Law School back when that meant something beyond resume padding, he had the world by the tail. What made him pause before beginning a stellar career as a certified Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the U.S. Air Force, was a question God asked him quite directly one day: “Michael, will you give me your whole life?”

Scanlan broke up with his sweetheart and began looking for some path to priesthood that made sense, eventually zeroing in on an Order whose charism is humility, the Franciscan TORs. There is no way to summarize here his accomplishments and his influence around the world.

Let’s just say that by the time Father Michael (“Father Mike” to all) Scanlan stepped down as president of the University in 2000, his unconditional “yes” to God had doubled the school’s enrollment, and lit a fire of renewal in the Catholic Church and America and beyond. I credit so much of my own growth in faith (and reason) to this man.

For 18 years, he hosted a talk show on EWTN that I was privileged to co-produce. He published more than 16 books and even more booklets published in multiple languages. And he provided a model of the priesthood as servant leadership, and he embodied an ideal for Catholic higher education he embodied: dynamic orthodoxy.

Meryl and Mike. Representatives of two very different cultures and sets of priorities.

Closing thought. Are you bold enough to think God is not asking you the same basic question he asked young Mike Scanlan?



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