Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Person of the Year?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 06, 2010

Reading Time magazine’s annual Person of the Year issue is a good reminder that, when it comes to what makes the world tick, I just don’t get it. The Person of the Year for 2009 was Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The runners-up were, in order, General Stanley McChrystal, our military leader in the Afghan war; the Chinese Worker (a generic selection in praise of those who leave home to work in the huge factories that fuel the world’s economy); Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Speaker of the House; and Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

I wish I had never heard of Pelosi, and I’m amazed that I’ve actually heard of the other four. None of them—with the possible exception of McChrystal, if he can reduce the risks of terrorism worldwide—appear to be committed to any of the missions that I regard as critical. In other words, at least as far as I can tell from the Time write-ups, none of them is doing a damn thing to reverse the spiritual malaise which is steadily sending Western civilization to its grave. And Pelosi, whom Time describes as “the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history” who “wields her power more effectively than any other House Speaker in modern times” is deliberately doing her best to make things worse.

Don’t get me wrong. I admit to a long-standing prejudice which devalues material, social and emotional contributions to the social order (except when they’re important to me personally). I can be too focused on the spiritual (except when it comes to my own creature comforts). After all, not everyone is called to be a preacher or a scold. If Ben Bernanke can pull the right strings to lessen and reverse America’s economic depression without doing significant harm in another place or time, then that’s a good thing. I think the country’s willingness to let people garner the rewards of hard work, innovation and shrewd planning is ultimately far more important to widespread prosperity than anything the Fed can do, but then I don’t really know, do I?

And as I’ve already said, if General McChrystal can salvage the Afghan War, and if that war really does minimize terrorism while we get a handle on the other factors that tend to produce it, then I’m not going to pretend that I don’t care. I have no choice but to pass over Nancy Pelosi, and I do have grave doubts about the full range of human goods at stake when Chinese workers leave home to work in the factories that fuel the world, but if there are benefits that trickle down to the rest of us, I’m unlikely to refuse them. Finally, if Usain Bolt has lifted the spirits and the hopes of the Jamaican people, then I’m all for it. Of course, I have to marvel that people can have their spirits and hopes lifted so easily. I mean, let’s be real, it’s not as if the Washington Redskins had a good season or anything.

But there isn’t much spiritual vision in Time, so the selections must inevitably disappoint those of us who understand that the greatest challenges we face are spiritual. Or maybe the selections simply must demonstrate how far from “getting it” I will inevitably remain. One wonders which, if any, of these persons of the year spend significant time in prayer. One wonders if they have any idea at all of the ends for which we were created, of the ultimate goals of human existence. One wonders if they attempt to discern God’s will in the decisions they make, or if they keep the Last Things in mind. Sadly, one wonders in vain, because such things don’t make any difference to Time’s selection process. And that, ultimately, is why I just don’t get it.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: montre5473 - Jan. 09, 2010 2:16 AM ET USA

    It's a toss up as to who has wreaked more havoc on the country...Bernanke or Pelosi. Since the Fed is the cause of all of our financial woes I guess I'll have to go with Bernanke. Abolish the Fed; it is unconstitutional.

  • Posted by: bsp1022 - Jan. 08, 2010 7:48 PM ET USA

    If you need a Man of the Year, call your father who changed his life in 1,000 ways you never heard about so you could be YOU.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 06, 2010 9:09 PM ET USA

    Nancy Pelosi is indeed one of the most influential, if not the most, of Speakers in US history. The House, as we speak of it, is composed of over 400 representatives which represent a cross section of US constituents. And all of them, as we say in PR, act in politics like male crabs in a cage, that is, they always climb over one another in order to be in the top position. To be able to lead that kind of organization in the middle of the worst depression since the 30's is by itself an incredible achievement

  • Posted by: sparch - Jan. 06, 2010 2:36 PM ET USA

    The only thing you shouldn't get is your copies of Time Magazine. (You can throw in Newsweek as well). I find it difficult to glean anything useful or significant from those yellow rags. Your web site provides the material that fills much of the holes in my "news" reading. Thanks