Bill Murchison

While the race to the moral bottom gathers speeds in places like Anthony Weiner campaign headquarters, 3 million Brazilians gather at the beach to hear the new pope suggest an alternative path. Hmmm. Does Pope Francis know something New York's most revealing ex-congressman doesn't?

Besides how to behave himself on Facebook? That's one likely response. The matter, nevertheless, goes deeper. Before the world had social media, it hosted every species of behavior today; it just didn't have to live with the dark suspicion that some of the worst species were spreading. A "culture" -- the term understood as meaning the sea we live in and everything in it -- privileges or prohibits particular kinds of human activity. It indulges in broad, and often specific, definitions of good, bad and who-cares.

Anthony Weiner has been a beneficiary of the modern who-cares culture, setting his own standards, doing his own thing. He gets to do so -- as he still seems to think -- on account of the seeming indifference with which many formerly disallowed behaviors nowadays meet. Whatever you want to do is, a lot of the time, OK with a culture long on permissive shrugs, extremely short on shock.

This makes Brazilian reaction to the new pope so ... would "odd" be the word? Odd, because why would 3 million people show up on a Sunday to hear a 76-year-old man urge that they turn in a direction other than the one that leads to Weiner headquarters (even if the sermon didn't make the point that explicitly)? "I am asking you," said the pope, "to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility."

This, from the head of the largest branch of an institution widely believed to be headed for the junkyard, 2,000 years after its founding; an institution plagued by shrinking numbers, vexed by scandals, pronounced marginal by the intelligentsia on account of its literally incredible ideas and backwards modes of thought. And 3 million turn out to hear such a man!

Now that -- as I say -- is odd. Unless the intelligentsia and, of course the media, who love to tout the intelligentsia's ideas, should be wrong in their premises as to what makes sense and what doesn't.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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