46 I CHRONICLESna time, the triumph of socialism makesntruth and meaning as publicly visible asna May Day parade or an editorial innPravda.nJesus similarly refused to put everythingnon public display. He warned Hisndisciples not to “cast pearls beforenswine” while repeatedly urging thosenHe healed not to publicize what Henhad done for them; He cautioned Hisnapostles not to tell others of His identitynas the Christ nor to disclose thenmiracle of the Transfiguration untilnafter His Resurrection. Jesus sharednHis sublimest truths orally amid a selectngroup, allowing merely mortal —nalbeit divinely inspired — disciples tonwrite the public record.nWhatever has changed over the millennia,nthis much has remained constant:nthose with the most to share willndo so discriminately and discreetly.nThis is not cowardice, although it isntrue that a reluctance to disclose unpopularnprinciples often springs fromnnothing but expedience. Yet men betraynthe sacred and the profound byndisplaying them too casually, allowingnthem to be ridiculed, commercialized,nand misappropriated. “Human kind /nCannot bear very much reality,” asnEliot observed. Like sensitive photographicnfilm, some truths can be ruinednby overexposure. When bishopsnand philosophers elbow one anotherntrying to get in front of the camerasnand microphones, we may take theirnlack of contemplative reserve or spiritualnrestraint as evidence that their viewsnare probably not worth hearing. Evenndiscounting the recent PTL scandal, itnis hard to give much credibility tonwealthy pastors who uncritically embracentelevision as a fit medium forngospel ministry.nYet religion may suffer worse harmnfrom clerics who crave an interview onnthe evening news than from those whonturn their sermons into television spectacles.nAs clergymen devote ever morenattention to promoting political agendasnof the sort that win media attention,nreligion loses the doctrinal convictionnand spiritual reflection thatnshould define its innerness and integrity.nPartly because many clerics havenforgotten the New Testament injunctionnagainst public displays of charitynand piety, moral principle in the mainlinenchurches is rapidly dissolving intonhistrionics. Things might be better ifnfewer religious leaders took their credentialsnfrom Ivy League schools,nwhere ethics has become largely anmatter of politically correct posturing.nThe intellectual historian James Billingtonnrecently observed that a disturbingndisparity is appearing on thennation’s campuses, as professors leadnidealistic political crusades (into thenheadlines) yet tolerate “complete selfindulgencenon immediate, personal issues.”nHis point was forcefully illustratednnot long ago when organizers of anspecial antiapartheid fast at BrownnUniversity complained that all of thenmedia attention had been diverted toncovering the break-up of a co-ed prostitutionnring.nIn morals and religion. ModernnAmerica is trading the innerness ofnPlatonic re-cognition for the glamournof public recognition, with incalculablenloss in the exchange. Western culturenhas repeatedly struggled to keep thenantinomian impulse in check, yet withoutnutterly snuffing out the belief thatntruth and salvation do finally come tonman from God and not from humannsociety. But once our cultural elitencould no longer discern the imago deinin the individual, all nonscientificntruths came to seem historically contingentnand socially mediated. Surelynnothing could be learned through personalnprayer and fasting or listening forn”the still small voice” of the HolynSpirit. No longer a divine gift, nonempiricalntruth depends for its very existencenupon the unceasing, strenuous,nand graceless efforts of “consciousnessraisers”nwho can win the public ear. Itnis no wonder if George Garrett concludesnthat publicity is “all the truth wenhave left.” Or as the novelist andntheorist of language Umberto Eco putsnit: “Even prophets have to be sociallynaccepted in order to be right; if notnthey are wrong.”nHolding the keys to public attention,nmedia celebrities and nationalnjournalists become insufferably arrogant.nTwo and a half centuries ago,nwhen the cult of publicity was justnbeginning, even Alexander Pope succumbednto a moment of overweeningnpride in the power the public pressngave him: “Yes, I am proud; I must benproud to see / Men not afraid of Godnafraid of me.”nIn a society of rootless individualsnclamoring to establish the reality ofnnntheir lives by having them publicized,nnothing tethers the prying irreverencenof the journalist or the towering presumptionnof celebrities. While corporations,nchurches, and universitiesnspend huge sums to hold the attentionnof the media elite, if only for a moment,nthe rigorous sciences and disciplinednarts decline. A distressing numbernof professors, artists, athletes, andnbusinessmen can now scarcely act at allnwithout the stimulus of public attention.nAlasdair Maclntyre has justlynwarned of the hollowing out of modernnarts, sciences, and games, as thencultural emphasis shifts from the satisfactionsn”internal” to their practice, tonexternal recognition and rewards.nWith every election, the passion fornpublicity distorts American political lifenmore. It is not just that a candidate’snpolitical fortunes are increasinglynshaped by how much air time he cannafford and how good he looks onncamera (although that is part of thenproblem). Even more troubling is thenway in which movie stars, televisionnpersonalities, and glib journalists nownexert the kind of political influencenonce reserved for military heroes, seniornstatesmen, industrial giants, andnaccomplished scholars. For no othernreason than his part in M*A*S*H,nMike Farrell now receives a more respectfulnhearing on many campuses fornhis views on American foreign policynthan Jeane Kirkpatrick can find fornhers. Just as incredible was the successfulnmedia assault that Gregory Peck lednagainst the Supreme Court nominationnof Robert Bork. A recent article innThe New Republic reported that forncurrent Democratic presidential aspirants,nwinning Hollywood’s approvalnmay be more important than winningnIowa’s or Michigan’s. We rejectednmonarchy for this?nPredictably, the aristocracy of anpublicity-driven culture will preachnthose doctrines which flatter the largestnnumber of people in the potentialnviewing audience, fostering a naivenfaith in human equality at the expensenof a sound respect for individuals exceptionallyngifted in talent, wisdom, orncreative vision. Few can travel thendifficult path to genius and accomplishment,nbut Andy Warhol spoke fornthe media age when he suggested thatneveryone deserved to be a celebrity fornat least 15 minutes. The media flattern