Ben Stein knows his celebrities. In fact, the economist, actor, game show host, and writer, whom I am happy to number among my friends, knows so many celebrities that the website E! Online asked him to write a regular column about his encounters with the rich and famous. Stein wrote that column, titled "Monday Night at Morton's," for nearly eight years. But he's not writing it anymore. In his last installment, Stein explained, "Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole [in the dirt] on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein. . . . A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him. A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day," writes Stein, "is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordinance. . . . He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded." Hearing about "real stars" like these did something to Stein's sense of priorities. As he put it, "I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject." Stein understands that the most valuable work he has ever done was being a good husband and father and caring for his ailing parents. "I came to realize," he writes, "that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path." Amen. I thought about Stein's column in light of the third anniversary of the vicious terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That day we saw the kind of heroism Stein celebrates. There were firemen who, as others rushed out of the World Trade Center towers, rushed in. We saw police on the scene keeping order, risking their lives. There were the passengers of United Flight 93 who died fighting back, thus preventing the plane from crashing into the White House or Congress. We saw the heroism of doctors, nurses, EMTs, construction workers, ministers, and blood donors who rushed to help. We learned something about heroism that day, but the passage of time since has taken the edge off the lesson. We again seem to care more about who's at Morton's, or who the latest heartthrob is, or our matinee idols than about our troops trying to keep peace in the swirl of Middle Eastern violence. I agree with Stein. It's high time we started to recognize who the "real stars" are. And this sobering anniversary is an opportunity to do just that. For further reading and information: Ben Stein, "How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?E! Online, 20 December 2003. Ben Stein, "The Real Stars," CBS News commentary, 4 July 2004. (Reprinted at Stein's website.) Mark Steyn, "Dems play second fiddle to celebrity egos," Chicago Sun-Times, 22 August 2004. Peter Applebome, "A Lasting Gift, From a Terrific Club That Nobody Wanted to Join," New York Times, 5 September 2004. (Free registration required.) Thanks to Christianity Today's Weblog for the link. See also, Christina Kristofic, "Churches to honor emergency workers at 9/11 memorial service," Evening Sun, 6 September 2004. William Kristol, "'The Unmentionable Odor of Death,'Weekly Standard, 9 September 2004. (From the September 9, 2004, Financial Times.) Jim Tonkowich, "Heroism Rediscovered," BreakPoint WorldView, September 2002. Jim Tonkowich, "Ten Things We Should Have Learned Since September 11, 2001," Christianity Today, 10 September 2002. (Reprinted on BreakPoint Online.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 031111, "The Promise of Our Country: Making Patriots." BreakPoint Commentary No. 030911, "Terrorism, War, and Evil: Reflections on September 11." BreakPoint Commentary No. 020911, "Gratitude, Duty and Hope: Thoughts on September 11." (Free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 020910, "Rediscovering Heroes: Greatness among Us." (Free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 040531, "A Soldier's Valor: Helping and Healing in Iraq." Tim Keller, "Questions on Everyone's Mind," Westminster Theological Seminary, 14 September 2001. The "9/11 Worldview Resource Kit" includes the book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?: Understanding the Differences between Christianity and Islam by Wilberforce Forum Board of Reference member Dr. Timothy George and When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson, a booklet that helps Christians gain a biblical worldview understanding of the events of the day. It also includes a "BreakPoint This Week" CD including two interviews with Charles Colson, who reflects on the impact and implications of the events of September 11 on American society and the world. To order, call 1-877-322-5527.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary