Ted Kennedy and Living up to Expectations

Ted Kennedy. The “theology of glory” is at work in the pursuit to idealize the […]

Kate Norris / 9.2.09

Ted Kennedy. The “theology of glory” is at work in the pursuit to idealize the Kennedy family, to make them into the beautiful, successful, American dream for which we all are to strive. This is a pressure the late Senator Ted Kennedy publicly contended with everyday. His faults with women and alcohol were persistent; his losses, the assassination of his two brothers to say the least, were public; his failure to win the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination was a disappointment to family and political expectations alike. In the Time article, “More than Myth,” David Von Drehle writes, “While the Senator [Ted] grew fat and seemed to fall apart, his brothers remained ageless and timeless, slim, breeze-kissed. If he was reality, then we wanted no part of it.” Weakness, death, and failure—can anything good come from this? Not according to the theology of glory.

The theology of glory is at work in the Christian life too; it’s the pressure to lead a beautiful, successful, loving, joyful, bright shining Christian life in the darkness of a depraved world. And I want to live up to it all! But the reality is that, like Ted Kennedy, I keep living in reality, growing older with all my insecurities and mistakes even after that eternally wonderful day when Jesus Christ claimed me as his own.

At the same time justified and a sinner. This the Christian life: a life spent receiving grace in our time of need from a Savior who did have victory over our weakness, death, and failure.

I’m sure Ted Kennedy would have liked to serve out of his victory (as President) rather than his failure (as Senator) and out of his strengths (as lawmaker) than out of his weaknesses (as a human Kennedy). I know I would. Yet it was his service in light of weaknesses that he inspired so many. I see a parallel with the Christian life. I pray he knew the acceptance and freedom St. Paul did: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

I see the press recognizing this upside-down work of grace in the interviews and eulogies about the late Senator. I leave with this quote from Richard Lacayo’s, “Ted” in Time: “On the weekend of his Inauguration in 1961, Jack Kennedy gave Ted, the last born of the Kennedy siblings, an engraved cigarette box. It read, ‘And the last shall be first.’ That was almost 50 years ago. Neither of them knew then in just what ways that prophecy might turn out to be true. We do.”

But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9).