Although they are referred to simply by their first names, everyone knows who they are—Oprah, LeBron, Angelina, Bono, Beyonce, Tiger, Arnold (said with an accent), and many others. The world of technology has created a new religion of celebrity, and the worship is extensive.
I am certainly excited to spot such people in New York or LA; it’s fun to recognize someone seen on the big or little screen. So what’s wrong with that?
This quote from James C. Howell’s book Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs made me think:
In this narcissistic, self-pleasing culture, we welcome celebrities because we lack imagination and courage. Traditional heroes make demands on us, but celebrities make no moral claim on us. Glittering stars in our culture merely feed our narcissism, our love of self, our addiction to everything our society finds pleasurable. No one ever asks how our constant exposure to the rich and famous is supposed to make us good or wise or faithful. Even if we are trying to live faithful lives, our minds are always being reshaped, just a little, into the image of what surrounds us. But heroes—saints—stretch our imaginations and stand as imperatives, calling, wooing us into a higher, holier, life.
Ouch! Never have I considered myself a celebrity follower because I am not impressed with their lifestyles or character. My exposure to them isn’t a 10, but I am on the scale. I am captivated by their homes, clothing, and beauty (unless their skin looks weirdly and artificially stretched).
Such interest may numb me to God’s best. When I notice their clothes, I feel less guilty about enlarging my own wardrobe. Upon seeing images of their homes, I feel entitled to a more luxurious place to live. When they are pictured enjoying the world, I yearn for trips to exotic destinations. Such things slowly immunize me to God’s call to unselfishness, sacrifice, and love.
Christian heroes aren’t perfect, but they do desire to become like Jesus, focusing on his kingdom, not this world. Rather than acclaim, they seek God’s approval. We can’t identify them by their number of followers, because many Christian celebrities live just like those in the world. Instead, we recognize them by their character: selflessness, love, generosity, grace, and courage. A Christ-like life convicts me to give more, live with less, and sacrifice my own agenda to serve God.
Let’s choose to fill our minds with less celebrity and more heroes. Let’s quit focusing on people whose lives don’t make us better. Instead, let’s identify saints whose lifestyles call us to Christlikeness and allow their influence to draw us to worship God alone.
Flickr image courtesy of cukuskumir