The Religion of Celebrity May 21, 2012Posted by #4 in Everything but the kitchen sink, It's called Sin.
Tags: Beatles, Brad Pitt, Celebrity, celebrity deaths, Facebook, George Clooney, Jesus, John Lennon, Religion, Shirley Maclaine, Steve Guttenberg
I, like millions of others, have a Facebook account. I use it primarily to keep up-to-date with family; photos, events and such. One family member recently posted a question about using his talent for personal growth and how it applies to achieving “greatness” with your talent. This seems to be, at least in today’s culture, the dominant drive of people: How to achieve greatness. Of course this world measures greatness by celebrity.
Take our own President for instance. In his three plus years in office he has managed to drive our economy to points of no return: a state of indebtedness and deficits that, literally, will not be overcome or reversed (by my humble estimate) by at least the next 10 generations. Yet in the polls the country is still divided almost right down the middle and he is running neck and neck with Romney. Obviously there are a great many people who are still in his corner even as the economy and the greatness of this country crumbles down around them.
Because of his celebrity.
He is the first “black” president, of this country. I put black in quotations because he is, after all, of mixed race, his mother being white. But he is a huge celebrity. He hobnobs with the elite of this country and rakes in millions of campaign dollars while doing it. He has managed to achieve celebrity of enormous proportions despite having a socialistic world view that is diametrically opposed to the founding principles of this country. and come election day, millions will still vote for him while ignoring his policies that are rapidly removing their freedoms. All because of celebrity.
The power of celebrity is not unnoticed. John Lennon of the Beatles was quoted as saying this: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” Whether Lennon meant the statement as a slam against religion and really did believe that he and his band-mates were more popular than Christ or he was simply stating something “off the cuff”, so to speak, about what he had seen with the bands popularity and it’s effect on fans is irrelevant, because he was right about the power of celebrity. He had first hand knowledge of fanatical behavior towards him and the Beatles. I imagine (ha ha -no John Lennon pun intended) this realization was both frightening and exhilarating to him.
People have always known that a person with enough celebrity is treated differently than everyone else. Just ask any ordinary citizen who’s life was disrupted because a celebrity came to town, or into the same room, or into the same hospital and they will tell how they were shoved aside or were asked to leave or had to make other arrangements so that their presence would not interfere with the celebrities. The internet is filled with such stories and accounts. I’ve heard them tell their tales on the radio, about not even being able to go to their own homes because streets were blocked off to preserve the precious celebrity.
Steve Guttenberg recently made some comments about the power of celebrity. You can read them here. He said “Listen, I’m a nobody. I’m sure if George Clooney was there she’d have had a heart attack but the great thing about being famous is it’s a new religion (emphasis mine). Jesus is not the big name anymore. The big names are Brad and Angelina. That’s just the way it is. If we walked Jesus, Brad Pitt and George Clooney down Fifth Avenue, I think Clooney and Pitt would get a lot more attention.”
And there you have it. Someone was finally honest enough to call it for what it is: a religion. It can be no other thing. It goes so far beyond mere curiosity and entertainment that no serious person can call celebrity anything but a religion. People plaster their walls with celebrity images, spend hard earned money to see concerts and movies and events, they alter their lives to be able to see a celebrity and follow them. Every facet of a celebrities life is monitored, recorded and broadcast to the world. Brad and Angelina routinely garner bigger headlines than world events. This phenomenon is in actuality a form or worship. It is no different than someone in a third world country bowing and sacrificing to a wooden or stone idol. Entire lifestyles are supported by following and recording celebrities.
The power of this religion isn’t exclusive to movie stars only. Musicians have it; athletes have it; politicians have it; TV stars have it; news anchors have it; authors have it and the über-wealthy have it. Celebrity encompasses anyone who lives their life in the spotlight. The reality show explosion can be attributed to nothing more than ordinary, untalented people clamoring for the spotlight and fame. There are now cable shows and network shows on the most ridiculous subjects, all in the name of celebrity.
Now I’m not knocking a persons chance at success with their business because the vehicle they used was a reality show – I’m knocking the motive behind it: that of achieving, what my relative on Facebook called, “greatness”. This intense desire for material wealth and fame, which is really nothing more than a cry for significance. People don’t want to remain unknown and forgotten. The lure of celebrity is strong and usually only those grounded in the Word of God, The Bible, can resist the temptation. I confess that I have even thought about it. It was one of the primary reasons I wanted to be a novelist. I wanted my writing to matter; to be significant; knowing full well that if I succeeded the benefits of celebrity were not far away. Thankfully I have managed to resist so far. I have given up on penning a novel even though the ideas won’t leave my head. Because after all – celebrity is dangerous.
Entire websites are devoted to the fallen celebrities. Some, I grant you, left this world due to unfortunate accidents, just like most people. But the truth of the matter is the vast majority of celebrity deaths can be attributed to drugs, alcohol and suicide. The lure of celebrity is strong but the payoff is deadly. Mankind was never intended to be worshiped and the capacity for this was not included in our creation, therefore people simply cannot handle it. They look for avenues of escape but unfortunately what is often chosen turns out to lead to their demise. Shirley Maclaine is wrong. We are not gods.
Celebrity can also be deadly to the devotee. Many have committed suicide and not a few are living their lives behind bars because of stalking and invasion; breaking into celebrity homes. The whole cycle of this religion has deadly consequences at every turn. Deadly in this life, but what about the next?
The Bible is clear on this subject. Idol worship is hated by God and punishable by death. Those who lived before Christ experienced this first hand as God’s anger towards their idolatry wiped them out. Just read the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings, and Ezra for clues as to how God dealt with people lost in the worship of false gods. But things are no different today. The world of celebrity is the contemporary world of idol worship; false gods. Worshiping lifeless stone and wood is no different than worship of a celebrity. It is the ultimate act of rebellion against our Creator and His plans for the people of this earth. He calls it sin.
So what are the benefits of the religion of celebrity? They must be wonderful for people to jeopardize their eternal destiny by practicing a false religion. Well, there is the money. Granted everyone needs it, but is it still enough to risk Hell for? Most people seem to think it is while conveniently forgetting about eternal punishment. What about fame? There are a lot of people trying really hard to be famous. but does it last? Only in the books of this world and that is pretty much relative; fame can quickly turn to infamy. Power? Yes, celebrity can give a person power; the power to influence, power to gain personally, power over others and the power to increase fame. But is power all it’s really cracked up to be? Not really, after all, just like money, when a person dies they can’t take it with them. Power, like our lives is only fleeting and never permanent. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.”
Jesus himself told what the benefits of worldly power and celebrity were. In Matthew 6, talking about those who performed for the attention of others, he said “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Basically meaning the attention they were receiving at that very moment was the only reward they were ever going to get. Eternally their reward is separation from God in the lake of fire described in Revelation. Unfortunate how many refuse to acknowledge the words of Jesus. They spend all their time taunting one another with “what would Jesus do” all the while they ignore what Jesus did. for them.
Ultimately the quest for significance only leads a person away from God. The goals of wealth and fame and business success become gods to be worshiped just as readily as those golden statues in the far east. It is all very pointless and tragic because those goals, just like the lifeless golden statues, can do nothing to improve a persons life on this earth. I say this knowing full well the arguments that will be launched saying how money would definitely improve someones life and how many people can handle fame. The reality is that your time on this earth is, as King David said in Psalms, a breath, compared to eternity. No matter how much wealth and fame and power are achieved, that reward can never compensate for the eternal punishment waiting for them at the Great White Throne of Christ’s judgement on this earth. It simply isn’t worth it.
I find it ironic that the greatest (in my opinion) words regarding the dangers of celebrity and the religion it has become were penned over two thousands years ago by one of those “thick and ordinary” disciples of Jesus that John Lennon scorned. I will finish this post with the words of the Apostle John.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. and this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. but anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2: 15-17 NLT