Christian Star Quest Part II

 Here’s part two of this blog post on Christianity and the culture of fame, stardom, and celebrity, quoted from Guinness’ excellent book, The Last Christian on Earth.  Part one is here.

“If consumer religion transforms congregations into clientele, their idolizing of celebrities produces a series of fateful switches in focus: from private identity to public image (devaluing inner life and character), from saints to stars (devaluing models of spiritual growth), from followers to fans (devaluing patterns of discipleship), from being gifted to glamorous (devaluing leadership and spiritual authority), and from wisdom, understanding, and experience to endorsements, personal glimpses, and slogans (devaluing faith).”

“Modern men and women do not live by bread alone, but by every catchword and revelation that comes from the lips and private lives of their heroes.  But since such fame is largely based on famousness, these celebrities are living tautologies and the emptiest of heroes.  Thus for ordinary people, the consumption of celebrities is like psychological fast food.  For Christians, it is not only non-nourishing but also a slow and deadly poison.  Those who live by the image die by it too.  And those who worship them are like them.”

The enemy of the church goes on to summarize this effective subversion and potential damage to Christianity with two main points, two main ways to hurt the church: 1) the passive acceptance of the masses, and 2) the allegiance of a ruling counter-elite.  “Christian reduplication of the current celebrity system” makes #2 an obvious way to achieve #1 – on this the enemies agree.

These are some penetrating critiques that are worth taking to heart.  This American celebrity culture is prevalent in large portions of Christianity today – not just in mainline denominations/institutions, but also in Reformed, Presbyterian, and Calvinistic circles.  Think of how books are hyped by Christian publishers, how Christian singers have fans, and how popular Christian speakers are announced and advertised.  I’m sure you can add to this list.   The remedies/remedy of this disease is the subject of another important discussion.  For now let me say that it is high time we purposefully start going against this unfortunate trend by resisting the culture of fame and cult of personality as they creep into our churches and Christian circles.

shane lems

5 thoughts on “Christian Star Quest Part II”

  1. If Tim Keller’s big thing was in revealing idols and he has become peoples’ idol, how fruitful has he been? He is popular because he has created his own brand. With such a unique trademark, does that mean there is a sense in which he is preaching himself?

    But publishers love this zeal for the fashionable because they’ll only be in business if they keep publishing. I hate to say it but, serving two masters perhaps?

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  2. Right. These are the types of questions we need to be wrestling over, Dante. Of course it also includes questioning ourselves and our own churches – do we add to the celebrity mindset? How can we lovingly address this huge problem in our lives, churches, and Christian circles?

    Thanks for the comments.

    shane

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  3. This is a really tricky issue. One reason is because the cult of personality even operates on the micro level. Little sects have their rock star preacher types as well as big sects do.

    At broader levesl where orthodoxy reigns, how do you criticize the widespread status of, say, Augustine, – to the extent that he was orthodox. Is it all bad being a genius and being recognized for it.

    Or, closer to home, how about Horton or VanHoozer. How should we relate to those guys? Is Horton not a genius? How should we relate to him given that?

    I do remember the unease I felt in my first month at WSCAL during Tuesday night beginning Greek when the whole place swarmed all over the chapel the night that R.C. Sproul made an appearance. It was kinda’ creepy.

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  4. Bruce – yep, it isn’t just “big time” fame status, but it happens in local and smaller circles.

    Also, I wouldn’t include old dead guys in this personality cult discussion. Of course it is wrong to elevate people from the past in an idolotrous way, but I’m thinking our discussion here has more to do with current Christian “superstars.” You can’t swoon over videos and tweets of dead theologians or go to thier church just to hear them preach.

    And closer to home, as you mentioned, we have the responsibility to do our best in avoiding the superstar attitude.

    Your illustration does sound creepy; speaking of creepy, book signings and autograph tables creep me out!

    shane

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