“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.