Posts Tagged ‘celebrity’
Challies calls it “humble celebrity” but I think it’s more anti-celebrity:
Doug was working for Operation Mobilization and was stationed in London during their big annual conference. He was assigned to the clean-up crew. One night at around 12:30 AM he was sweeping the steps at the conference center when an older gentleman approached him and asked if this was where the conference was being held. Doug said that it was, but that just about everyone had already gone to bed. This man was dressed very simply and had just a small bag with him. He said that he was attending the conference. Doug replied he would try to find him a place to sleep and led him to a room where about 50 people were bunked down on the floor. The older gentleman had nothing to sleep on, so Doug laid down some padding and a blanket and offered a towel for a pillow. The man said that would be just fine and that he appreciated it very much.
Read it all for a lesson.
Tim Challies with some insightful comments on the way celebrity works, especially among Christians.
Who are these narcissistic, self-expansive celebrities “leaders?” You’ll know them by how they set up mini-empires around themselves (with dot coms, conferences, etc.) and (and this is an important “and”) how they respond to criticism and challenge. In an age of celebrity Christianity, narcissistic leaders are running wild and free while being supported by others who care more about their topical content than their narcissistic affects on others.
Why do think [sic] narcissistic leaders are so appealing to young conservative Protestants in the 20s and 30s?
Read the whole insightful piece (which could do with a touch of editing) here.
I met a “celebrity” pastor at T4G yesterday.
Find out what happened next, and what David thinks about the phenomenon, at HeadHeartHand.
The other day someone sent me this quote from William G. T. Shedd:
It is a dark day for a church and it betokens great spiritual decline when the people cease to be content with thoughtful, devout, and scriptural teaching, and clamor for celebrated preachers. The demand will create the supply, and the church will be filled with declaimers and ecclesiastical charlatans. There will be no truly great men produced; and what is far worse no truly good men.
Notice Shedd’s thoughtfulness. Celebrated preachers are not in themselves the problem; the issue is when we are not satisfied with anything else, when the messenger is elevated above the message. It creates a climate of mere performance in which the church suffers immeasurably.
I was pleasantly surprised and genuinely stimulated by this interview. Paxo is on good form, and in Russell Brand he has an interviewee who, rather than revealing his hidden shallows, actually manages to uncover depths that I imagine many of us might never have imagined he has.
Now, to be sure, Mr Brand is deconstructing fame and celebrity and consumerism from a humanistic viewpoint, but it’s still a pretty brutal and intelligent desconstruction. It gets the more interesting toward the end when Mr Paxman begins to ask about sustaining his brightness, and Brand speaks of death, meaning, and substance in life. As this section develops, and Brand attests that fame is nothing but “ashes in my mouth,” I was powerfully reminded of Augustine’s dictum, that God has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in him. How I would love to speak to Mr Brand and explain the good news to him! If God were pleased to save him, and take that insight, that passion, that intelligence, and sanctify it, we might have an Augustine for the 21st century. Now wouldn’t that be interesting?
Disclaimer: it is a pretty blunt interview at times, and some will find it crude at points, as they discuss some of Brand’s better-known misdemeanours, and how they are like and unlike other crudities and cruelties. I should also point out that I am not seeking to excuse the substance of Brand’s public persona and proclamations.
John Piper has written on the difference between hero worship and holy emulation. Kevin DeYoung has followed it up with some sane and balanced thoughts on evangelical superstardom. I do not believe I need to make plain that these are not problems I am dealing with myself.
This story from the BBC laments the shift in reportage away from crime and other such news stories toward ‘lifestyle journalism’ – celebrity tittle-tattle and scuttlebutt. Quite apart from the fact that the story itself could be seen as an illustration of the problem, it is worth pondering whether or not the same problem afflicts the church.
How many Christians avidly follow the life, sermons and writings of their latest celebrity preacher? How much has that invaded the sphere of the significant? Is the blogosphere (perhaps especially) more taken up with religious gossip than with religious substance? Are we less concerned with what happens that with what so-and-so has done, or thinks about what has happened?
Also from the BBC, an array of quite miserable ‘news’ about religion in general, seen through the lens of the world: Sharia banking on the up, bishops and cardinals, and getting de-baptised when you reject ‘Christianity.’
Browsing the BBC website, I happened upon the following two articles one after the other.
The first is by Clive James, a sort of pre-view review of The Baader Meinhof Complex. Discussing what he calls ‘terror chic’, James has some helpful insights into the apparent lustre and real foulness of the kind of living and killing that characterises terrorists, reminding us that we – the onlookers – are not the glamorous terrorists, nor even the glamorous victims. We are the bit players, the unnamed characters who just get in the way of the devastating violence. One point he makes is that such films remove the people and events from the complex historical context that explains them, or at least situates them. I would argue that they also tend to airbrush any moral context that ought to situate such actions. And so we are left with ‘terror chic’ a glamorised violence of glamorously violent people that bypasses the real and awful cost of such atrocity. James finishes, “And now, let’s talk about Mumbai.”
The next article I read did just that. Paul Cornish, the chairman of Chatham House‘s International Security Programme, addresses the age of celebrity terrorism. He suggests that the terrorists in Mumbai embraced the “propaganda of the deed” – a strategy for political change in which the message or cause is contained within, and expressed by the violent act – but bypassed the propaganda. More accurately, they may have expected the world’s media to backfill the propaganda for them. In what may have been the ultimate existential act, they simply did what they did, and will allow others to impute meaning and purpose to their murderous deeds. The audience concocts a rationale on behalf of “casually self-radicalised, sociopathic individuals” with a grudge, a cause, and a handful of weapons. He ends with a chilling invitation to “D-list malcontents”: “No matter how corrupt your moral sense, how contorted your view of the world, how vapid and inarticulate your ideas, how talentless you are and how exaggerated your grievance, an obsessive audience will watch your every move and turn you into what you most want to be, just before your death.”
I could not help but be struck by the overlap between these events. Will films be made in 40 years time in which the Mumbai terrorists are not only explained by a media desperate to fill our screens with images of devastation, but glamorised by a media without moral sense, perpetuating the kind of attention that breeds new terrorists drawn from the ranks of the D-list malcontents?
It is a miserable scenario. What can I hope for as a Christian? My death, whatever its details and tone, may go unnoticed by every media outlet in the world at that time, but it will be taken note of by my heavenly Father, however it is brought about: “”Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10.29-31). My life, until my death, should not be the pursuit of glamour and meaning. It’s meaning is supplied by the purpose I have as a creature and child of God, to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Its glory is the glory that follows the suffering of the man who walks in the footsteps of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.