Christians working in Celebrity Culture
Former student president Elyse Mackinnon continues her reflections on Christian involvement in Celebrity Culture.
As I write about Celebrity Culture, I feel like I tend to focus of the negative side of it, which really doesn’t help us as Christians learn how to deal with this. Transformation does happen, and I would like to argue that the ripple effect is already in motion.
Today, there are many examples of Christian working within celebrity culture, which would relate to Niebuhr’s idea of ‘Christ the Transformer of Culture’. There is a change in direction within the United States of America in particular, and I believe the Church in the UK could learn from this. When Kanye West and Kim Kardashian tied the knot, it became one of the most talked-about celebrity weddings to have ever happened. However, it was not the dress or guests who received the most attention but the pastor who married them: Rich Wilkerson Jr. Wilkerson is working right at the heart of the celebrity culture and with the celebrities themselves. He offers a place where everyone is welcome which links pop culture to the church (Swenson, 2014). Wilkerson states:
“I think for a long time, the church ran from culture,” he explains. “I want to run to culture, to engage culture. Do I agree with everything in culture? Absolutely not. But my whole message is you can’t really change something you’re not a part of.”
Therefore it is very clear: if Christians want to change culture, they must become involved within it. Christians may want to run away from the idea of church mirroring culture but Wilkerson is doing the opposite by signing up to a Reality TV show, something that Wilkerson says ‘has become the language of our culture’ (Helling, 2014). This will reach a group of people who are directly involved in consuming celebrity culture. He continues by saying “It’s a chance for me to show the love of Jesus Christ. It’s a platform” (Helling, 2014). Christ’s love can be shown and His work can be done through willing people allowing for change and transformation. This is direct action within a culture, using a tool that celebrity culture thrives off and attempting to use this to reveal the Lord to people.
Wilkerson is not the only preacher to be using tools from celebrity culture to reach out to people. Chris Durso, who leads Misfit NYC (one of the largest youth ministries within New York City) uses hip hop and the spoken word as tools to reach out to young people. This is a clear example of using the forms and language of the culture to meet people where they are. MTV, a key player within celebrity culture, have taken note themselves about what Durso and his team are doing in NYC and have reached out to them by attending their services. Church brands such as Hillsong have also grown within celebrity culture by working alongside celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens. Possibly one of Hillsong’s greatest achievements in breaking into celebrity culture will be the release of their movie, ‘Let Hope Arise’, which captures ‘the spectacular and unlikely rise to prominence of … Hillsong United’ (Hillsong Movie Official Website, 2015), throwing God into the spotlight within another major movie.
Drane (2000:177) states:
If Christianity is to have any relevance to the life of Western people in the twenty-first century, we will need to be ready to learn from the fast-growing churches of the rest of the world.
The UK must also learn from Western countries as well if it wants to grow. If Churches want to attract young people, they must find out what is working across the Atlantic and within other countries. The saving message of Christ will always be relevant but it is how the church decides to share this that will make an impact within celebrity culture.
Drane J, 2000, Cultural Change and Biblical Faith, Surrey:Paternoster Press
Helling S, 2014, Kim and Kanye’s Reality TV-Bound Pastor: “I Believe in Their Marriage, People Magazine.
Martinez J, 2014, Chris Durso Leads Generation of ‘Misfits,’ Credits Creativity for Ministry Success, Christian Post.
Official Hillsong Movie Website, 2015, Let Hope Arise.
Swenson K, 2014, Rich WILKERSON Jr., Kanye’s Miami-Based Hipster Pastor, Preaches Controversial Brand Of Christianity, Miami New Times.