Diving into Celebrity Culture
By Elyse Mackinnon @ElyseMackinnon
It is all very well saying that Christians should become involved within Celebrity Culture, but how do we do this? What should this look like? And, what if we don’t become involved?
I will admit that as I studied Celebrity Culture I sometimes felt like it would be a lot easier if Christians followed the ‘Christ Against Culture’ model from Richard Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture (1951), meaning that Christians should reject celebrity culture completely. The Christ Against Culture model “uncompromisingly affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty” (Niebuhr, 1951:45). By following this, Christians effectively abandon all responsibility to try and work within this culture and not help the people influenced by it. If we strive to break away from this culture it could be understood that we are “creating a subculture of our own that acts like a protective bubble against the corrosive influence of the world around us” (White, 2010:67). A subculture of our own could have the potential of creating a safe space of our own beliefs (I use the word ‘safe’ as it implies the culture would include what is wanted, what is important to the person).
Romans 12:2 highlights that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (ESV, 2007). But does ‘not conforming’ to the world mean separating ourselves from what the world sees as being important? A protective bubble would be created around Christians, but is this what the Bible asks Christians to do, to not reach the nations and stay away completely? White challenges this view stating (2010:69):
“But it is more accurate to say that as the distance between Christ and culture grows, the more clearly we need to draw the lines between being “in” the world but not “of” it. But make no mistake – we are to be in it“.
There is a huge danger of creating a bubble that separates Christ and his followers from all forms of culture that exist in the world. White highlights the importance of believers being ‘in the world’, which allows Christians to connect with others and work within certain cultures. Followers of Christ are called to be different from the world (1 John 2:15-17) but we cannot shut off the world completely. If Christians were to block off the world then they would not be following the example of Paul who adapted to and arguably challenged the cultures he found himself in (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
This may be a viable option for Christians, but is the best way to tackle celebrity culture to simply act like it does not happen? Drane (2000:121) addresses ‘the question of what the church will need to be in the new cultural context’ in two ways. The Church can either, like the Christ against Culture option, turn away from culture, or the Church can accept it and re-evaluate how we do ministry within this culture. Humans should use culture; it is not an enemy to humans or even to God (Kraft, 1979:113). Therefore, if believers agree with this, it is almost their duty to try to transform the culture with God. In order to transform, Christians should be prepared to use the language of the culture and become fully involved within it, but there must be contact with the culture. Having contact “typically stimulates changes in culture and language that issue in expansion, redefinition, and replacement of the conceptual categories of the culture” (Kraft, 1979:355). Could there be potential for Christians to change the idea of celebrities being like gods by bringing back attention to the one true God? Kraft (1979:347) writes of the ripple effect that happens “when change occurs in the worldview”, and he states that when change happens the ripples created allow for there to be “change … generated throughout the culture”. This ripple effect could be enough to see Celebrity Culture transformed.
Drane J, 2000, Cultural Change and Biblical Faith, Surrey:Paternoster Press
Kraft CH, 1979, Christianity in Culture, New York:Orbis Books
Niebuhr HR, 1951, Christ & Culture, New York:Harper Collins
White JE, 2010, Christ Among the Dragons: Finding Our Way Through Cultural Challenges, Illinois:InterVarsity Press