So what do we think of Christian celebrities (like Jesus?)
By Elyse Mackinnon.
It is important to highlight that Christians are not immune to the effects of celebrity culture, but we also have the risk of creating our own celebrity culture. Staub (2007:46) comments that
“the Christian entertainment culture (Christian TV, movies, music, and books) is often characterized by the same spiritual confusion, intellectual superficiality, and marketing and money-driven values as the broader popular culture”.
As Christians, there is a risk that we step away from the secular celebrity culture but, in replacement, we set up our own taking our focus away from Christ himself and onto others. With regards to the Christian-celebrity market, Sweet (2012:30) asks the question ‘How many of us are finding our narrative identity in the stories of Christian celebrities and not in the story of Christ?’ It is important that although we may long to have similarities to what is happening in the world, churches learn how to bring the focus always on to Christ. Sweet continues by raising fears that this is now a ‘cult culture’ (2012:30), which does not call for people to hold on to Christian values, and as Drane (2005:91) states ‘there are some aspects of celebrity culture that do not accord with the values of the gospel’, whether this be idolatry or even gossip. I often find myself asking, ‘Am I putting more emphasis on this person rather than Christ?’ – especially when it comes to following “Christian celebrities”.
There is also a risk of giving power to the image of a celebrity; there is a danger that we reduce God to just an image (Boorstin, 1961:183). Jesus is the most famous person ever to walk on the earth and is ultimately the greatest ‘celebrity’ ever, and Drane (2005:90) acknowledges that ‘there is enormous interest in Jesus as a celebrity figure’, however when we compare Jesus to being a celebrity as we understand it today, he is greater than them all. To clarify, I am not saying that Jesus lived the life of a celebrity; rather I am acknowledging that there was a buzz about the man who came and did miraculous things and who went against the norm. A buzz that only a person who is well known can often create. People who lived at the same time as Jesus wanted to know more about him and what he was doing which is revealed through many stories within the Bible, for example, Mark 5:24-34 where it is clear that people flocked to Jesus, possibly in a similar fashion to young girls flocking to One Direction. Another key story revealing Jesus’ celebrity status is found in Luke 10:38-42, Poinsett (2004:91) states that Martha’s behaviour reveals that she recognised “the importance of the occasion and Jesus’ celebrity status”.
Boorstin DJ, 1961, The Image, New York: Vintage Books
Drane J, 2005, Celebrity Culture, Edinburgh: Rutherford House
Poinsett B, 2004, She Walked With Jesus: Stories of Christ Followers in the Bible, Alabama: New Hope Publishers
Staub D, 2007, The Culturally Savvy Christian, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Sweet L, 2012, I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus, Nashville: Thomas Nelson