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Pedestals & prophets

They were interviewing a well known musical performer on NPR recently and there was a call-in segment.  The person wanted to know about the singer’s spirituality, which these days is a usually a code word for a belief system that doesn’t involve church.  The entertainer made a comment about some states that had recently approved homosexual marriages and said how he thought they were setting the example for other states.  He then spoke of his own upbringing in a Christian denomination that he still attended, but added that he was quite sure there were several different paths to God.  Finally, he spoke about love, which he said he knew something about since he had been married four times. The caller (and I’m sure many others listening), oohed and aahed over his comments.

There were two things that struck me about this.  The first is how our obsession with celebrities has become almost pathological.  I’m not sure how it all got started --- maybe it was with the celebrity endorsement, which usually involved an actor or actress.  People would buy something because someone who made their living pretending to be something they were not told them they should.  How reality based is that?  Of course part of the answer is that they (and many people now), are under the illusion that they know them because they played a character they liked or could relate to, or said something in an interview to promote their latest movie that resonated with them. And of course, now we can say that we follow them on Twitter so we really do know them by virtue of their 140 character statements they (or their publicist) make.
Christians aren’t immune to this (though they should try to be).  One Christian publication is notorious for doing a feature article on a sports figure, musician, or entertainer who has recently broken through and become a celebrity.  You can count on this periodical running a feature piece trumpeting them as a person of faith.  They weren’t all that interested in them when they were an unknown, but when that they’re team gets in the playoffs or their song becomes a hit, they want to make sure everyone knows they’re one of us.  It’s the celebrity endorsement all over again and it’s a bad, bad strategy --- as if we’re saying to ourselves and the world, “See we have celebrities too, so maybe you should consider following the One who humbled Himself by living as a servant and dying on a cross.”  Hmmm . . .

Hitching our cause to a celebrity is not the way to share Jesus and it’s no good for the person we celebritize.    Putting people on pedestals just means they have farther to fall.  I saw where some followers of Jesus were going to be featured at a fund raising event.  General admission was $25 and for $250 you get backstage access “with a chance to meet” them. I’m assuming that’s a promoter’s doing rather than the celebrities but with that kind of silliness splashing about them, how can we expect anyone to remain level headed? 

Back to the initial celebrity I started with.  His thoughts on spirituality will doubtlessly influence many people.  He is a cultural/celebrity prophet --- instructing other people about spiritual matters.  To the degree that he’s wrong, he’s no different than the false prophets of the Old or New Testaments.  They’re spreading spiritual poison to people who are so infatuated with them they’re willing to take it. 

It’s past time to get real and treat other people that way.  Disciples are just people telling other people about Somebody who can save anybody. 
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