To say our culture is celebrity-obsessed takes no great power of insight. Everywhere you turn there is constant chatter about celebrities and their doings. And with the rise of reality TV, it seems that everyone either thinks they are a celebrity or wants to become one.
Yet why does everyone admire celebrity and desire so much to be themselves celebrated by the media and culture? I cannot think of an unhealthier way to live. Let’s just take three examples from recent days:
Jon and Kate Gosselin: This unfortunate couple decided to exhibit their large family (they have eight children – twins and sextuplets) through a reality TV series which I understand is quite popular. Yet it hasn’t been on for a year and already they have announced they are getting a divorce. The celebrity they have acquired has bred a self-centerness which is destructive to any marriage, but especially to a marriage with so many children to support. Ask any parents of a large family and they will tell you that selfishness is simply not possible in a well-run large household.
Mark Sanford: The Republican governor of South Carolina, a rising star among the ranks of GOP presidential hopefuls, has been discovered as an adulterous, narcissistic bore. He seems to think that his feelings of lust take precedence over his oath of marriage, and also seems to think that we all are interested in hearing about his feeling on the matter (which, unfortunately, is most likely true). I can’t help but think that his fall is related in some ways to his celebrity: being the focus of attention naturally leads to a self-centerness. Everyone is fawning to meet you and please you, and you begin to believe that you are above such things as your promise to be faithful to your wife.
Michael Jackson: No one is more of a poster child for the dangers of celebrity than this poor man. Mr. Jackson has been famous since his youth and is one of the most famous people in the entire world over the past 30 years. Yet it has been clear to everyone over the past decade that he was a sad, troubled soul in need of serious help. And in the end, it does not appear that he received that help even though he was surrounded by people who supposedly cared for him.
In these three examples (to which many more could be added) the end result was death: death of a marriage or death of the person. The culture of celebrity is a child of the culture of death: it has no concern for the state of a person’s soul or their marriage, it simply wants to use the person until he or she is consumed by the root cause of all sin: selfishness. In fact, it is by being self-centered that one’s celebrity grows and it is self-destructive behavior that usually makes one even more famous.
As Christians, we need to ask ourselves how much do we contribute to this destructive culture of celebrity. Do we obsess about the comings and goings of celebrities – even if just the “Christian” ones? Do we feed the self-centerness of celebrities by putting them on a pedestal they don’t deserve? If so, we might be contributing to their spiritual death.