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Modern Religion – The Celebrity Cult

31/10/2011

Modern Religion – The Celebrity Cult

1 John 2:16: For all that is in the worldthe desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessionsis not from the Father but is from the world.

I was driving to Lisburn a few days ago, when I noticed the sticker in the rear window of the car in front. ‘Mummy and Daddy’s Little Princess on Board’. Sure enough, there the little princess was, sitting in her child seat in the back of the car, stuffing her face with chocolate and dribbling it down her designer childwear.  The thought struck me that how we regard our children has changed dramatically, in some ways for the better, but in other ways to their detriment.   But I wonder if in our worthy attempt at improving the conditions in which our children live, have we gone too far, and begun to regard them and treat them higher than we should, – as celebrities?  After all we live in a society where ‘celebrity’ is something to be sought after.

CELEBRITY IDOLATRY

In general, it would be fair to say that as a society, we no longer worship God, and being created by God with an inbuilt capacity and longing to worship we replace the worship of God with something else. We were, after all, created for the purpose of worship God, glorifying Him and enjoying His presence.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins by asserting this very fact…

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

In a lot of cases, the something else that replaces God in our godless lives is ‘celebrity’.  Because we have rejected God in our individual lives and in our society, and spurned his Word, the Christian structures of our society that have bound us together for centuries have all been broken and swept aside. Structures like marriage, families, church, community, respect for the law and for neighbours, admiration for achievement and progress through educational attainment and hard work.  The trendy causes of liberalisation, human rights, equality and modernisation have no place for an authoritarian God and the notion of absolute truth that belief in such a God requires.  And what has taken their place?  The pointless, mind-numbing, inane, cult of celebrity.

To be fair, celebrity is not a new phenomenon and it didn’t begin just with the media promotion of personalities and stars, nor with the recent breakdown in societal values.  The basic root of the celebrity cult is simply the pride of mankind, and pride is sin – a manifestation of our innate human sinfulness.  Human pride dictates that we want to be someone important, and pride is something that has always been with us.  The Old Testament continually warned against pride:

Proverbs 13:10: By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 21:4: Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

Proverbs 28:25: A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched.

Hosea 7:10: The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this.

Habakkuk 2:4: Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

WORSHIP IN THE CELEBRITY IDOLATRY

But just how does the celebrity culture manifest itself?  It appears in just the same guise as the false gods of any pagan society, as IDOLATRY – as false worship.  1 Chronicles 16:26: For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

* We idolise our footballing and sporting heroes. We pay professional footballers huge sums of money for doing nothing productive, we follow their every move and pander to their every whim.  We read about them and listen to them being interviewed and we envy their lifestyles and their wives and girlfriends, who also live a lifestyle beyond the wildest dreams of the average citizen.

* Pop singers and actors too are turned into idols.  Millions of pounds are spent every year in following their every move.  Magazines dedicated to the worship of these idols churn our photographs and column inches dedicated to their homes, their lifestyles and their cars and their marriages.  They pay millions of pounds for exclusive rights to cover their wedding ceremonies.  Newspapers devote millions of pages every year to reporting the latest scandal to befall one of these exalted heroes.

* We now even have celebrity doctors, celebrity police officers, celebrity florists and dressmakers, celebrity chefs, celebrity politicians.  And the visible church has joined in, with it’s own offering of ‘celebrity clerics, pastors and evangelists’.

Our worship and adoration of our celebrity heroes has taken over our lives.  And we can’t seem to stop.  We are addicted to celebrity, enslaved to sin.  1 Corinthians 12:2: You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.  Galatians 4:8: Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.

EVANGELISM IN THE CELEBRITY IDOLATRY

Television and media, who contributed greatly to the creation of a celebrity-driven culture, have relentlessly exploited the monster they created.  Programmes like the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent are all successful because of the endless lines of hopefuls, who long for the fame and the celebrity lifestyle, – who want to be like THEM, famous, rich, recognised in the street, powerful, and who don’t mind being totally degraded, bullied, berated and humiliated if it means that at the end of the process they will be CELEBRITIES. And then there’s the voters, numbed by the celebrity-making process, and seeing something that they themselves would long to attain, they spend their telephone pounds, electing their own new celebrity gods, and deselecting others.

CELEBRITY IDOLATRY AND OUR CHILDREN

Now, what has all this got to do with our children?  Well, my thesis is simple.  There are parents in this generation, whose main ambition (maybe whose only ambition) for their children is to have them achieve celebrity status.  And they are NOT a small minority.  These people have been brainwashed by the ‘celebrity culture’ to believe that what is really worthwhile in life is the status and wealth that being a celebrity would bring, and they want that for their sons and daughters.

  • They are not aspirational, so they don’t expect their children to have a purposeful career, in a profession that will help the nation or benefit others.
  • They are not particularly well educated, so they don’t expect their children to study hard and do well in examinations, and go to university. (So the universities have lowered the entrance qualifications and successive governments have bribed and beaten the universities to admit more and more ‘disadvantaged’ children)
  • They usually have a low view of marriage, so they don’t expect that their children will grow up, get gainful employment, meet a suitable young person of the opposite gender, marry and settle down and have children – in that order.
  • They don’t go to church, probably have never been to Sunday School, and have no idea what Christianity, the predominant religion in this nation is about. So their children don’t attend church, never go to Sunday School, never are taught about God, or about Christ who died for sinners.  They have no aspiration whatsoever that children should be brought up to respect God and other people.

So they do what their culture teaches them is the best thing to do for your children.  Have them achieve celebrity status, and they will be ok.  So they give them celebrity names.  They dress them celebrity clothes.  They enter them for beauty competitions.  They book them modelling sessions.  They pierce their ears and dye their hair and make them into little princes and princesses and treat them as if only they matter and no-one else, – like celebrities.  And they have become so inured, so numbed to the influences of television and the mass media, that most of them won’t even realise what they are doing.

It is not just Christians who are horrified at the influence of the Celebrity Cult on our children.  In 2008 the Daily Telegraph carried a report claiming that the cult of celebrity is producing a generation that believes education and hard work are not important in achieving success, a claim made then by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. A survey found that more than 70 per cent of teachers in primary and secondary schools said the cult of celebrity was perverting children’s aspirations and expectations.  About 37 per cent of teachers believe their pupils want to be famous for being famous.

They fear that many youngsters do not realise how hard their idols have worked to earn fame… “They do not understand the hard work it takes to achieve such status and do not think it is important to be actively engaged in school work as education is not needed for a celebrity status.”

THE CHRISTIAN AND THE CELEBRITY IDOLATRY

All of this is so far removed from what the Bible demands from us as a society and as individuals.  The psalmist eschews any idea of self exaltation and celebrity when he writes in Psalm 131, O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;  my eyes are not raised too high;  I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.  Micah gives us the Biblical paradigm for life in chapter 6:8. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

We are not to seek out fame and popularity from other men.  We are to walk in such a way as to please God and earn His approbation.  (Of course we fail. We are sinners and we can never hope to match God’s standards of righteousness. That’s why Christ died – to fulfil the Law for us, that we, renewed in Him, might please God, and in response to His love for us, live to serve God).

CELEBRITY CHRISTIANS

What of our own ‘Christian Celebrities’ for there is no doubt that we have them.  When a famous person declares that they have ‘come to faith’ or ‘found Christ’ (whatever they may  mean by that) our churches are ever so quick to get them into our pulpits in the hope that their fame might bring others into the church.  Interesting stories of conversion have even replaced by the celebrity testimony.  I’ve seen musicians and singers brought to churches to ‘testify’ only to hear them making statements that were totally incorrect and unbiblical, but who went unchallenged because they were famous and they drew a crowd. Footballers who were brought to churches to speak to youth services of BB Enrolments who, while they were great on the field, openly confessed that they didn’t have a clue on how to present even the simplest Gospel message in the pulpit.

We have our celebrity preachers and pastors.  Men and women who have achieved a strange elevated status in the visible church.  Not necessarily theologically aware or trained, they draw people with magnetic personalities and winsome smiles, and smart suits and promises of a lifestyle just like theirs. And what a lifestyle.  With true celebrity élan, they possess limousines, acres of real estate, manses, planes, and have their names emblazoned on TV stations.  Their ‘ministries’ are multi-million dollar/pound businesses, and as the ministry names suggest, it all revolves around them.

From the adopted celebrity who is assimilated into Christendom to the Pop-Gospel pastor who wants you to be just as rich and famous as he is, Christian Celebrity is totally foreign to biblical Christianity.  It is the Celebrity Cult, reaching its tentacles into the visible church.  In 1st Corinthians 2:5 Paul wrote,  For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.  1st Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified,

KEEPING OUR CHILDREN FROM HARM

And what of our little children?  They are God’s precious gift to us and we are responsible to raise our children in a righteous and moral manner. Psalm 127:3-5  Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

And Christian parents have additional responsibilities. The Children of unconverted parents are exposed to the awful influences of this present world.  They learn about sexuality far too young from TV programmes and magazines.  Family planning clinics etc are queuing up to offer them contraception.  They are exposed to the influences of Satanists, they read horoscopes, are bombarded with advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, they encounter anti-biblical attitudes, like evolution, euthanasia and abortion.

Paul deals with this in 1st Corinthians 7.  He tells us that our children are holy!  He does not say that they are Christians, or that they are saved.  But he does say that they are holy.   The meaning is not too difficult to determine.  He has already argued in the chapter that an unbelieving wife will bring a measure of Godliness into an ungodly home.   He or she will introduce a measure of sanctification.  The whole basic principle of sanctification is separation and holiness – cleanness!  So it is with the children of a Christian parent.  The children will be kept clean from the filth of this world!  They will be, as far as possible kept separate from the influences of this world, they will be Holy!  Surely one aspect of this preserving influence is to protect our children from cults, not just the traditional cults of false religion, but the postmodern cult of celebrity religion.

THE CURE – CHRISTIAN HUMILITY

In contrast to the prevailing culture, the Christian is to be characterised by humility.

Proverbs 22:4: The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honour and life.  Proverbs 29:23: One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honour.

Jesus told a story about two men who went into the temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee, a man filled with pride and self importance.  The other was a publican, a sinner.  The Pharisee stood at the Temple and prayed.  “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get“.   The publican stood far away and beat his breast and cried, “God be merciful to me, a sinner“.

Jesus evaluated the situation.  He said, Luke 18:14: I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

A sobering assessment in a society where ‘exalting yourself’ is the national obsession.

From → Editorial

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