The New Religions: Cult of Celebrity
Celebrity worship is perhaps the most schizophrenic of all of the new religions, precisely because of fame's fickleness. Monday's hero can quickly become Wednesday's super-villain because of a comment or a tweet. Nevertheless, modern man continues to frequent the temple of Celebrity and devote themselves to the same ideologies and opinions of people whose contribution to society is negligible.
Celebrity (like politics) is another ancient form of worship that has continued to reinvent itself throughout the centuries. The media's pervasiveness gives us unfettered access to the lives of these celebrities every day.
Unfortunately, the same media that gives them access and relevance in society will eventually expose the ugliness behind their beautiful masks and destroy them. Just ask Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, Josh Duggar, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, & Martha Stewart. All "Icons of Perfection" that were thrown from their pedestal as soon as the truth was discovered.
These scandals inevitably reveal that these celebrities are not okay.
Outwardly things look perfect, but we find racists, abusers, adulterers, addicts, and manipulators upon further investigation. Obviously, nothing worthy of worship, but the truth is we aren't worshiping the people, but the idea. Deep down, we know that the objects of our worship are flawed, but we prefer to live in the illusion.
So why do we devote ourselves to celebrities?
IMAGE:We know that we are not good enough that we are deeply flawed. We wish that this weren't so, and we carry a lot of shame because of our weaknesses. So we cling to "people" who represent the perfection that we don't see in the mirror. Our worship of celebrities stems from our desire to be perfect of our own merit.
We desperately want to be like these successful athletes, actors, activists, models, and musicians. Unfortunately, we willfully ignore these idols' glaring faults and inconsistencies to keep them on their pedestal. We make excuses because we want it to be true.
We are terrified of the truth.
No one is perfect.
We are all screwed up and deeply flawed.
You are not capable of righteousness on your own.
The terrifying thing about this charade is that we let these morally defective fame-addicted people tell us what to do, what to believe, and how to act. We follow their lead. If they say something is wrong, we protest. If they say that their own sinful behavior is normal, we defend it. If they support a political position, we align ourselves with the same ideology. Their perversion becomes ours. We blindly follow the blind.
Identity: PERFECTION. All of us are well acquainted with our flaws and inconsistencies. But the idol that we have chosen becomes part of our image and associates us with the (false) perfection of our hero. It gives us something to strive for, but will ultimately lead us to disappointment.
Scriptures: Celebrity worshipers start their day with a daily "quiet time" in the scriptures of (social) media. They check their favorite characters' feeds and see what they have said on twitter; they go to Instagram to see where they are and what they are doing. Their day isn't complete unless they get their daily dose of impersonal encouragement from their idol.
Ambassadors of the Meritocracy: Some examples from pop culture: Ariana Grande, Dwayne Johnson, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Messi, Conor McGregor, Jennifer Laurence, and Emma Watson. Check out their social media feeds to get a first-hand taste of the cult of Celebrity.
Christians are not immune to this substitute religion. Our idea of perfection is just different. Rather than trying to be relevant in the culture, we seek religious/theological perfection. So we devote ourselves to a whole different breed of Celebrity.
Some prefer the classic Christian celebrities like Calvin, Luther, & Spurgeon. Others prefer a more creative vision like CS Lewis or Tolkien. Still, others like the more prophetic voices of modern celebrity preachers/authors like David Platt, Beth Moore, Matt Chandler, or John Piper.
Don't get me wrong, we can learn from all of these fellow brothers and sisters, but we must cautiously avoid lifting them onto a pedestal reserved for Jesus alone. In contrast with our secular idols, I think that the Christians that I have listed would wholeheartedly agree with my caution.
Proselytizing: The Cult of Celebrity is not specifically interested in which Celebrity you choose, but the constant media exposure ensures that you must select someone. But be prepared, you will have to share your opinion and draw lines in the sand when celebrities say or do something that doesn't fit the image. It is common for adherents of the cult of Celebrity to change celebrity idols frequently and discard their old role models while continuing the same fundamental idolatry.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this cult of Celebrity is that the ultimate goal is to become a celebrity yourself.
Andy Warhol famously said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" This has become the overwhelming desire of millions of people today. The last few years have proven that people will do anything to get the 15 minutes of fame that Mr. Warhol promised them.
Motto: "I finally have someone to look up to."
What do the scriptures say? Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." No human is worthy of worship or adoration. Every single one of us is consumed by self-interest and different forms of depravity. Even the best, most well respected of us fall short of God's glory.
So, don't waste your time putting a turd on a pedestal!
Check out the other installments in the series:
The New Religions: America
The New Religions: Gender
The New Religions: Race
The New Religions: Sexuality
But No One Compares to Jesus!
Also check out my book "Letters to an Apprentice" on Amazon