Christian celebrity

February 24, 2009

I learned a lot about the status of Christian celebrities through the Christian music scene.

My first big lesson about what it means to be in the spotlight was after a Christian concert. An artist (whose name I will leave out) had a long line of adoring fans just waiting for his autograph. His set went late, and because he was tired, he only signs a few things belonging to fans. Many adolescent girls were sorely disappointed. My friends were among them. They left wishing they would have been lucky enough to just get to speak with him face to face.

The other lesson came from the same music festival, albeit a different year. I went to see my favorite band play, and since they were early in the evening, they were walking around and meeting people. I, like any ninth grade boy, ran around trying to find all of them, seeing if they would sign my tshirt. After finding several, I ran across the lead singer. I awkwardly approached and asked for his autograph.

And he said no.

But it was his reason that stuck with me. He said that he doesn’t consider himself anything special, and didn’t want anyone to hold him on a pedestal, so he didn’t want to sign any autographs to make him seem like a big deal. I was disappointed,  but that encounter has stuck with me for a while.

And I overheard him give that same answer to fans every time I saw the band live.

Two different pictures of celebrity – one who won’t sign autographs because he doesn’t have the time, another because he didn’t want to seem like a big deal.

Christian celebrity seems like, to me, an oxymoron. If the purpose of all Christians is to point to Christ, then any Christian should not try and be known, but rather to try and make Christ known. When I am at my best, I hope that anyone who hears my lessons completely forgets that it was me who gave it, but remembers whatever truth God spoke through (and despite) me. I am rarely that humble in mindset, but I think that should still be the goal.

Now, you can’t totally say no one should be known. Apostles were known, bishops are known, and fame isn’t always bad. But there is a certain tension we should all feel when we hear a preacher or an artist or anyone that we admire, between knowing that they do what they do well, and focusing on the fact that what they do should ultimately have us not think about them, but about God.

How do we reconcile the need for recognizable figures (which contributes to order within the church and being able to recommend good books, etc.) and realizing that we can easily fall into pseudo idol worship and love the messenger instead of the message?


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