We are a culture saturated in celebrity worship.
This isn’t surprising, given that mass media — through TV, movies, social media, newspapers, magazines, advertising, and incessant digital nagging from our “smart” phones — infects every moment of our lives.
(We allow it in, you know; we can usher it out as well. It’s just a matter of turning off a device and deciding to steep a pot of tea and pick up an intelligently written book instead.)
But because our lives revolve around the faces of people we don’t really know, but think we do, we vicariously follow the appearance of their lives, too often adjusting the way we think and live by what our favorite Famous Face is doing and saying.
When a funny comedian stops in the midst of his monologue, looks us in the eye (through the screen) and says something poignant, we tear up and say, “Such profound thought!”
Or when a country music singer croons about the most important thing in life being friends and family, and fame meaning nothing, we fall right for it: “Ohhh. They’re right. Family is all that matters.” Which is true, by the way, but we never stop to ask the singer, “If you’re spending all your time on the road singing this song, when do you actually spend time with the friends and family you talk about? Fame must mean a bit more than you’re admitting.”
When a newscaster pauses, as if overcome by emotion, and then bravely moves on with his discourse, we think, “He is such a deep, deep man. I can trust everything he says.”
Lately, I ran into a series of sentences by a Famous Face talking about how he is questioning everything, stopped short by all that is going on in the world, and turning to God for wisdom and guidance. It was all very sweet, but I couldn’t help thinking,
“You’re only now noticing that things are kinda screwed up? And for all that you give the impression about spirituality being important in your life — this impression being a major factor why people trust you in the first place — you’re only now seriously turning to God?”
I know. I know. Repentance is something that hits many of us, at some point, when we quite suddenly realize that we’ve been on the wrong path (oftentimes we’ve been suspecting it for awhile, but haven’t wanted to face).
So this is, indeed, what could be happening to this Famous Face. The problem is, however, that true repentance results in genuine change — not only in the person and his attitudes, but frequently in the circumstances of his life. The Apostle Paul comes to mind, a man who was rising rapidly in the man-made leadership sect, whose ultimate earthly end was a bit different than it would have been if he had stayed in the system, speaking the words it told him to say.
Or as James says in 2:14,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”
In other words, if the words of the Famous Face are just that — well placed phrases presented with the emotion and skill of a trained actor — then there will be not changes made, and we in the masses should think twice about falling for what could literally be a line, simply because it is said so well, so poignantly, and so publicly, by a person we know no better than as a face, and a torso, whom we see on the screen.
Discernment, my brothers and sisters — let us pray for discernment.
And let’s make a choice, more often, to turn off whatever is talking at us, steep that cup of tea, and find an intelligent book.
Independent thinkers — and that is what Christians should be — will find this process easier if they leave mass media behind, and focus on the real, flesh-and-blood individuals in their lives. To read more about this, please read When Powerful People Repent — Is It Real? at my Commonsense Christianity blog, BeliefNet.