Everyday Idolatry: The gods Behaving Badly

“I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything that they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.’  -Jim Carrey

“As we bow to the golden statue called Oscar… joining in rituals of exaltation, and reading our sacred gossip columns…[we see from the stories] The desire for some kind of redemption pulses through human life.” -S. Brent Plate

Temple in Chennai, India

I’m in California this weekend speaking at a conference, and they asked me to do my series “Extras.” And since I’ve been writing lately on the kind of insidious idolatry we are all guilty of this got me thinking….

One of the most disturbing things I learned  when I was in Hollywood was how cutthroat the entertainment industry is. I was working on a show, in a rather scandalous scene, when one of my female extra friends whispered to me, “This is the part that I hate.”

Apparently,what often happens is that the director needs some more eye candy for a scene, and he needs to pick a girl or two out of a lineup. So this girl told me that it was common for them to tell a room of several girls to undress so the director could pick one based on their bodies.

And if you wanted the job, a more prominent scene, maybe even a recurring part, you would do it.

We bleed for our gods.

Now I hesitated to tell that story, because of the anti-Hollywood bias that Christians gravitate toward. We need more Jesus-followers living and serving in that industry. In fact, that same girl who told me she hates being in a line up to see if her body is good enough is a Christian. She was a Jesus follower who had been in rooms like that before.

And before we get all high and mighty, just realize there’s a good chance you put her there.

Celebrity Worship

Pete Ward teaches at a seminary in London, and he wrote a book about our culture of celebrity worship. He starts off by asking “Have you ever wondered why we mourn so much when a celebrity dies?” Think about it, when Michael Jackson died the entire news world ground to a halt.

We were in the middle of two wars, an economic melt down, and now we are listening to what meal MJ had the last time he was at Burger King. And Ward points out the reason this is such a big deal isn’t because of the their talent, but the collective “us” we’ve allowed each celebrity to represent.

It is, in other words, a religion.

But did you know that celebrity worship is consistently associated with poor mental health, like worry, anxiety, and depression?

Among women specifically, most body image related mental health issues are, on some level, tied to the way we view celebrities and ourselves. And that should disturb all of us, because almost all of us participate in celebrity worship. And most of the time it’s so subtle, we don’t even know we are doing it.

So we think that it’s stupid all the fuss that people make over Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton, but for some reason we know a lot of details of her life.

Christina Kelly, an editor for Sassy magazine, says the reason that we worship celebrities is because, “We know that to be human is to feel inconsequential.”

Think about how profound that statement is. Here’s someone who works in the industry, and she says we “worship” not because of who they are, but because of our awareness of who we aren’t. There is this deep awareness that we have that something is off-kilter with our heart. Part of the reason that we are drawn to and participate in this crazed celebrity culture, is because something deep within us tells us that we are broken.

So why do we put our hope in fame to fix it?

Arrested Development

To Know and be Known

This past week, Donald Miller interviewed Tony Hale (Buster Bluth from the incredibly funny show Arrested Development) and he asked him, “Why do you think people are obsessed with fame? What do you think this says about us as a culture?”

And here’s what Tony/Buster said:

I think that it’s grounded in the fact that everybody desperately wants to be known, and they think that fame is kind of the ultimate of being known—“If that many people know me…then it’s going to satisfy that. The thing is, when you get to that place, you’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself. I think a lot of people have gotten to that place where they have been known by a lot of people, and it still doesn’t satisfy….If you don’t find something greater than yourself who knows you—knows truly who you are—and you feel known by them, then you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to be known by a ton of other people.  You’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself.”

I think this is incredibly profound. We want to be known by Someone greater than ourselves. That’s what our hearts our hungry for, and our pursuit of fame is only a reflection of a dim reality.

This is what Buster is getting at, it’s what Jim Carrey is trying to explain…the thing we think we want is really not able to fulfill us.

It’s an idol that can never deliver on it’s promise.

Do you know what the final stage of Christian Theology is? Gloria.

In other words Fame: It is the applause of God.

Save your worship for that.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

5 thoughts on “Everyday Idolatry: The gods Behaving Badly

  1. Just wanted to say, good article. It’s easy not only to have our idols but to desire to be idols. Was reading Dan Bouchelle’s blog and he had similar words for readers (me) today. Thank you for reminding me to desire the applause of God and not people.

    Losing a Game We Deny We are Playing “Consequently, we are tempted to turn to other resources for enhancing
    our church’s appeal. We rush past the scriptures in our sermons, which
    make the church snooze, to get to the joke, heart-rending story, or
    researched-based data, which makes people perk up and take notes. We
    know we get measured by the size of the crowd we gather more than the
    quality of character in the people we are forming. How would you measure
    that anyway? We want to create a buzz, get retweeted, reposted, and
    rewarded in all kinds of ways we know have little or nothing to do with
    God’s prime work in the world.” http://danbouchelle.blogspot.com/2013/03/losing-game-we-deny-we-are-playing.html

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