The Lie of Celebrity

As I was getting dressed this morning the news was playing in the background that included a story about last night’s Country Music Association Awards. One of the things that absolutely confounds me is our celebrity culture’s infatuation with itself. I know it is in part it is driven by the publishers, agents and producers to keep their products in the marketplace. These award shows are the way to give further shelf-life to books, records and movies already in the marketplace.

But it is more than that. I’ve brushed shoulders enough with many celebrities to note their constant fascination with themselves and their expanding circle of famous friends. Watching video clips of them fawning all over each other made me shake my head in sorrow this morning. They are so delighted with their own success they have no idea how out of touch with real life and real people they actually are.

That may be painting with a broad brush, and I do hope there are some genuine souls among the celebrities of our day, but my experience tells me otherwise. And I’m not saying that celebrities are bad people, but rather that our celebrity culture damages people in ways we don’t get to see. What amazes me is how much fascination our world has with these celebrities. Look at any magazine rack, or entertainment show. It is all about exalting other humans with admiration, most of which you wouldn’t be friends with if you had the chance.

Two thoughts came to mind this morning while watching this. Why are so many people driven to live in that space? I can’t tell you how many interactions I have in year’s time with people who are driven to be the next big author, musician, actor, or movie-maker? Some want it for ‘Godly’ reasons, or so they say, but I don’t think they have any idea what celebrity will do to them. I know precious few who fly at that level that stay grounded in reality and appreciation for the people who they knew before it happened.

I read an interview this weekend with American actor Robert De Niro. He talked about how rich and famous people only surround themselves with others who only tell them what they want to hear and who give them permission to indulge their own selfishness because they have earned it. Sad, isn’t it? Believe me, there is no amount of money that makes it worth living in that space. Celebrity culture is a lie at its very core.

That was even more clear to me during my time in Australia. Most of my time there was spent with brothers and sisters on the journey of learning to live loved who saw me just as another brother on a journey. But I also did some media interviews and had some interactions with people who put me on the author pedestal for my own books, or for my work on The Shack. They are groupies, enamored with fame more than they are the Father I write about. Those conversations are less enjoyable to me and far less fruitful. One driver I had for an interview even apologized to me for even mentioning someone else’s book in my presence. When I expressed dismay that he would think to apologize for that, he told me that he knew how much famous people wanted to be the center of attention.

So my second thought in hearing this news clip this morning was this: The best thing about celebrity is that it makes you irrelevant to the people who matter. People enamored with celebrity have little else going on in their lives. People who are really grounded in the life of God aren’t impressed with celebrity. They don’t put people on pedestals, and aren’t too interested in those who are. They look for people to walk alongside them knowing we are all flesh and blood with the same human experiences, hopes and fears as anyone else. As I have often said the people I know who live most alive and free in Jesus are unknown except to the friends and family that live in their corner of the world.

Whenever we are tricked into the lie that there are people above us, or beneath us, we have lost the truth and the reality that Jesus invited us into. That’s why James warned the followers of Jesus:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 1:1-7)

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20 Comments
  1. Melbourne Sue November 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I couldn’t think of anything worse than being famous. Nobody is capable of being able to deal with it, it seems. Massively inflated egos, combined with the shame already living inside – what a combination, huh? Monster making material.

    I couldn’t think of anything more lonely and fairy floss than being out in public, flashbulbed, knowing that people are fawning over you, wanting to be with you, wanting to be you. And then you go home and you have the same old crap dynamics playing out in your life that you did before you were sitting pretty at the top of the mountain (with nothing there). Is it any wonder that so many famous people take drugs? Anything to quell the crap, anything to build yourself up to be as big as people expect you to be. And all the while knowing that people on the other side of the coin are jealous of you, that magazines will say horrible things about you.

    That sounds like such a nightmare. Awful. Insane.

  2. David Grant November 12, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    It is remarkable what the praises of men can do to any of us. Why anyone would want to be on a pedestal astounds me. One of the most tragic stories in the Old Testament that I had totally missed is the story of Joseph. Through much adversity he rose to second only to Pharaoh. His words are quoted often, what you meant for evil, God has meant for good. In fact I have only heard wonderful sermons about his life. But, celebrity did get the best of Joseph.
    “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh Genesis 47:23. He literally used the people’s own grain to buy them and turn them into what he had been, a slave. And James reminds us, is it not the rich that are exploiting you?

    Nothing much has changed, kings want a people and people want a king.

  3. Melbourne Sue November 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I couldn’t think of anything worse than being famous. Nobody is capable of being able to deal with it, it seems. Massively inflated egos, combined with the shame already living inside – what a combination, huh? Monster making material.

    I couldn’t think of anything more lonely and fairy floss than being out in public, flashbulbed, knowing that people are fawning over you, wanting to be with you, wanting to be you. And then you go home and you have the same old crap dynamics playing out in your life that you did before you were sitting pretty at the top of the mountain (with nothing there). Is it any wonder that so many famous people take drugs? Anything to quell the crap, anything to build yourself up to be as big as people expect you to be. And all the while knowing that people on the other side of the coin are jealous of you, that magazines will say horrible things about you.

    That sounds like such a nightmare. Awful. Insane.

  4. David Grant November 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    It is remarkable what the praises of men can do to any of us. Why anyone would want to be on a pedestal astounds me. One of the most tragic stories in the Old Testament that I had totally missed is the story of Joseph. Through much adversity he rose to second only to Pharaoh. His words are quoted often, what you meant for evil, God has meant for good. In fact I have only heard wonderful sermons about his life. But, celebrity did get the best of Joseph.
    “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh Genesis 47:23. He literally used the people’s own grain to buy them and turn them into what he had been, a slave. And James reminds us, is it not the rich that are exploiting you?

    Nothing much has changed, kings want a people and people want a king.

  5. Mike Childress November 12, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I think people like celebrity precisely because it is unreal. They want to escape what, to them, has become an unbearable existence.

  6. Mike Childress November 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I think people like celebrity precisely because it is unreal. They want to escape what, to them, has become an unbearable existence.

  7. Bonnie November 13, 2009 at 7:05 am

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of my experience within the church and how the pastors of the church i attended –celebrity status –It was like they were the only ones who heard from God or had the gifts–I was told noone could go near them unless they allowed..or God said you were safe..MYMYMY..I even remember the Senior Pastor packed a gun during the service. It was even hard to not put yourself down when the special speakers came to town..they would annoint on and on the pastors for the work..they seemed to be the only ones thst God called ..they were the chosen…who was I?

    I couldn’t dress the part or look like a model –yes i tried but gave up as it was phoney for me–I felt as if I was letting God down because i wan’t like them..condemnation …but the Bible says there is no condemnation ..only as I removed myself from the church was I able to stand and see that God made me for me .and He is no respector of persons..the first will be last and the last first…so many years i wasted wanting to have a name..as I thought only than you were someone and God only than were you tuely blessed by God..

    I am a no name..but I have many brothers and sisters who are also like me..and we make up the body of Christ as it is about Him and not us..our purpose was we were made for His glory and He delights in us. In perspective we are pebbles on a beach and how humbling to think if you think you are something as the water washes over us we all get wet and we are still pebbles…different sizes and shapes..and amazing that our Father knows the #of hairs on our head and the # of pebbles on the beaches.He’s the Amazing One…not us.

  8. Bonnie November 13, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of my experience within the church and how the pastors of the church i attended –celebrity status –It was like they were the only ones who heard from God or had the gifts–I was told noone could go near them unless they allowed..or God said you were safe..MYMYMY..I even remember the Senior Pastor packed a gun during the service. It was even hard to not put yourself down when the special speakers came to town..they would annoint on and on the pastors for the work..they seemed to be the only ones thst God called ..they were the chosen…who was I?

    I couldn’t dress the part or look like a model –yes i tried but gave up as it was phoney for me–I felt as if I was letting God down because i wan’t like them..condemnation …but the Bible says there is no condemnation ..only as I removed myself from the church was I able to stand and see that God made me for me .and He is no respector of persons..the first will be last and the last first…so many years i wasted wanting to have a name..as I thought only than you were someone and God only than were you tuely blessed by God..

    I am a no name..but I have many brothers and sisters who are also like me..and we make up the body of Christ as it is about Him and not us..our purpose was we were made for His glory and He delights in us. In perspective we are pebbles on a beach and how humbling to think if you think you are something as the water washes over us we all get wet and we are still pebbles…different sizes and shapes..and amazing that our Father knows the #of hairs on our head and the # of pebbles on the beaches.He’s the Amazing One…not us.

  9. Tim November 13, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Interesting to hear Jesus’ words (in the Message) from Luke 16:15…

    “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.”

  10. Theresa November 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I watched the CMA awards the other night….loved it for the most part as I’m a country music fan….but you’re spot on as far as the celebrity thing. Nashville was all abuzz with the fanfare.

    Being in the Nashville area, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to meet celebs and sadly, I really can’t think of any interactions where I felt like I was meeting a “Real” person. The performance never ends even when they’re off the stage.

    And yeah…what Bonnie said. Oh the friends we’ve seen destroyed because of the celebrity status of their ministry.

    Such a fake, plastic world!

    PS Wayne…may I have your autograph???? JUST KIDDING!!! I’m JUST KIDDING, alright?! hee hee

  11. Tim November 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Interesting to hear Jesus’ words (in the Message) from Luke 16:15…

    “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.”

  12. Theresa November 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I watched the CMA awards the other night….loved it for the most part as I’m a country music fan….but you’re spot on as far as the celebrity thing. Nashville was all abuzz with the fanfare.

    Being in the Nashville area, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to meet celebs and sadly, I really can’t think of any interactions where I felt like I was meeting a “Real” person. The performance never ends even when they’re off the stage.

    And yeah…what Bonnie said. Oh the friends we’ve seen destroyed because of the celebrity status of their ministry.

    Such a fake, plastic world!

    PS Wayne…may I have your autograph???? JUST KIDDING!!! I’m JUST KIDDING, alright?! hee hee

  13. Kevin November 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Right on. It’s no better in the political world, as you know.

  14. Kevin November 14, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Right on. It’s no better in the political world, as you know.

  15. todd November 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    i so appreciate your sharing about just normal folks who you’ve encountered walking in more freedom in Father….

    this is a wonderful and magnetic thing….

    cheers,

    todd

  16. todd November 15, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    i so appreciate your sharing about just normal folks who you’ve encountered walking in more freedom in Father….

    this is a wonderful and magnetic thing….

    cheers,

    todd

  17. Lindsay November 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I really appreciate your writing on this topic as it is something that has been changing in my own life. I have gotten so caught up in the whole celebrity thing wishing I could be one or look like one in the past. But as I have really begun to know God the lie is being revealed and I am so thankful for that. I am however sad for the celebrities themselves. I would imagine that so much has to stay hidden and can never be dealt with because of the image they have to portray. What a total contrast to the Life of healing that God offers to us. Where he wants all our junk and coping mechanisims to come into the light so that He can be a part of it with us, walk through it with us, and show us how to live loved. How much more difficult in that atmosphere it must be! When I think about it now, I am often able to realize that the life I thought would be “it” is what I might just be the very most difficult lie to live.

  18. Lindsay November 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I really appreciate your writing on this topic as it is something that has been changing in my own life. I have gotten so caught up in the whole celebrity thing wishing I could be one or look like one in the past. But as I have really begun to know God the lie is being revealed and I am so thankful for that. I am however sad for the celebrities themselves. I would imagine that so much has to stay hidden and can never be dealt with because of the image they have to portray. What a total contrast to the Life of healing that God offers to us. Where he wants all our junk and coping mechanisims to come into the light so that He can be a part of it with us, walk through it with us, and show us how to live loved. How much more difficult in that atmosphere it must be! When I think about it now, I am often able to realize that the life I thought would be “it” is what I might just be the very most difficult lie to live.

  19. Sue November 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I understand what Bonnie was saying about the ministers being celebrities, the mega church I used to attend had, has a minister that people just love listening to, I’ve heard so many people say ”if he leaves this church, I’m leaving to”. How sad they are only there to listen to him. I’m so glad I got away from all of that, that now it’s just me and Father hanging out together…I love it.
    I must admit Wayne a few months ago you were in Indpls., my daughter Trish stayed at a house up in Indpls to meet you, I wasn’t able to go, but while I was at a store here in Blgtn. Trish called me on my cell phone and said ”Hey mom, I have someone that wants to talk to you”, it was you. I couldn’t believe it. I said it was an honor to speak to you, I remember what you said ”really? I don’t know why?” It made me laugh, but I see what you’re saying. I can’t identify with celebrities….and I don’t want to. Thanks for being down to earth Wayne.

  20. Sue November 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I understand what Bonnie was saying about the ministers being celebrities, the mega church I used to attend had, has a minister that people just love listening to, I’ve heard so many people say ”if he leaves this church, I’m leaving to”. How sad they are only there to listen to him. I’m so glad I got away from all of that, that now it’s just me and Father hanging out together…I love it.
    I must admit Wayne a few months ago you were in Indpls., my daughter Trish stayed at a house up in Indpls to meet you, I wasn’t able to go, but while I was at a store here in Blgtn. Trish called me on my cell phone and said ”Hey mom, I have someone that wants to talk to you”, it was you. I couldn’t believe it. I said it was an honor to speak to you, I remember what you said ”really? I don’t know why?” It made me laugh, but I see what you’re saying. I can’t identify with celebrities….and I don’t want to. Thanks for being down to earth Wayne.

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