Celebrity, Culture and the Raping of the Gospel

04 Feb


Photo by bosela on Morgue File.

If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!).

The thing about celebrity is that it probably works a lot like the old saying about power. It is said that power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. The same could, perhaps, be said of celebrity, or at least something akin to it. For that reason, I would not want to be a leading actor. I would not want the fame and recognition that would go along with that. I like the fact that I can go to the supermarket and buy groceries without having strange men with cameras snapping my picture. I like the fact that when I am at that supermarket, or any supermarket for that matter, I do not have to worry about seeing my picture on the cover of some gossip magazine.

Now, I know that actors and actresses are paid, in many cases, exorbitant amounts of money. And for many, that may be enough of a positive to forsake their personal space and privacy to gain such status. Personally, I value my privacy much more than that. I value my family’s privacy more than that.

Thus, maybe my role would have to be that of a director or producer. Of course, these often reach celebrity status as well; at least, if they are successful. But, I do not think it reaches the astronomical heights that leading men and ladies experience. As a director or producer, you can be successful, make good money, but still keep a certain anonymity about your life. While your job is an important one, the press and paparazzi tend to be more interested in the faces that are in front of the camera, not the ones behind it.

But, the stars of Hollywood are not the only ones who seek fortune and fame. Many of the ordinary folk, you know the non-celebrities, break their body and their families in search of the elusive pot at the end of the rainbow. It goes back to what I said at the beginning about absolute corruption. We see it in investors conning their clients in ponzi schemes and the like. We see it in husbands, or wives, killing their spouse for a life insurance premium.

We see it, in states of emergency, when filling stations and other businesses price gouge their goods to make money off of others calamities. We see it in seedy political agreements behind closed doors, where there is more pork fat in a bill than substance.

Hard work is one thing. Working for gain and pleasure and excess is another. When is enough, enough? When people work overtime and holidays and any spare moment they have, just for the almighty dollar; to the neglect of family and friends. I am not speaking of those who have to work. There are many people who have no choice but to work holidays or overtime. Yet, there are many who do it just for the money. They do it to continue to acquire, to continue to put back more and more. As their savings accounts and 401 K’s expand to the bursting point, their souls dwindle and are sick and languid.

I know, I know, some will protest, But, this is the American way. It is the way of commerce and capitalism. And, such protesters, may indeed be right. But, that does not make the system or the belief itself right. The reasoning may be true enough, but faulty all the same.

I am reminded of the rich man in the gospel of Luke, whom God blessed with an abundant harvest. His crops had outproduced even what he thought was possible. Suddenly, he was faced with a dilemma: what was he to do with the excess crop? He thought to himself and decided to build bigger and better barns. He decided to hoard it away and take pride in his skill and accomplishments as a farmer and businessman. Now, at this point, many would say, And, what is so wrong with that? It seems this man is being frugal and prudent. What else should we expect a man to do? Should we expect him to let the crop remain in the field to be pillaged or ruin in the weather? Why, this man is a model for business acumen and problem solving. He should be heralded as a great business mind. His picture should appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. Here, here is a man of industry and talent. A successful and intuitive CEO who knows the value of his business and takes every step possible to secure its profits.

Yes, I suppose we could say all of this and even more. Indeed, I think it is probable that from our point of view the man did exactly what would be expected of him to do. I dare say many others, in the same situation, would have done exactly the same. It seems the only reasonable and responsible thing to do after all.

But, God has something very different to say about this man: You fool! It is quite shocking to us I think to hear this, and it seems to me, that is the point. It would have been shocking to those who heard it for the first time too.

What does this say about us? What does it say about our culture and our mindset of accumulating more and more and more. What does it say about the wisdom of our culture to hoard up savings and investments? What does it say about trying to make our retirement as big and fat as possible?

Do we think of how we can give it away in the service of God? Do we think how Christ can use the money he has blessed us with to share his gospel with others? Do we have our minds in tune with the will and kingdom of God? Or, is it all about me and mine? Is it all about what I want and what I need?

It is a damning tale. It strikes right to the heart of our greed and covetous spirits. Even those who profess the name of Christ, are all too guilty of the same sin of this rich land owner in Jesus’ parable.

Even more disturbing, is we are so oblivious to it. We have that same attitude and we do not even think twice about it. And, all the while, the voice of God echoes through the ages: You fool.

So, too often, what we do is rape the gospel; we seize it and plunder and pillage the gospel of its true intent, of its true message; in order to make it more reasonable or palpable to us. We divest it of its power and its confrontational aspects; because, after all, it is confronting us! And, what we are left with, is not the true gospel of Christ, but a shadow, a mirage of the real thing. One that is a little smoother around the edges. One that is not as abrasive or offensive to our sensibilities (or sins!). One that is easier to incorporate into our everyday lives. One that is soft and cuddly, like a child’s teddy bear; without any resemblance or mentioning of things like cross, blood, discipleship, sacrifice, submission, Lordship and the rest.

It may be easier. It may be easier to swallow and live; but, it is not the true gospel. The true gospel confronts us, almost at every turn. It is a constant call to deny, sacrifice, give up, forsake, turn away from all the things that we hold as dear and comforting. It is a clarion call to pain, work, death, submission that takes us beyond ourselves. But, if we will heed its call, its true call, we will find its path and its end are glory and life everlasting.

As Professor Dumbledore advised Harry, The time is coming to choose between what is right and what is easy. These are wise words; dare I even say, gospel words. The way of Christ is right and it is not easy.


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6 responses to “Celebrity, Culture and the Raping of the Gospel

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