Celebrity and Christianity. What do you think about the relationship between the two? Does celebrity culture contribute to the downfall of leaders whose star rises too high?
In a time where news of Christian leaders’ moral failures are common – and sadly becoming unsurprising – do we need to ask questions about whether pastors’ platforms are distracting from the work of ministry that gave it to them?
Journalist Katelyn Beaty is the former editor of US-based evangelical magazine Christianity Today, and a keen observer of trends in the American church.
Her book Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms and Profits are Hurting the Church, reflects on the origin of celebrity culture in Christianity, Jesus’ relationship to fame and the lost art of contentment.
“I define ‘celebrity’ as social power without proximity,” Katelyn said in an interview. “It’s the ability to shape hearts and minds, but from the distance of a stage or a screen.
“There’s something about celebrity dynamics that shield people from real relationship [and] from ways of being deeply known – and even deeply loved – away from performance and notoriety.”
Jesus Dissuaded Celebrity Hype
When Jesus was in ministry, there were many times in scripture where He performs a miracle, and then tells the person He healed not to tell anyone.
Knowing Jesus’ desire to reach the masses with His salvation message, what does it say about Him that He would urge discretion?
“I think you see in that a willingness to step away from what might have been the more flashy or impressive elements of His public ministry,” Katelyn said.
“[He had an] understanding that there would always be people in the crowd who were coming not to have a divine encounter with the Messiah but for the spectacle itself.”
That need to be close to spectacle, or to the one at the centre of it, is a curious human trait that Katelyn thinks stems from an increasing discontentment people have with the simple, everyday discipline of following Christ away from recognition or social influence.
“One of the main reasons I wrote this book was to help all of us capture a vision of ordinary faithfulness.”
“One of the main reasons I wrote this book was to help all of us capture a vision of ordinary faithfulness,” Katelyn said.
“The vast majority of Christians since the beginning of the church have lived quiet lives of ordinary faithfulness and that is, in fact, how God has chosen to do His work in the world in and among us.
“God is content to use ordinary means to accomplish extraordinary things.”
Feature image: Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.