A few years back I attended a course at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference about promotion. One part of the class dealt with the hesitation many Christian writers feel toward self-promotion. The speaker gave what I believed to be an astute rational for “tooting our own horn”: God has put us in a place and time that values “celebrity.”
Last week Stephen wrote about not becoming part of the “new sexual moral majority,” which I understood meant those who want to adapt Christianity to today’s approach to gender issues. Then Friday our guest wrote the first of a two-part discussion about cosplay and the church’s understanding of it.
So, I wonder, which is it? Are we to move with the changing tides of culture—valuing celebrity as does secular society, engaging in cosplay at will, embracing the “rights” of every person, to love who they wish and become the gender they prefer—or are we to stand our ground, firmly anchored in archaic ways of living life?
Hold on. Fluid cultural trends are not all equal. Some have to do with preference; some have to do with beliefs. Beliefs should be anchored, all right—anchored in truth. Preferences change as we change. Because I liked to play with little plastic figurines as a child doesn’t mean I still must have that same desire. Rather, the stories I used to make up about those inanimate characters have translated into stories that I put on the computer in the form of novels instead.
The problems we Christians face is two fold. First we sometimes confuse preferences and beliefs. So we see cultural trends that lead people into preferences that are different from ours, and we think there’s something anti-biblical, that doing what they’re doing can’t possibly be OK because it’s not what we like. This kind of thinking becomes apparent when Christians speak against fantasy and science fiction, simply because their preference is for historical fiction or action adventures or romance.
The second problem Christians face is adopting beliefs that are not Biblical because we share preferences with many who do not accept our Christian worldview. For example, I like the various Star Trek iterations. But in several episodes, very clearly the writers are advocating for the acceptance of a homosexual life style. Perhaps more than acceptance. Perhaps, advocacy might be closer to the truth. Do I give up all Star Trek programs as a result? Do I change my Biblical views because of Star Trek’s position?
I think again about living in a celebrity culture, as the instructor at Mount Hermon framed it. Are we to refrain from all promotion because the Bible teaches humility, or are we to embrace promotion and the “celebrity platform” that is available in our culture as it was in no other? How are we to live in a celebrity culture?
I think of Joshua and his jealousy for Moses when God put a portion of His Spirit on the 70 designated elders in the camp of the Israelites. Moses was overwhelmed by the demands of the thousands of people, so God had him select these leaders to share the burden. When they received the Holy Spirit, they prophesied. Two were in the camp and Joshua was one who heard them also prophesy. He went to Moses and told him to have those elders stop prophesying. Why? Scripture says he was jealous for Moses.
But Moses, being “very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), replied that he wished all God’s people would prophesy. He had no desire to be above the others, to have what they didn’t have, to be a celebrity.
Sure, being a celebrity has privilege, but it also has responsibility. And there are two sides to celebrity status: being well-known and pursuing a connection to someone who is becoming well-known. After all, a person can’t be a celebrity if others aren’t pursuing a connection with them, if others don’t want to know them, if there aren’t Joshuas who guard the status of a Moses.
Here’s my conclusion: the celebrity culture is a preference in our society. We as believers are not necessarily sinning if we take part. However, the Scriptural truth that needs to anchor us is that we are equal in God’s eyes. Someone famous is not more important or valuable because many people know who they are. In that vein, we believers would be wise to treat all people with love (neighbors, enemies, Christian brothers—Scripture doesn’t give us a different response to any). We shouldn’t accept what Famous Author said simply because he’s so well known. We shouldn’t become a groupie, just so we can gain an advantage (after all, I sat at Famous Author’s table twice!). And finally, we shouldn’t seek out the status of Famous Author for ourselves.
David didn’t kill Goliath so he would become well-known throughout Israel. Daniel didn’t pray when it was against the law to do so because he wanted a children’s song written about him (“Dare to be a Daniel . . .”), Gideon didn’t go to battle with only 300 soldiers because he wanted to make the pages of Scripture. No. In each instance, obedience was what motivated these people. They wanted to do what God told them to do. In all three of these particular instances, adversarial confrontation preceded their fame. But they held their ground, put obeying God above all else, and didn’t really care who knew or who wanted to know them as a result of their actions.
In the same way, I believe obedience can anchor us Christians living in a celebrity culture. We don’t need to seek celebrity but we don’t need to shun promotion either. The key is to pay attention to the word of God.