Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to think about Jon & Kate

American Christians love their fads and celebrities. The ascendency of Jon and Kate Gosselin are a perfect example. Evangelicals are largely responsible for the Gosselin's popularity. Admirably, the Gosselins refused "selective reduction" when they discovered that Kate was pregnant with sextuplets. They are church members, their website features devotions, and they are known for their Isaiah 40:31 t-shirts. The evangelical mega-press Zondervan even published their bestseller. But the fact is we did not then nor do we now truly know Jon and Kate. But Christians were all too eager to contribute to their celebrity. Now, sadly as their marriage is falling apart on the national stage we should learn a lesson on the dangers of fame, materialism, and exploitation.

Julie Vermeer Elliot has written an insightful piece for Christianity Today concerning all the attention surrounding Jon and Kate Gosselin.
As fellow Christians, we should have reminded the Gosselins that life is a gift to be received in gratitude, not something to be grasped, purchased, or sold. In many ways, the last four seasons of Jon & Kate Plus Eight is the story of a family that seemed to progressively lose sight of this truth. Of course, they had help along the way from TLC, from the show's producers, and not least of all, from their Christian viewers.

When the first few episodes revealed the earning potential of this "everyday family," Jon & Kate Plus Eight became a brand name that was packaged and sold. And many Christians were happy to comply by opening up their wallets and their fellowship halls. When the network and the couple were not satisfied with the money generated through high ratings and book sales, the Gosselin home was filled with product placements and the children were filmed for long hours each week. All the while many (though not all) evangelicals watched with undiscerning eyes. Somewhere along the line we, like Jon and Kate, seemed to forget the warnings of 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (NRSV)

It was not until the recent allegations of sexual impropriety arose that a significant number of Christians began to question whether Jon and Kate were indeed the examples of faithful living that we had imagined. Somehow most of us missed the long trajectory that was, day by day, moving them farther from a life of Christian virtue. Sexual immorality—whether actual or merely suspected—caught our attention, but the materialism, narcissism, and exploitation of children that preceded it was largely overlooked.

As such, the breakdown of Jon and Kate's marriage is but a symptom of the larger weaknesses of ethics in the evangelical community. We are easily seduced by wealth and fame. We are easily contented by the shallow rhetoric of hot-button issues. In short, we are easily deceived by cultural values painted in Christian veneers (or clothed in Isaiah 40:31 T-shirts).

Read the entire article HERE.
And let's agree to be more discerning in the future.


Noel said...

I’m hesitant to admit (on this forum anyway) that I’m an avid fan of the Jon & Kate show. I’ve watched it since its conception, but I have not watched it because of the apparently “Christian” ties or Biblically inspired t-shirts. I just thought it was interesting.

The problems they are currently experiencing however started long before this season. I contend that the Jon & Kate marriage was never a solid one. This was something that was apparent in the very early episodes. Kate was disrespectful and demeaning to Jon regularly. I never once saw her submit to his leadership or even involve him in any decisions. I never once saw him step up to take that control either. Now I am an outside observer here, and I certainly can’t account for the countless hours not on tape, but clearly the cracks in the marriage started long before these current accusations of infidelity. I was always curious why churches were inviting them to speak when their marriage was so obviously in need of Biblical help. Jon needed to lead and Kate needed to allow him to do that respectfully…something I have yet to see from either party.

I believe this is more about Christians being one issue minded (mainly pro-life) and ignoring all else in order to promote this political cause. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m beyond thrilled that Jon & Kate did not abort any of their babies, but this doesn’t mean they are people who we should model our lives after. Churches should be far more careful who they parade on their stages.

Finally, I think the accusers should be cautious. No one can see into their hearts to judge their motives. Some have said its greed and others fame, but I contend unless you can read their hearts and intentions, that isn’t a judgment that can be made by any person. One thing I have learned clearly is that when couples do not fulfill their biblical roles in marriage, the marriage will definitely suffer, the family will be unstable, and God will not be glorified in the marriage. May it be a lesson to us all.

Jerry F said...

I'm the opposite. I never watched an episode. I figured that there were plenty of families with eight kids getting by just fine without the help of a fat TV contract. This family was selected because they would be appealing to the majority of the demographic TLC was trying to reach. The "octomom" will have her day because the pre-publicity supports the idea that she is a freak show.

Mainline Mom said...

It's so sad. The story worth watching to me was never Jon and Kate and how they managed with all those kids...it was how their home church stepped up when she got pregnant. We lived in their town back then and attended the church they belonged to at the time and I was very good friends with one of the elders. It was simply amazing the way that body of believers wrapped their loving arms around that family and did everything they could to meet the overwhelming physical needs. This was long before the days of lucractive contracts and product placements. Church members volunteered and signed up their own time around the clock to help with those kids when they came home from the hospital. Church members themselves did amazing renovation work on their tiny home. They were a beautiful example of the body of Christ.

I pray for this marriage daily. I agree with Noel, it was never without cracks. Their history with their extended family reveals a lot of problems with lack of forgiveness and reconciliation...which makes it easy to see how they could end up where they appear to be headed. But God could do a great work through them, He COULD use them as a shining example of what the strength of Jesus Christ can do for a marriage on the brink of disaster. I pray that HIS glory will be shown in this way on national television. (Or not, the best thing for all of course would be to ditch the show, but I understand how scary and threatening contracts are...not easy to breach.)