Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Deification of Celebrity

The more shallow a culture, the more trivial are its objects of worship. Ours is a culture that worships celebrity. The onslaught of reality TV has awakended the possibility that I too can be famous. As Nicole Kidman's character in To Die For said, "Being on TV makes you a better person." The Paris Hiltons of the world have given us the category of "famous for being famous."

Calvin wrote that the heart of man is a veritable factory of idols. As God continues to be eclipsed in the Western world it does not follow that worship will decrease. Indeed we will all go on worshipping for that is who we are.

An article by John Kass in The Chicago Tribune.com speaks to the "creepy deification" of Michael Jackson. In the article Kass includes quotes from Cornel West and Eric Dyson.

"It's almost like a crucifixion, in terms of the cross you have to bear," said professor Cornel West. "We reap the fruits of the resurrection, in terms of the power that emanates from [Jackson's] sacrifice. He sacrificed his childhood because he loved us so. He didn't just entertain us, he sustained us."...

"There's no question that the transcendent art that he created was a means, an instrument, a vehicle, for others to experience what he did not. His own father told him, teased him that he was ugly, Michael reconstructed his face, deconstructed the African features into a spooky European geography of fleshly possibilities, and yet, what we couldn't deny, was that even as his face got whiter and whiter, his music got blacker and blacker, his soul got more deeply rooted in the existential agony and the profound social grief that black people are heir to. And what he did was he allowed us through his voice and his instrument to see a glimpse of the heaven that he himself was denied." (Dyson)

Creepy indeed.

Read the entire article HERE.

Update:
Check out Pastor Eric Redmond's post HERE.

37 comments:

Ilona said...
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Ilona said...

For a loving, compassionate article on this topic, helping to connect this tragedy to how we can live better lives (rather than just judging someone and leaving it at that) check out

http://www.informz.net/pfm/archives/archive_809649.html

Todd Pruitt said...

For an article that rightly diagnoses our infatuation with celebrities, even the creepiest ones, see the article that I link to in this post.

Jase and Melissa said...
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Jase and Melissa said...

If you don't think that's creepy, than your creep-dar is beyond repair." Sadly, we live in a culture whose "creep-dar" has been diffused in the kool-aid.

Todd Pruitt said...

"Creep-dar"

I love it. I'll need to work that in to a sermon somehow.

Christian Citizen said...
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DreamCamelot said...

Ilona, I admire your compassion. And we should be compassionate about death, including Jackson's. Some painful past injuries and other unfortunate choices apparently lead to abuse of painkillers which caused his death. Yes, tragic and sad. But it is hard to see the level and degree of adulation given to Jackson (and many other entertainers) before and after his death, as anything other than idolatry. That’s the point of the article Todd cites. And that is not to criticize the dead, but rather the living.

Todd Pruitt said...

Exactly.

The article is a commentary on our culture's preoccupation/idolatry of celebrity.

Todd Pruitt said...

"Christian Citizen"

A little saline solution should wash that right out.

Ilona said...

Thanks dreamcamelot. I think Jesus would have compassion for him too. I don't think He would judge the people who have loved him....He knows what is truly in their hearts. It's the media hyping it all up...We are told not to judge people yet that is what this article does.

There is enough work to do to love people....

I am SO thankful for believers and humble, broken leaders like chuck colson... It's the kind I can look up to. Judgmental and arrogant ones creep me out...

Christian Citizen said...
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Harley A. said...

I love it when folks judge others for being judgmental, not that I’m judging them…… Or, am I…… I’m confused.

Kimberly said...

What I've appreciated (and continue to appreciate) about the postings and articles on this blog is the challenge and charge to view current events, cultural "goings-ons," etc. through a biblical lens.

It's very easy to get caught up in the frenzy. I, for one, appreciate being "reeled back in," so as to better align my perspectives with the wisdom of biblical truth.

Ilona said...

Harley, good point! I am certainly as wretched a sinner as anyone. When I choose who I listen to, and learn from (or not), I pay attention to how they come across to me. Do they tell the truth? Can I detect not only truth, but grace, which Jesus was full of (Jn 1:14)? And, gentleness and humility, which Jesus had, too (Mt 11:27) Sadly, some great leaders do not fall in this category, for me personally. Thankfully, this is a free country, meaning I can choose certain things. In Cuba, or North Korea, I’d get killed or tortured for this.

Kimberly - wonderful you get something positive out of this post/blog, that’s awesome. For me personally, very sadly, there is so much judgment, I get a bad physical response, instead of encouraged to become a better, more compassionate believer. As Harley so cleverly suggested, I have much work to do on that front, and many others. I’m thankful that Jesus doesn’t ban or bash me for it, calling me the creepiest believer.

Ilona said...
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Todd Pruitt said...

Not everything Jesus said was soft, gentle, and nice. He was graciously surely. But there were plenty of people around during his day that did not think of him that way.

Todd Pruitt said...

One more thought. I fear that the charge of "judgementalism" and "mean" are often thrown around in order to silence speech that some don't like. The prophets, Jesus, the apostles, the church fathers, the Reformers, etc were quite capable of strong speech, irony, and even sarcasm. That is not an excuse to say whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. It may mean however that if no one ever charges us with being judgemental or not nice then we may not be saying all we should say.

Todd Pruitt said...

Another one more thought...

A culture that celebrates a man who even after being accused of sexually molesting a child continued to flaunt the fact that he shared his bed with boys should be rebuked. This is not judgmentalism but moral clarity. Judgmentalism is NOT the clear identification of and rebuking of sin and error.

What Jesus condemned as judgmentalism was arrogantly rebuking sin in another while ignoring or excusing ones own sin.

Ilona said...

With my heart racing, Todd, you have come to the center of my problem with this whole post:

A culture that celebrates a man who even after being accused of sexually molesting a child continued to flaunt the fact that he shared his bed with boys should be rebuked

This makes me want to puke - coming from you or anyone who says it. Why? Because NO ONE knows what actually happened. I never followed the media hoopla about MJ all those years. I just loved dancing to his amazing music - same music and talent lauded by so many, including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ronald Reagan, etc.

I am not God and only He knows all that really happened. Yet, that is also the one thing that that same God, in my prayers, comforts me with - He's got it. Like the rest of the world's issues. HE will judge him (or did), and rightly, with all the information needed. He knows his heart and all MJ did or didn't do. When I get to heaven, I will ask him all about Michael Jackson, and a billion other questions too. And I will be surprised if Michael Jackson did anything sexually inappropriate.

Sure, he did stupid, immature things (Who hasn't?) and I still believe if he did anything wrong, he'd have been smart enough to not say this. He may have stupidly flaunted it, yes, but perhaps it is because HE knew it wasn't anything wrong in his eyes. Doesn't make it right, but no matter what, he deserves compassion.

Your lack of compassion for him is saddening.

Strangely, and thankfully, Jesus understands, his weirdness, his insecurity, all his flaws, his changing face, his pain from lupus and beatings and dancing, and, in case Michael was wrongfully accused too, which Jesus was too. Amazing, eh? Even Michael isn't outside of God's love. Hallelujah.

King David did horrible things and he didn't end up in the doghouse forever, either. He did many amazing things too - just like Michael Jackson did some amazing things for this world, even if it's nothing more than sharing his God-given talent. And God-given it was and always will be.

Ilona said...

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. " - John 1:14

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" - Mt 11:27

My college pastor, the wonderful Stanley Key, said there are few people and leaders who have both a good measure of grace and truth...most have too much of either side. And he's completely right.

People will forever say what they think is right but thankfully God is above it all, above it all. And how awe-some comforting is that, a holy, truly just God not condoning sin but making a way out, in Jesus.

With that - thanks for engaging in this little discussion with a creepy little believer in Jesus like me.

Todd Pruitt said...

Perhaps you should do a bit more research on the nature of the charges against Mr. Jackson. Until you do I would council you to not fume at those of us who have concluded that the charges were highly credible.

Also it is an outrageous stretch to compare charges against Michael Jackson to the charges brought against Jesus. I can't even get my mind around that one.

If you think it is anything less that "creepy" for a grown man to be sharing his bed with young boys then we have a disagreement far greater than our opinions about Michael Jackson. In my mind "creepy" is the least harsh way to describe it.

Todd Pruitt said...

Another thought:

Once again, this is not a post ultimately about Michael Jackson. It is about a culture that celebrates and idolizes celebrity.

It is not about whether or not we are all sinners or whether or not God is gracious. I'm not sure how you keep reading it that way. The sheer fact that you have a strong opinion on the post is evidence that we all make judgments. This is a good thing. It's called discernment. What is troubling is that you seem more excercised by someone calling a grown man sleeping with young boys creepy than you are by the behvavior of the man.

Ilona said...

Todd, I am entitled to my own opinion about Michael Jackson just as you are.

Do you know what research I have done in recent weeks? Surely not. My conclusion? Some jealous, money-hungry, greedy families tried to extort money from a broken, kind man with lots of it. After all, why did the first family take the money - and not take it to the end, just to prove they were right? Because money was all they cared about, probably (and boy, am I judgmental here)

Many other people who knew MJ well, including "celebrities" who had no problem with their kids spending time with him testified...but again, none of it matters - only God, but He does, know the truth and some day I will find out for sure.

I am not comparing charges, I am comparing the experience of being put on trial and perhaps being innocent (at least in one case for sure, maybe both). And I was talking about how Jesus would love Michael. You would just judge him, at least it appears that way to me - do you have any compassion for Michael?

Todd Pruitt said...

I guess I keep getting confused about what we are debating. I simply find it creepy, very creepy for a grown man to share his bed with young boys. And I cannot imagine how that can be considered judgemental.

Ilona said...
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Harley A. said...

Ilona, the original post and article were about the creepy deificiation of Michael Jackson by his followers - not that it was creepy for someone to have compassion for him. And, no one has called you creepy.

Trust me - you are WAY off base here.

Todd Pruitt said...

1. I don't think you're creepy.

2. Feel free to have any opinion of M.J. you like. I am simply reacting to the fact that you called me judgemental and challenged by understanding of grace because I agreed that M.J. sleeping with young boys is creepy.

3. M.J. was an adult who should have known that sharing his bed with young boys was wrong.

4. I don't find it troubling at all for a Christian or Christian pastor to say it is creepy for a man to be sleeping with young boys. Not only is it creepy it is wrong, dangerous, manipulative, damaging,...

5. To excuse such behavior by saying, "we all do things that are wrong" seems to me to be a moral equivocation.

6. The point of the article and then my observations in the post were about our culture's troubling pre-occupation with celebrity.

7. Once again it just seems odd to me that you are troubled by my judgement that it is creepy for a grown man to sleep with young boys.

Todd Pruitt said...

My last comment and the comment by Harley were based on a comment that has since been removed by the author.

Ilona said...

I need to finish my home-cooked dinner for my hubby but I just wanted to say - I know no one called me creepy. I did that. If MJ is, then I should be too. Why not? I am not excusing his behavior at all. The psalmist said he is a worm, so....

I know what the original point was. I also commented on stuff like calling MJ the creepiest entertainer ever. To you he may be, but not to me. Thanks for recognizing that we can disagree on that. The weirdest part of this is, I was almost waiting for some sort of post on this tragedy since it happened, fearing it'd be "all bad", whatever it was. Again I see no compassion at all for a man, creepy in your eyes or not, and *my* point was, Jesus would have compassion, period.

As to your point - I don't think anyone is deifying the fact he was sleeping in the same bed as some boys. He wasn't "all bad". People were grieving a great entertainer, and some profit from that. He was weird in some ways, but still human. He deserves some respect. As do his kids.

Now I have a husband to serve....

And Harley - I may be way off base. Wouldn't be the first time. :) But I do have the discernment to know when there is a complete lack of grace, and when not, here or other places.

Todd Pruitt said...

Once again, the point of my post was the deification of celebrity. Nowhere did I suggest people were deifying M.J.'s propensity to take young boys to his bed.

To suggest that I "suffer from a complete lack of grace" because I find M.J.'s practice of sleeping with young boys "creepy" is an unfortunate error.

Todd Pruitt said...

There are plenty of good reasons to challenge my sanctification and other times I certainly lack grace. I just don't think this post was one of those reasons.

DreamCamelot said...

Ilona, I'm glad that you loved dancing to Jackson's music. He was a gifted musician/entertainer who accomplished a great deal (not all of which is positive, such as the sexualization he brought to music & dance). And yes, he did do a lot of charity and yes we can and should have compassion for some of his hardship and misfortune. But beyond that, there are so many ways in which he was a bad example that it should be noted, as the article did, that Jackson and most other celebrities should not be given near the acclaim, attention, and praise they receive. For a long time, I was a devoted basketball player and paid a great deal of attention to Magic Johnson. But beyond basketball, a guy who admitted having sex with thousands of women should not be held up as a "role model", hero, etc. One of the few sane things that the famous 76er, Charles Barkley, once said was that he shouldn't be a role model. How right he was. And on Jackson, yes, nobody (except those present) truly know if he committed criminal acts. But he admitted and excused sleeping with boys, dangled an infant over a high rise balcony, and several secular writers have even noted that he paved the way for the celebrity antics of the modern day Britney Spears, and her ilk, which have damaged the culture. There are a number of people that modern day society should rightly esteem: most pastors, many in business, soldiers, teachers, coaches, but not Jackson.

Todd Pruitt said...

Eric Redmond, an African American pastor has posted on his blog some thoughts that are very applicable to our current discussion.

Check it out:
http://ericredmond.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-gray-matter-of-african-american-syncretism-giving-honor-to-the-king-of-pop/

Ilona said...

I appreciate your thoughts dreamcamelot. I will always esteem mj for his good work as an imperfect human. I also still stand by my thoughts on todd s org post and disagree with him. Ptl we r in a free country with personal opinions. As to articles I highly esteem both chuck colson's which I shared and the Atlantic one....also my opinion

Funny how mj gets clobbered but other very imperfect folk like rush l a former rx addict are still revered....but again all their opinion...just as I have mine. Britney had the luck of a good father as did the daughter of one of cos'
pastors....who of course found Jesus too...oh and I am not comparing issues but response to the celebrities

oh and last but not least -- tone is also key in communication...some makes me listen and others... Not so much

God bless you...

Kimberly said...

Wow! There's been quite a discussion here.

Ilona:

I have to admit: I'm a little taken aback at the show of disrespect (both direct and indirect) in several of your posts. I think it's important for any of us posting comments here to remember that while this forum invites discussion and exchange of ideas, it's also available for public viewing (and hence, bears witness about how Christians treat each other in the context of debate and disagreement). Anyway, I've watched this debate/discussion unfold over the last few days and felt led to comment on this aspect of it.

Todd:

I wanted to comment that I read Pastor Redmond's post. Very interesting thoughts and observations (and not just about Micheal Jackson).

Thanks.

Ilona said...

Kimberly if you feel disrespected (and anyone else who felt that way), I am sorry! Never my intent. I am fully aware this is a public blog. I have said everything I said out of my own deep conviction and you can be sure that I too have felt deeply disrespected on this blog. I have been reading on and off and this is my first time posting. You can be sure this is my last time posting (and reading) as well... I have other biblical sources where differing opinions don't get shut down but respected and accepted. There is no one claiming only they are right...and "holier than thou" -- in a word, safer.

There is one good thing out of this-- I am finding that there
are strong and godly believers off this blog who do not call mj the creepiest entertainer...weird yes, not creepiest. And even the culture is more grieved over rather than just blasted as in the first rude article....and as someone familiar with other cultures, I am certainly sad over quite a bit in this one.

As I said before, it's wonderful you enjoy this blog so much!

May God bless you, and all who ever travel this blog!