Spirituality in a Celebrity World
October 8, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Two weeks ago, while I was sitting in the waiting room of St. Luke’s Surgery Center (my wife undergoing hip-arthroscopy), I fought hard to mentally block out the ever-present drone of CNN news (I forgot to bring ear-buds with me for my own background noise). I was pretty successful until the surgeon came out to consult with me after he completed the surgery. I was anxious to see my wife in recovery and they had told me it would be about another thirty minutes. During that time CNN was transfixed on Pope Francis’ visit to New York. Their cameras were following him on a visit to a Catholic school in Harlem.
The fervor and excitement of the students, teachers, and administrators in meeting the Pope was exuberant. Nearly everyone had a phone in hand, presumably taking pictures and videos. Even when one had the chance to shake the Pope’s hand, their eyes were fixed on the screen of their phone. The Pope graciously posed for selfies. In the background, a group of schoolchildren chanted incessantly, “Holy Father, we love you!”
I can’t help but think that the whole spectacle illustrates the Western world’s infatuation with celebrity status. Sure, Catholics esteem the Pope as a spiritual father and leader of their faith, but what does a selfie have to do with your spirituality? And Protestants are no better with their flocking to celebrity preachers and latest trends. It is like we long to lay claim to our little piece of the popular.
Do we measure our sense of significance by how much attention we can garner from status updates and tweets? Do we somehow feel empty if our ordinary lives don’t produce the thrill of followers?
When his disciples told him that “all were going to Jesus,” John the Baptist responded humbly, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26, 30). John acknowledged that his joy, and his sense of significance, was rooted in Christ. He did not live for the sake of followers. John models a Christ-centered spirituality. He doesn’t need to be special because he has Christ.
The love of celebrity and the longing to share a piece of celebrity is contrary to Christ-centered spirituality. It roots joy and a sense of significance in ourselves, not Christ.
In C.S. Lewis’ Narnian book, The Horse and His Boy, Bree is a valiant, Narnian-talking, war horse in the far south country of Calormen. He prided himself in being more significant than other horses. But when he acted cowardly, he was utterly dejected. A wise, kindly hermit encourages him, “My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit… It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.”
We don’t need to be “very special,” like a celebrity, if we have Christ. Christ is far better than being special.