Both my daughters are decent writers. In fact, my oldest daughter is pursuing a degree in digital media, and currently writes for several campus and regional publications.
The other day, I read an article she wrote about celebrity politicians. Like any good reporter, she expanded the focus of the article to include college students’ thoughts about other promising celebrity politicians. And some of their ideas about potential celebrity presidents terrified me.
- One student expressed strong support for Wacka Flocka, a rapper who announced his candidacy for president earlier this year despite being seven years younger than the minimum age requirement.
- Another student said that she hopes Nicki Minaj will run for president at some point because she seems to be a strong woman.
- The younger generation seems to be oddly supportive of Kanye West, who announced at this year’s VMAs that he’s running for president in 2020.
Never mind the fact that Wacka Flocka and Nicki Minaj and Kanye West are no more qualified to be president than you or me or the guy who pours your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. To win the confidence of otherwise rational and well-intentioned people, all it takes is the right name, the right look and a healthy dose of ego.
It’s celebrity worship. It’s alive and well in America. And it’s crushing our soul.
How the cult of celebrity is spiritually harmful
It’s fun to watch celebrities. Their quirky personalities, their lavish lifestyles, their personal dramas — it’s fascinating stuff when your own life isn’t very exciting.
But there’s a fine line between following a few celebrity stories and full-blown celebrity worship. And anyone who thinks that Kanye should be the leader of the free world has taken a few too many sips of the celebrity Kool Aid.
The rising trend of celebrity politicians is a symptom of a larger problem, i.e., a culture that values celebrity over experience, integrity and other time-tested virtues.
- Celebrity worship fuels ego, and ego is a soul-killer. Not all celebrities are narcissistic maniacs. But the concept of celebrity is inherently self-promotional. By contributing to the cult of celebrity, we feed their egos. Worse yet, we feed our own egos because it becomes easier to rationalize self-centeredness (rather than other-centeredness) as a gateway to success.
- Celebrity worship distorts our perspective. You can’t see the world clearly through a fishbowl and that’s kind of what celebrity is — an artificially enclosed world that exists apart from real life. Celebrity worship distorts our perspective about the things that are truly important because it causes us to see the world through a lens of unreality. When we take a step back and regain our spiritual footing, we realize the insignificance of the latest celebrity gossip compared to the needs of real people in the real world.
- Celebrity worship robs us of our self-worth. Ultimately, celebrity worship reduces the value of our lives. It’s likely that the students my daughter interviewed for her article will one day be more qualified to lead the country than their celebrity idols. But the cult of celebrity has conditioned them to believe that famous singers and actors and athletes are more capable and valuable than they are. That’s a disgrace because it limits the potential of their God-given gifts and replaces their self esteem with a lie.
Jesus rejected the idea of celebrity. Even more, he avoided becoming the focus of celebrity worship by asking his followers to keep quiet about his miracles and his identity as the son of God.
In today’s hyper-connected media culture, exposure to celebrities is unavoidable. But when we refuse to participate in celebrity worship, we reaffirm the value of all people — not just the lucky few.