Another impossibility: Christian Celebrities

October 27, 2009

Peter Rollins talk about the leader who reject leadership. This is Christian leadership. The leader who always gives the decision back, never willing to be the leader.

We cannot get around celebrities, if with celebrities we mean those known by many. People are not connected in a random network (see explanation of random and scale-free networks in the beginning on this well-known article by Dwight Friesen), where everyone is connected to a similar amount of people. This becomes even less so when one a one-way connection is needed (such as with twitter, where you can follow someone without them following you, and different from facebook, where both need to confirm before they are friends).

Celebrities require such a one-way connection. And we will always have some people that are more well-known than others. But the world in which we live has created a culture where celebrity is being fed with meaning. Now the popularity of this person gives them authority. Authority to make truth-claims which then need to be followed simply because of the celebrity which said this (see how we quote celebrities sometimes). Authority to be above the system, to be untouchable (some of this came to the surface during the recent Polanski/Hollywood affair).

The Christian is part of a tradition in which texts such as these are important:

What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul the Apostle, 1 Corintians 1:12-13

Also texts such as these:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good– except God alone.

Jesus in the Gospel according to Mark, 10:17-18

The Christian celebrity, meaning the one who is known by more people within the system of human relations, always rejects the celebrity status that come with the connection, the status which provides authority or privilege in any way on the basis of being a celebrity. It is impossible to be a celebrity, in my second definition of celebrity, and in line with the teachings of Jesus as they are reported in the gospels.

2 Responses to “Another impossibility: Christian Celebrities”

  1. Michael Says:

    What about Paul’s utilitarian “to those under the law, I become like one under the law”? (paraphrase). I think Paul would have rejected the status but accepted the celebrity as a tool useful to the Kingdom. I’ve heard Christian celebrities (particularly celebrity worship leaders – yikes! An unenviable role to play I’m sure, and one that’s often not chosen) use this sort of argument. Celebrity may be the cross some people have to carry for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom. Wat dink jy?

  2. iacovos Says:

    Paul said to imitate him as he imitates Christ. He says for them to follow and obey his teachings. His authority as an Apostle is never in question in his letters. I do not see how a Christian leader should always refuse “to be the leader.” Rather he should refuse to lord it over others “as the Gentiles do.” He should follow the example of Christ who led by becoming a servant (but that doesn’t mean he is not a leader).

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