23.10.2011 Feature Article

Christian Celebrities: Truth And Illusion

Christian Celebrities: Truth And Illusion
23.10.2011 LISTEN

“Reality is not what it is. It consists of the many realities which it can be made into,” says an American poet by name Wallace Stevens. It is against this background that I am moved to pen this piece, as I read some of the stories emerging about what appears to be going on behind the closed doors of an 'adored' star. To me, this emphasises the reality of life as against the projected image in the public eye. I thus proceed on my discourse with both sadness as well as an explainable element of expectation, shielding away any feelings of shock.

I have observed what has been happening to our so-called Christian celebrities in the last few years and how they have began resorting to the media to air their grievances as well as spill the beans. This has led to accusations and counter accusations amongst others. Is this the new trend? What would our early Christian leaders have done, faced with the same issues? I guess they would be turning in their graves considering our new found approach to conflict resolution inter alia the use of the media.

Well, let me build a premise for my discourse to ensure my audience can relate to my argument. Recently, celebrity culture has made its way into Christendom at a breathtaking pace. The idolising of human beings endowed with a talent has swept through the fabric of most denominations. This has always been true of secular settings where human beings are deified. Unfortunately, this act seems to be finding its way into the body of Christ. We now have Christian celebrities who both lay claim to this title as well as being bestowed with it by people, in a way that may be deemed questionable considering their call as servants of God.

However, before ranting and raving at these so-called celebrities, it is worth asking an important question. Who has turned these people into the celebrities they are? In saying that, I note that there is confusion between the truth and illusion about who these so-called celebrities are and what is really expected of them.

Truth may be seen as being the actual state of a matter or the conformity with fact or reality, in a way encompassing fidelity to a required standard or law. It may also explain a verified or indisputable fact, proposition or principle. In essence truth embodies an obvious or accepted fact, one that is genuine. The difficulty about stating or perceiving truth comes from the fact that truth itself can be an elusive concept. This is what Ralph Waldo Emerson echoes in a different light when he says that: “Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Illusion on the other hand, has to do with false appearance or deceptive impression of reality, a false or misleading perception or belief. In psychology, illusion is defined as a perception that is not true to reality, having been altered subjectively in some way in the mind of the perceiver.

The concepts of truth, reality and illusion are very difficult to fully identify. They may be deemed as being impostors or impersonators with each demonstrating an inextricable similitude to each other. This idea is further lent support by Albert Einstein who contends that: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” In addition, Herman Wouk finds that: “Illusion is an anodyne, bred by the gap between wish and reality.”

Turning to the issue of Christian celebrities, I personally see a celebrity as an ordinary person endowed with an extra-ordinary ability of which virtue may not necessarily be an appendage. What is true is that moral excellence is not a given for any Christian celebrity. No matter how we are made to sometimes feel by these celebrities either by what they sing or preach that moral excellence is an attribute they possess in abundance, the reality on the ground may be somewhat different. Countless stories abound to corroborate this assertion and a quick research should hopefully produce many astounding cases.

Moreover, it is hard to argue whether we are taken in by these celebrities based on what we perceive them to be or what we they make us believe them to be. What is questionable though is how we exalt fellow human beings to levels that are unexplainable simply because of their God-given talent. We have created a culture where we have placed these people on infallible pedestals hence we find it hard to comprehend their fall. Consequently, we react in shock and dismay when their stories break, forgetting that these are no stories at all. In effect, they are only snippets of reality seeping through the veil of decency and skulduggery that some of these people hide behind. After all, these are people living in one reality which is different from the illusion that taints our view of them. For some of these so-called celebrities, duplicity is an act that requires careful management of which many are gifted with. If it were not so, a lot more stories would emerge.

While not condoning these actions, what we must all realise is that these are human beings subject to the same frailties common to us. The only difference being they live their lives in the public eye. I personally see some similarities between the lives of these celebrities and that of those in the secular arena. Although most of them are perceived as role models, unfortunately, not many live up to that title and expectation.

Furthermore, in the age that we live in, there is so much scrutiny, some justified and others unjustified. Stories about our adored stars make interesting reading and many in the secular world are as equally unforgiving as those in the faith. The crust of the matter is the requisition for us to concentrate on our own lives as we all have a day of reckoning. There are some who may evade judgement in the present but what awaits us in the future is all-inclusive and inevitable.

For those unfortunate enough to face present judgement, the kinds of comments and remarks left by some readers when stories break are very caustic by all standards. Conversely, Apostle Paul advocates that: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”(1) Irrespective of the fact that these celebrities have a duty to live up to their profession, we must also show a level of care when responding to breaking stories.

Accordingly, another encouragement from Apostle Paul, places us all on the watch. This he enunciates by stating that: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”(2) By this reasoning, one can accept the view that we are all being stalked day-in and day-out by challenging situations as a result of people and circumstances either knowingly or unknowingly working in tandem to present us with tripping opportunities. Under these circumstances, the onus lies on us to examine our own lives and make the required amendments needed.

In a nutshell, this celebrity culture has come to stay and the body of Christ whether we like it or not would continue to embrace this idea funded mainly by ourselves. What remains essential when a story breaks and we become amazed at what goes on behind the closed doors of our adored stars, we should not be overawed, knowing that these people are also challenged just as we all are. Such times should provide us with an opportunity for personal reflection while heeding to Apostle Paul's admonition that: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”(3)

Dr. Frank Robert Silverson
Email: [email protected]
1. Galatians 6:1, King James Version (KJV)
2. 1 Corinthians 10:12, King James Version (KJV)
3. Philippians 2:12, King James Version (KJV) Emphasis mine