The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Rowan Williams has highlighted...
Society today is unlike anything it has ever been before. Technology has allowed us to have insights into the lives of individuals all over the globe, pushing forward the celebrity based culture. Social media has meant we can have minute-by-minute updates on what our favourite celeb is up to, possibly knowing more about their lives than that of our family and friends. Whilst there can be some merits in being ‘in the know’, is there a point when our status checking and intrigue turn into obsession and idolatry?
The current celebrity culture is a relatively new invention. Throughout history, there has no doubt been a number of characters that we could label as ‘celebrities’, but global fandom was not as possible and instantaneous as it is today. During the 20th century, celebrities began to become more prominent. These individuals often gained their fame for their exploits in the arts, sports or in the political arena. The 21st century saw a new wave of fame, one which could be obtained through ‘reality TV’ programmes such as Big Brother. Suddenly, the ordinary person didn’t need much talent to become a celebrity.
So in the climate we find ourselves in today, there are more celebrities than we have ever known. This has meant that there are celebrities for everyone to follow. If you like sports, you can see how your favourite sports player is preparing for his next big game. If you enjoy films, you can see how your favourite movie star (an interesting word to describe a person) unwinds off set. This authorised accessibility is also supplemented by the world of paparazzi following celebrities every move and delivering our celebrity fix through various media channels. The fact that a career can be formed in taking photos of others in their worst moments shows how celebrity obsessed we have become.
So when does our love of our favourite celebrity become dangerous? Many people routinely check Mail Online or their Twitter timelines for the latest celebrity gossip. There are even websites (TMZ is one example) exclusively in operation to provide this. Some would say these sites are just delivering news, but whether this news is of any real value is debatable. And then there’s sports. As an avid football fan, I’ve often been in the terraces singing songs about my team’s players. If you strip it down, what you have is thousands of people giving adoration to a fellow human being. So is this a form of idolatry, or are football fans simply giving encouragement to their team’s players in order to help them perform better?
The fact that a career can be formed in taking photos of others in their worst moments shows how celebrity obsessed we have become
In the world of social media, young people (and some older), are known to often refer to themselves as disciples of sorts of certain celebrities. Justin Beiber has his ‘Beliebers’ and One Direction have their ‘Directioners’. This may seem harmless on the surface, but is this creating an identity in fellow human beings? We ourselves are called Christians due to being followers of Christ, and with our identity ultimately being in him, is it wise to identify as a follower of anyone else?
In the end, I think it comes down to one question and that is a question of our heart. Is our need to know, follow or praise what celebrities are doing greater than our desire to know, worship or spend time with God? If our first thought when we wake up in the morning is to check social media to get our latest celebrity fix rather than coming to God in preparation for the day ahead, the answer could be yes. With so many distractions it’s important that we don’t make anyone or anything into an idol.
In the modern times, idols are no longer forged out of gold or the finest stone. At the root, we could say man was made to worship. This worship was supposed to be given to God, but if it isn’t, it will go elsewhere as that is our nature. This worship is not only given to celebrities, but anything that we put before God on a regular basis. Worship does not just consist of singing songs, but speaks more of what we devote and give our time to. In an age where technology continues to advance, it is not hard for us to be distracted and give our time and energies to things that ultimately bear little significance.
So whilst we all have our favourite ‘celebrities’ for one reason or another and the world continues to put them on a pedestal, the call as believers is to constantly keep God on his pedestal and check in with him on a daily basis through his word and prayer.