The Idolatry of Celebrity

The Idolatry of Celebrity It’s a strange thing about celebrity. Nearly everyone dreams of being really famous…until they are. Then they usually hate it. Celebrities hire publicists and marketing gurus to help them build their brand identity, and widen their exposure. However, once they have achieved a high level of recognition, they retreat into their private cocoons, and begin a futile battle against the Paparazzi, trying to escape the public eye. It’s so sad to think of the tragic deaths of so many celebrities who died unhappy and feeling unloved: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Chris Farley, Robin Williams and scores of others. You see, the one thing that celebrity really doesn’t (and dare I say CAN’T?) bring you, is love. Quite the opposite really. To the uninformed, it may seem that all of those adoring fans truly love the artist, sports hero, actor, author, model, etc. But, no, that isn’t true. In reality, the adoring fans really just love themselves. The infatuation for the hero is really an extension of their own desire to achieve that place of prestige, fame, wealth or notoriety. When they dance in their bedroom to the songs of their favorite pop icon, singing into their hairbrush as though it were a microphone (we can only pray to God that only females actually do that!), they envision themselves on that stage, with thousands of adoring fans screaming out their name. When they cheer for their favorite team, they see themselves scoring that winning championship point. To them, their idol (telling choice of words) is a tangible reflection of what they wish their life could be. They believe that all of the notoriety will fill the empty spot inside their souls, and they will finally feel fulfilled, happy and loved. It’s just a mirage though. It’s an unattainable myth, as impossible to grasp as a cloud or your reflection in a still water. Even within the Christian world we have celebrities. They may be recording artists, authors, mega-church pastors, radio or TV personalities, etc. It’s amazing how a good head-shot, camera angle, back-ground music, or well-designed promo piece can make an average person look and sound larger than life. The Crowd Will Turn On You It’s an odd dynamic that happens when someone is worshiped by another person. Everyone loves to hang around with a winner. However, when that idolized person finally messes up in some way, when they fail to live up...

Genius: The Legacy of John Lennon (Movie Review)

Genius: The Legacy of John Lennon (Movie Review) “Genius” is a new and chilling movie based on the life and tragic murder of John Lennon. The Producer of the Los Angeles-based film company, Ray Comfort, said, “It’s chilling because it reveals what people will do for money. There are ordinary people out there who would kill you. All they need is the right amount of money and the belief that they won’t get caught.” Ken Mansfield, the former U.S. Manager for Apple Records said, “Genius will open your eyes.” Other reviewers have called it “fast-paced, thought-provoking and compelling.” It is being promoted as “33 minutes that will rock your soul.” Comfort’s last movie “180” received more than 3.7 million views on YouTube and aired on television around the world. “Genius” has been released for free viewing on www.GeniusTheMovie.com to coincide with the December 8th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Comfort added, “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.’ That’s what John Lennon did. He pushed the musical envelope of creativity.” The Genius trailer: youtu.be/ZW2lhWfa28g Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker and is the Director of Family Renewal,...

Matisyahu Reexamines his Faith

Matisyahu Reexamines his Faith World-famous Reggae / Hip Hop artist, Matisyahu, shocked his fans recently by posting a picture of a freshly shaved version of himself on Twitter. Most people don’t make news when they shave, but this iconic pop star has become known for his close ties to Hasidic Judaism, and his traditional, almost Orthodox garb. This surprised many of his fans.   His explanation on his website said: “No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process.  It was my choice.  My journey :to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life.  At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth.  I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart.  I am reclaiming myself.  Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.“ He told Rolling Stone magazine: “The group I was heavily into said you can’t cut (your beard) even if you want to. Besides, it’s a representation of God’s mercy. If you cut that off, you’re like, cutting of God’s mercy. So I bought into that, for a long time…Then I realized that some of my ideas, at least for me at this at this point, were not true anymore. I think it’s a symbol, and symbols aren’t the thing itself. If I’m connecting with God internally, if I believe in my own goodness and God’s goodness, than that idea (not cutting his beard) just didn’t resonate with me anymore.” In an interview with WNYC Radio, he said: “What happened was that I recently realized that God’s mercy can’t possibly be connected to me shaving or not shaving. Over the last few weeks I went through a pretty major transformation, probably bigger than any in my life, due to several things, but a lot of revelations and a lot of realizations starting coming clear to me. The idea that God’s mercy is connected to whether or not I shave, is ludicrous. I need to just trust myself. If I’m deserving of God’s mercy, I’ll get it.” From my point-of-view, I’m glad to hear that Matisyahu is wrestling and grappling with his faith. I think it is important for all of us to continue to grow, to reexamine,...

The Gospel According to Bob Dylan

Today is Bob Dylan‘s 70th birthday. The outspoken “prophet” of the turbulent 1960’s has never ceased to be an enigma to many of his friends, and adversaries. During the “Jesus Movement” Dylan found his way into a California Vineyard church and began studying the Bible. Dylan attended a course held at the Vineyard School of Discipleship, which ran four days a week over the course of three months. “At first I said, ‘There’s no way I can devote three months to this,'” Dylan would say in a 1980 interview. “‘I’ve got to be back on the road soon.’ But I was sleeping one day and I just sat up in bed at seven in the morning and I was compelled to get dressed and drive over to the Bible school.” I remember growing up listening to Dylan’s gospel albums (yes, those black vinyl discs that look like frisbees), bank in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It’s amazing how bold and direct his message was. Especially now as we are swimming in Postmodern uncertainty, it is refreshing to hear a voice of clarity promoting moral absolutes. Dylan proclaimed: You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody I mean, think of what a radical thing it must have been for the hippie generation to hear their icon declaring: I was blinded by the devil Born already ruined Stone-cold dead As I stepped out of the womb By His grace I have been touched By His word I have been healed By His hand I’ve been delivered By His spirit I’ve been sealed I’ve been saved By the blood of the lamb Saved That’s telling it straighter than most preachers today! Dylan was booed by his fans and concert attendance dropped off dramatically. Dylan once lamented: Years ago they … said I was a prophet. I used to say, “No I’m not a prophet” they say “Yes you are, you’re a prophet.” I said, “No it’s not me.” They used to say “You sure are a prophet.” They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, “Bob Dylan’s no prophet.” They just can’t handle it. Somewhere in the mid-1980’s Dylan became disillusioned with at least institutional Christianity and distanced himself from public proclamations of faith. Regardless of Dylan’s own personal faith (or...

“Your Own Personal Jesus?”

“Your Own Personal Jesus?” Originally recorded by Depeche Mode and later by Johnny Cash and the anti-Christian icon, Marilyn Manson (among others), the song “Your Own Personal Jesus” has been ranked #368 in Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and was voted as one of the “100 Greatest Songs Ever” in Q magazine. I am posting the Johnny Cash version of the song, because I find the other video versions offensive. Lyrics for Personal Jesus Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who cares Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who’s there Feeling unknown And you’re all alone Flesh and bone By the telephone Lift up the receiver I’ll make you a believer Take second best Put me to the test Things on your chest You need to confess I will deliver You know I’m a forgiver Reach out and touch faith Reach out and touch faith Your own personal Jesus…  Each version of the song was recorded with a different intent depending on the artist. Depeche Mode intended it as a statement of how people are so co-dependent in their human relationships that they idolize each other to the point of worship and express undue adulation. Their version also is heavily laced with sexual innuendo.  Marilyn Manson intended it as an irreverent mockery of Christians and their “need” for faith. Johnny Cash meant it sincerely, demonstrating the genuine need of every person to find forgiveness through Christ. The song has been going through my head the past couple of days as I have been thinking about the state of the American evangelical church world. I think this song could very well be the theme song of contemporary Western Christianity. I’ve heard a zillion sermons that sound like they could have been lifted from this very rock tune. “The Gospel” is presented in most preaching today as being all about the individual and their needs. You need a “personal savior” to help you to “Become A Better You” so that you can have “Your Best Life Now.” They say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life, so why don’t you take five minutes and ask Jesus to come into your heart and be your own personal savior? That’s all there is to it! Just believe (doesn’t matter much WHAT) and you will be saved.” Despite the fact that the Bible never uses this terminology or methodology, it...

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© Israel Wayne.