Celebrity Bigger Than Jesus

“The Beatles are bigger than Jesus.” John Lennon (foto right)

There are many critiques one could offer after watching Diane Sawyer’s interview with Mel Gibson, but the images most imprinted on my so-called mind were those of evangelicals fawning over Mel Gibson. Willow Creek, Saddleback, other mega churches and strategic pastor’s gatherings hosted Mel Gibson, who likened these events to movie tie-ins, like Burger King giveaways with Toy Story. Sometimes in our eagerness to hit the “big time” (as defined by whoever is in People Magazine?) evangelicals remind me of the unpopular High School kid who finally gets invited to eat at the popular kid’s table.

Lee Strobel introducing Mel to a packed auditorium of college students reminded me of the contrast between well-attended celebrity chapels and normal poorly attended chapels when I attended Christian College in the 60’s. Back then most youth ministries attracted big crowds with big names. Recent celebrity converts got main stage while humble saints were bypassed. As a broadcaster I’ve tried to buck the tide, avoiding the vacuous “celebrity of the week stuff” and instead booking guests who actually think and have something to say. But as I look over my life, at times I’ve also been an active, ambitious participant in the evangelical celebrity sweepstakes. Now it leaves me feeling empty.

The argument can be made that Jesus was a celebrity who drew big crowds, but such an observation must come in the context of those he chose as his disciples and what he sought in his speaking. Among the rag-tag bunch Jesus chose as disciples not one came close to celebrity status. These were ordinary, common, unschooled men. Jesus did not seek large crowds, but only those who believed. Because of this many turned back and no longer followed him. As a wonderful article by Andrew Crouch says, Jesus opted for a different kind of power.

The Passion led ABC to survey religious beliefs about the Bible and they were surprised at how many Americans take the Bible literally.
The Passion has also led to a rethinking of the importance of the R-rating
with many churches recommending kids see this flick!

Yesterday I posted an article about the Southern Baptist
assault on NYC. To me the most interesting comment in the article was the following. After pointing out that 75% of evangelical churches have stopped growing or are shrinking a SB executive said this: “We need to continue to grow, and so we need to have an interest in the areas where the people have gathered throughout the nation.” Jesus did not show an interest in a region because “the church needed to grow.” Such embarrassingly bold-faced institutionalism is usually masked, but it drives the shallowness of an American church that draws a big crowd through big names. Why not? Celebrities are bigger than Jesus.

For foreign culture watchers check out the new training in Arab ways and an idea and an Israeli idea for stopping terrorism involving pig fat that only makes sense if you understand culture.

Finally, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire will not be used in a hemorrhoid commercial AND another piece of evidence that what American’s crave is notoriety
over talent.

Remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For now).

If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com
  • Posted in Staublog in February 17, 2004 by | No Comments »

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    + 47 = 52

    More from Staublog