A Celebrity Christmas

Celebrities are in the news this Christmas.

An article about celebrities and casinos reports, “Celebrity worship has reached epidemic proportions, not only on Madison Avenue but along Las Vegas Boulevard South. Bravo, NBC, ESPN and the Travel Channel air shows exploiting the gambling skills or lack, thereof of such amateur poker players as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Kevin Pollak and Dave Foley. “

In Britain there’s been a great public outcry as “a new celebrity wax work nativity scene unveiled at Madame Tussauds London, featuring American actor Samuel L. Jackson, British actor Hugh Grant (news) and Irish comedian Graham Norton as the shepherds, with English soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria as Joseph and Mary, with Australian singer Kylie Minogue as the angel (photo above) and Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Duke of Edinburgh and President Bush as the three wise men.”

The controversial manger scene was attacked this weekend but we can be reassured that, “He pushed Posh and Becks over. It caused some damage but we don’t know how much. The baby Jesus is fine,” said a spokeswoman for Madame Tussaud’s waxwork museum in London Monday. She went on to say, “”We are not suggesting for one minute these celebrities actually represent the biblical characters themselves and we are sorry if it has been misconstrued as such.” Meanwhile David Beckham and his wife Victoria have “disassociated themselves from the nativity, saying they had no idea they were to be depicted that way.”

Bravo Channel is carrying a special critiquing TV Christmas special over the years. Hosted by that icon of traditional “family values” Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s,” it includes commentary from Paul Reuben of “Pee Wee Herman” (arrested and convicted for indecent exposure a few years ago), and has been described as “two parts degenerate “Bad Santa,” one part slushy “Frosty the Showman.”

That our civilization would turn to celebrities is not a new phenomena, but one that takes on a sad tawdriness in a society where celebrities are “known for being known” rather than for actually accomplishing anything. Daniel Boorstein sees the difference between celebrities of the past and today’s noteworthy this way, “great men into three classes: those born great, those who achieved greatness, those who had greatness thrust upon them. It never occurred to him to mention those who hired public relations experts and press secretaries to make themselves look great.”

In such a shallow age, celebrity has taken on a power unequal to it’s frothy vacuous-ness. TIME magazine’s Richard Corliss observes, “Celebrity is “possibly the most vital shaping force in society¢â‚¬¦Celebrities have become, in recent decades, the chief agents of moral change in the US.”

The near canonization of retiring newscaster Tom Brokaw was preceded by Peter Jenning’s comment, “No country in the world is so driven by personality, has such a hunger to identify with personalities, larger-than-life personalities especially¢â‚¬¦as this one.”

Of Oprah Vanity Fair once said, “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician or religious leader except the Pope.”

Of greatest concern is the idolatrous nature of celebrity as reported by Neil Gabler in “Life The Movie,” “The spirituality, the alternative reality, the easy transcendence, the celebrity homilies, the gospel’s inspired by celebritie’s deaths, the icons on their way to apotheosis all these edged entertainment, as incarnated by celebrities, ever closer to theology, in a way, turning the tables. If religion had become entertainment, entertainment was now becoming a religion. “

In a season born to honor the virgin Mary’s offspring, we should not be surprised that our superficial society would be diverted to honoring those “known for being known” over the one who knows, loves us and laid down his life for us.

In today’s world, it is ironic that staying focused on Jesus is complicated by more diversions and distractions than any other season of the year.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in December 13, 2004 by | No Comments »

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