Garry’s ‘Talking Point’ sermon tonight looked at the subject of celebrity culture. Celebrities seem to enjoy incredible importance and influence in the Western world, be they film stars, sportspeople, talent show winners or Internet celebrities.
Their fame,wealth and success are things ordinary people aspire to; indeed, many young people today cite ‘being famous’ as their life goal, even if they have no idea what they want to do to achieve fame! Often, this failure to achieve celebrity status breeds resentment and a sense of failure, but social media can create the illusion of fame even for the most ordinary of people. Some will go to extraordinarily dubious lengths to achieve fame (e.g. the Ukrainian mobster, Leonid “Tarzan” Fainberg, whose ‘claim to fame’ was as a sex trafficker who said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”)
What is also significant today is the increasingly varied roles that celebrities play in contemporary culture and the cultural authority that they are granted in those roles: we see celebrities serving as heroes, cultural commentators, charity spokespeople, role models and political candidates, to name just a few. It is truly frightening when politics, education, and our most intimate relationships become entertainment left to the dictates of a few celebrities.
Celebrity culture is founded on the Western lie that people have no intrinsic value set by God. If God is thrown out of the equation, then the value or worth of individuals becomes a commodity to be traded and fame and wealth become the values we live by. Katie Price once said, “No one can live without money. Money and religion are the big things, and that’s it, and I stay away from religion. We love to earn money, who doesn’t? It gets you things and it’s security.” Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity’s book ‘Life’s A Pitch’ argued that the most important thing anyone could sell is themselves, which celebrities do with startling success.
Celebrity culture cannot give people the security and worth they all desire, however: only God can do this. Gen 1:26 reminds us people are made in God’s image and mean so much to Him that He sent His only Son to die for them (John 3:16, Gal 2:19-20). Christ gave Himself as a ransom for people (1 Tim 2:5-6). Our worth is priceless; we are worth far more than the market price for a bag of heroin. Dr. Eric R. Pianka may claim people ‘are no better than bacteria’ and can therefore be destroyed on a whim (see here), but the truth is that God places great value on people and we have a hope that cannot be measured by culture. No matter what others say we are worth, God’s value of us gives us dignity, hope and security. We don’t need celebrity endorsements; we have God’s approval, love and grace.