Carl Trueman writes about the recent dust up between Janet Mefferd and Mark Driscoll in If the Top Men take over, who will ask the hard questions? He touches on the pass that celebrity Christians often seem to get versus that of ordinary Christians.
Trueman points out that “celebrity culture” has “corrupted the young, restless and reformed movement.” However, such an infection goes beyond the YRR movement, as I can personally attest to as a Southern Baptist who received threats over a recent article.
Ironically, I know a few men who would probably be considered celebrity Christians in certain areas of Evangelicalism. (Note: Our Evangelical world isn’t really that big.) Recently, I got to spend some brief, personal, humble prayer time with such a celebrity. Now, whatever level of celebrity my friends have is not evil in and of itself. In fact, these men can, and have, used their celebrity status to further God’s Kingdom. If we were able to personally know some of these celebrities, we may come away with a different picture of who they are – a different understanding.
Even so, the real problem may not be celebrity Christians.
Rather, it may be those of us who have made them into celebrities. Celebrity Christians are only doing what most of us would probably do by working in the areas God has opened for us as much as we can. I cannot read the heart of a celebrity Christian anymore than they can read mine. Yet, I do know the tendency for evil and self-centeredness in my own heart which gives me a sneaky suspicion that the celebrity is not on immune to the same.
The tendency may be for those of us in the audience to feed celebrity self-centeredness by quickly coming to their defense before humbly and prayerfully weighing the evidence. Culturally, celebrities are created by the people, just as in the Christian sub-culture, celebrities are created by the church. Maybe there is a little bit of celebrity in all of us and because of that we often defend who we want to be.
Finally, I believe Dr. Trueman’s warnings about Christian celebrity is much needed today. They are much needed by all of us on both sides of the pulpit. I pray that Christian celebrities are a strong voice for Jesus with all humility, truth, and transparency. Is there truly any other way? Likewise, I pray the same for their followers of which we all are in some respect. My biggest heart break in all of this is how often the parties involved a conflict walk away without the slightest notion that they have walked away as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Trueman begins:
The controversy surrounding Janet Mefferd’s interview of Mark Driscoll is interesting for a variety of reasons. There is one aspect of it which has yet to attract comment as far as I can tell. That is the way it brings out another aspect of the celebrity culture which has so corrupted the young, restless and reformed movement.
My interest here is not who was right and who was wrong. That will no doubt be fairly easy to establish as the claims which Janet Mefferd made should be empirically verifiable. I would only comment that, in my own interactions with Janet Mefferd, I have always found her forthright but fair. I am concerned in this post only with what the reactions to the interview tell us about the culture of celebrity in the subculture that is evangelicalism.
I have tried a number of times to make the point that being a celebrity is not the same as being a public figure. Anyone who acts in public is, to a greater or lesser degree, a public figure. Celebrity brings with it such matters as a culture of false intimacy with complete strangers and a charismatic authority rooted in the person not in an institution. Thus, influence is often predicated on personality, not on the intrinsic merits of arguments etc.
The Mefferd-Driscoll controversy points to another aspect of celebrity culture: celebrities are routinely allowed to behave in ways which would not be tolerated in ordinary mortals.
Read and consider the whole article: If the Top Men take over, who will ask the hard questions?
Here I blog…
p.s. I was asked about whether or not celebrity shepherds should have “more responsibility for his celebrity-ness than those he shepherds?” My intention above was not to give a full-blown analysis of the problematic aspects of Christian celebrity culture. Though a good question, one of the problems with it is that the celebrity shepherd, in most cases, isn’t shepherding those who have made him a celebrity. As I recall, I made similar observations in Should “Celebrity” Pastors Offer Disclaimers?
Yet, the question is exactly right in its underlying premise that, as the book of James says, teachers have a greater responsibility and will be judged more strictly.