When someone asks me questions like, “Who’s your favorite celebrity?” or, “If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would you pick?” I usually have two options. I could go further down my list and pick someone they have actually heard of and keep the conversation going, or I could pick my favorite Christian theologians and apologists, only for the other person to give me a blank stare. Christian and celebrity are two words that probably should not go together as often as they do. Fame tends to lead people into trouble, or at the very least expose the trouble they already had. To then put a Christian, who ought to be held to a higher standard, up on that kind of pedestal is bound to be problematic. They say never meet your heroes, because your hero is a flawed person too. I would like to flip this notion on its head, because it’s high time we rethink how we treat celebrities, especially in Christian culture. Instead, you should always meet your heroes.
It can be simultaneously exciting and depressing to hear people’s celebrity anecdotes. We tend to eat up drama, but we also hate to find out a celebrity we love is a mean and terrible person. I will occasionally read through Reddit threads filled with stories like this, but before diving too deep in you search the thread to make sure my favorites aren’t in there. But why do we care, and why do we idolize these celebrities in the first place? Should we care if Michael Jordan can be a bit of a jerk? Why does it matter if Tom Hanks is nice or not? It’s because we’ve created this image of them that we love and don’t want it tarnished by flaws. You’re never supposed to meet your heroes because you might have a bad experience with them and realize they’re a flawed human being. You know, just like everyone else.
Obviously, we first must be careful who we look up to. If your favorite celebrity is someone in showbusiness, an industry where your job is to put on a show and pretend to be something you’re not, keep the expectations in check. They probably have a really good PR team. An athlete is a regular person who is really good at this one particular thing. That doesn’t make them divine. Even in my case where a lot of my favorite people are big name Christian apologists, they’re not perfect either. Have you ever had a pastor who didn’t have flaws? Why would we expect a speaker with even more fame and influence to be flawless? It simply doesn’t work that way. Even if we never see the flaws, we as Christians know they exist, and thus need to not only carefully choose who we look up to, but limit how far we take that. Respect or admiration is one thing, hero worship and idolizing is another. Much like putting your faith in someone’s testimony, idolizing any person is a problem because people fail. Your faith should not be in another person’s story besides Christ, because once the dark part of that story is revealed, your faith is rocked.
Humanize Your Heroes
I really like to get books signed by their authors. It’s one of the things I love about apologetics conferences like ReThink, because it gives me a chance to meet a speaker and chat with them. But I know that many of the so-called Christian celebrities find the idea of being a celebrity extremely awkward. But these interactions, as starstruck as I may be going into them, are very valuable, because it humanizes them in a way that hearing them talk otherwise never could. I contend that you should always meet your heroes because you might have an awkward experience. Human beings are often awkward, and interaction can be uncomfortable. Obviously, we don’t want to cause that, but it’s somewhat inevitable. That awkwardness teaches the valuable lesson that the person you’ve idolized is just a person. They may have earned your respect and admiration, and maybe even some book sales, but hit the brakes there.
The apostle Paul even dealt with this, as the church was growing. Big names like Paul and Apollos began to be iconic. But we are all under one name, and that is Christ alone.
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?1 Corinthians 1:12-13 ESV
Always meet your heroes, because there is no better reminder that they are not Christ, and we still need a savior to put our hope in. We only need one hero, and he didn’t wear a jersey, a uniform, or a cape. He carried a cross.
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