When I was growing up, the program that usually followed the evening news was “Entertainment Tonight,” an extension of the “news” in the realm of celebrities (actors and actresses, musicians, athletes, politicians, billionaires, etc.). Since that time, “ET” is still around but has been joined by the likes of TMZ, an E! Network, a wealth of tabloid magazines, and even major segments of the sites and programming of major news networks (like CNN and FoxNews) devoted just to the latest news in entertainment. Many of us remember the role that paparazzi “journalists” even played in the car crash that caused the death of Princess Diana in 1997. And there would not be millions of dollars wrapped up in the following of “stars” if the public was not interested. It’s a fascinating human phenomenon. We are more interested in how long Brad Pitt is staying married this time around than we are in actually encouraging the thriving of the marriages of people we know. We like to talk about who is in drug rehab to divert us from tackling our own addictions.
Obsession with celebrities is nothing new. You can read the sad saga of Absalom, one of the sons of David, in 2 Samuel 13-18. And the description of this favored public figure in 2 Sam. 14:25-26 sounds like a page out of TMZ:
"Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king's weight."
If this isn’t the language of celebrity obsession (and even celebrity worship), I don’t know what is. Abasalom would have been on the cover of People Magazine in the “World’s Most Beautiful People” edition…every year. And the public was so obsessed with him that it appears that there was an annual ceremony in which he cut his hair and weighed it. No such ceremony would have happened if there wasn’t a market for it. And as his story reveals, Absalom was not exactly the role model you would want for your kids.
The dangers of celebrity obsession are numerous. Perhaps there is a certain thrill with living vicariously through the lives of the rich and the famous (as opposed to my own mundane life). Maybe the rumors or dirt about people we don’t know personally gives us our “gossip fix” without harming our own personal reputations or those of people we see every day. But I think the greatest danger lies in an adoration of persons that borders on worship - an offering of time and interest that should be reserved for God alone...the placing of a creature on the same pedestal as the Creator (Rom. 1:25).
To His Glory,
Preaching and Outreach Minister