that a rich and famous celebrity has died?
Does it really matter that another spoiled child shaved her head, went
into drug rehab, left it, and then returned, a few days later? Must we care that people who seem to have
everything act like pagans and suffer the obvious results of their foolish or
wicked behavior? Isn’t there anything or
anyone more important to talk about? Who
really cares about such pathetic people?
care! Do I care about Anna Nicole Smith,
particularly? She’s dead and beyond the
reach of anyone’s concern. The attention
the media are giving her now is little more than the worse kind of scandal
mongering. The public’s interest isn’t
concern; it is more like vultures circling an injured animal or a gang of
scavengers fighting for a carcass. Do
any of them care for the suffering creature, or do they just want a piece of
care to join the frenzy or even watch it, although I find myself beset with a
sick fascination. I felt the same when
the doctor cut out an infected hangnail; I couldn’t quite stop myself from
watching! I am less embarrassed to admit
being glued to the TV following President Kennedy’s assassination; that, at
least, was a genuine tragedy that profoundly affected our nation. Besides, I was only a teenager then.
case, her grown son preceded her in death, and the fate of her daughter is
precarious, at best. Brittany Spears is
well on her way to a similar destination, both she and her kids, but watching
the wreck play out isn’t sympathy. It is
a wish to see a person ruined, someone they begrudge their wealth, success, and
popularity, and it’s pretty sick.
We can make
a list of the famous who have drowned in their own fame—Marilyn Monroe, the
first Superman George Reeves, funnyman John Belushi, pop singer Karen
Carpenter, talented young actor River Phoenix, grunge rocker Kurt Cobain. They all died at the height of their
celebrity, largely from some form of self-destruction mingled with deep-seated
self-doubt. Stalkers have killed
celebrities, the jealous have murdered the objects of the resentment, and
criminals have preyed on their corrupted lifestyles.
One of my
students can’t understand how someone who “has it all” could become so obviously
miserable. Many of us think if we had
their beauty, talent, money, and success, then our lives would be better,
better than these messed up celebrates, and better than our own. Such beliefs are the source of jealousy,
resentment, fascination with celebrities and the gossip that masquerades as
news, and often personal frustration.
that, I still care, but I care about the tragedy of lives lost, just not these
lives! I care about the millions,
perhaps, of mostly young people who, in admiring the famous, want to be like
them. They want what they have but don’t
realize that they will more than likely get the bad, not the good.
drug peddlers, for example. Many inner
city youth see the “bling bling” of big-time pushers and think they see the
rewards of easy money. Somehow, they
fail to see the arrests, jail time, violence, and early deaths of those same
criminals. Think about sports stars, the
visible success of the few, and the attraction for millions of would-be
athletes, who somehow miss the greater number who never gain fame or wealth or
who rarely admit their steroid abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, or
I also care
about the hangers-on, the groupies, and the wannabes who imagine that the fame
is, in some way, transferable or reproducible.
How many have suffered scorn and abuse, thinking themselves to be
friends of the famous? How many young
women have gained disease, pregnancy, or injury by becoming bedmates to
celebrities? How many men and women have
tried to transform themselves into a well-know image with cosmetics or even
surgery? How many have fallen into
despair, substance abuse, and poverty when their imitations and impositions
how many impressionable young people observed the tragic absurdity of Anna
Nicole’s body rotting as her supposed “loved ones” argued over the remains, not
of her body but of her wealth and fame.
I wonder how many people, young and old, wasted their time on the
titillation of the nearly constant news coverage, when they could have done any
number of more positive, useful things.
Instead they wasted their lives on the wasted lives of these pathetic
I also care
that the excessive coverage of scandal and rumor, that is nothing more than
glorified gossip, encourages people to think that gossip is somehow a good
thing. A famous person often finds the
spotlight of media attention, cameras recording their every move, and the
frequent invasion of their privacy by strangers to be uncomfortable and intrusive. No matter how familiar the face, the public
does not actually know these people.
Furthermore, their fame does not justify gossip, nor does glorifying
gossip as news make talking about others acceptable or justifiable.
Gossip, including the celebrity
variety, is filled with judgment.
Fallible human beings, what the Bible rightly calls sinners, love to
criticize the lives and decisions of others.
There is rarely anything positive or constructive about it. Criticizing famous people is easy, almost a
permissible sport. Yet, it is the most
unjust kind of behavior.
An Old Testament verse says, “Man
looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” The immediate object of the statement was
Saul; though popular with the people, God knew he would be a bad king. In general, the principle teaches that only
God is capable of true justice because only God can see our inside thoughts,
motives, weaknesses, and willfully bad choices.
Gossip presumes, in ignorance, to
judge how well other people live their lives and discuss those judgments with
other people. People share rumors as
truth, partial stories as the whole truth, and suspicions and assumptions as
insight. Facts are shared along with
innuendos, private matters are disclosed, and the “splinters in the eyes of
others” are revealed, often to obscure the “logs in the eyes” of the
revealers. Without a doubt, people often
discuss the mistakes and failings of others to diminish them, in order to boost
their own reputation or self-esteem.
In this, Christians can be even
more vicious, despite having the higher standard. In this era and culture, many disparage
morality, claim that there are no absolute values, and yet still criticize. Christians believe in revealed, unchanging
truth, a system of right and wrong given by God, and that every person fails to
obey those laws. Christians also believe
in forgiveness, paid in the blood of Jesus Christ. God forgives and expects His sons and
daughters to forgive, “70 times 7” times.
Forgiven sinners should forgive readily and repeatedly, yet instead,
their knowledge of righteousness often provides the excuse for harsh, unbending
criticism with little mercy, forgiveness, patience, or grace.
So, I do care. I care about the human tragedy of blest, yet
often pathetic, wasted lives. I care
about the potential destruction of the lives of those who admire and aspire to
be like them. I care about others who
suffer pain and abuse from wanting to share such lives vicariously. I care about the pain that judgmentalism
creates for both the famous and the ordinary victims of gossip, and I care
about the people who imagine themselves superior, even as they use gossip to
obscure or minimize their own sin.
I care about you, my friend,
although I don’t know you. Genuine
kindness and concern for the people around you can be powerful and
wonderful. Love and compassion can
encourage, help, and support people; forgiveness can release people from guilt
and its crippling affects. Humility in
owning weaknesses makes a better person, while a superior attitude keeps sin
hidden and the sinner small and bitter.
Admiring good people makes them inspirational and motivational; they
become models to follow. Idolizing
distant celebrities creates impossible fantasies, which lead to frustration,
disappointment, and disillusionment.
I also care about those who don’t
care. I had a long conversation, once,
with an aunt who believed in all sorts of schemes to help the needy. At first, I thought her ideas admirable until
I realized that they always involved sending money to people somewhere
else. She didn’t actually want to help
the needy, right in her own back yard.
She, like many others, didn’t want to get her hands dirty and actually
involve herself with the poor. It’s easy to think we care about people when we
hear heart-rending stories of suffering and tragedy, give a little money, and
allow surrogates to promise that they will fix the problems we hear about. None of that is genuine compassion.
Progressive media, politicians, and
elitists of various kinds like their constituents to have this kind of phony
compassion. Such people will give them
money and power because they claim to have the same kind of compassion and they
promise to help those for whom they say they care. Sometimes, they gain support merely by
claiming to care: “I feel your
pain.” I treasure the sympathy of a
friend, but empty claims by someone who doesn’t know me, at all, are not only
meaningless and empty, they are also dishonest, transparent lies! Such people are rarely serious. When they are politicians, they use their
claim to win votes from foolishly gullible citizens. Sadly, many American voters are just that
You know what I wish? I wish that every time a Christian, in
particular, hears that “fickle, fatal fame” has destroyed or is in the process
of destroying another celebrity that they would turn their thoughts and actions
toward someone in their own back yard.
Instead of admiring the rich or condemning rich or poor, I wish
believers would find a person and reach out to them with the love of
Christ. Rather than giving attention to
people far away, I wish more of us give more attention to people nearby—a
spouse, a child, a lonely neighbor or friend, or a person who needs a
friend. I wish church folks would stir
themselves from their busy schedules, prosperous lives, and comfortable pews
and “love their neighbor as themselves.”
I wish people who bear the name of Christ would rise up and do what our
Christian ancestors did and restore the United States to her heritage of
freedom and faith. Friendship, freedom, and faith
trump fickle, fatal fame, every time! And that’s what I care about.