I’m not going to get into the remarks make by a professing Christian reality show star a few weeks ago: there has been plenty written about that in the weeks since. But I did want to address something that has concerned me about Christian celebrity culture.
If there are Christians in the entertainment and sports world who can let their light shine for Christ without compromising their conscience or standards or testimony, that’s wonderful. They may not do and say everything just like I would, but that’s fine – that could probably be said of all of us, and God doesn’t make cookie-cutter Christians. What concerns me is not the famous Christians out there making news: what concerns me is their Christian fan base.
Some months ago (probably years, now), when another Christian was in the media spotlight, some folks I know were discussing him on Facebook. A loved one left a verse in the comments indicating that he wasn’t totally behind one of his practices. He didn’t rail about him, discredit him, or leave a lengthy diatribe; he just left one verse, but it was a verse that seemed to go against what the man was doing. Instead of drawing the commenter out with questions and having intelligent further discussion, the fans of this man harshly turned on the commenter like hungry dogs on raw meat. These were people that this loved one knew personally and had gone to church with. (Is it any wonder that this loved one isn’t so interested in church these days?) And I thought, how sad that people will defend at all costs a media personage, even a Christian one, who will never know them or care about them, at the expense of a relationship with someone they know and are supposed to love in their very own church and community.
I saw some similar things happen after this last situation: fans and non-fans started drawing up sides for and against the Christian celebrity and fans took any opposing viewpoint as a criticism and defended their man, sometimes without much grace for their “real life” acquaintances.
If I may, I’d like to share some thoughts about Christian fandom:
1. Not everyone will like the same program or person that we do. If you talk much to people (and social media perhaps makes it more possible to toss around opinions on a variety of things), you’re going to run into people with differences of opinion on just about everything under the sun. There are some fundamental issues we can’t budge on (but even those we can discuss with grace with those who differ), but we need to learn that on secondary issues, and especially something as low on the scale as liking a celebrity, we can show grace to someone with a differing viewpoint. We all know people who come down on the opposite sides of some issues of importance to us, and both sides can love God, extend grace to each other, and be friends.
2. A difference of opinion about something a celebrity did or said is not necessarily an “attack.” Even if it were, is attacking back the right way to respond? Like any other difference of opinion, we should be able to discuss the issues and at least come to understand the other’s viewpoint even if we can’t totally agree with it. If one side or the other gets too heated about it, it’s best to “agree to disagree” and drop it.
3. We need to keep Biblical relationships in mind. If we feel the need to defend “our guy,” we need to do so with grace and remember that the friend (even the Facebook friend), neighbor, or fellow church member we’re interacting with is a person we’re supposed to exercise Biblical “one anothers” with, not someone we harbor hard feelings against because they said something on Facebook that opposed the guy we’re fans of.
Dictionary.com lists one definition for “fan” as “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.,” and I don’t think it is wrong to be a fan of a public figure or to discuss or even promote him or her. But it also says “fan” can be short for “fanatic,” “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal” with synonyms such as “zealot, bigot, hothead, militant.” We can be fans of a Christian celebrity without being so fanatical that we harm other relationships or let our own testimony shine more for our favored celebrity than for our Lord.