Shailene Woodley

Fighting the Allure of Celebrity Idolatry

In Articles, Christian News, Featured, World by JD Rucker4 Comments

One does not have to be an obsessed fan with pictures of a celebrity on their bedroom walls to be practicing a form of idolatry. Even casual fans, a group that encompasses the majority of western society, are falling into the trap of idolizing celebrities.

Let’s spell it all out in one paragraph before diving deeper into the subject. Most forms of spectator entertainment (watching movies, going to sporting events, reading news about celebrities, etc) are distractions at the least and can be extremely harmful for us spiritually when taken to extremes. Unfortunately, “extremes” in this case are probably not what most would consider to be extreme because fanaticism is so rampant that it has been accepted as part of our society.

Let’s dive into the topic, but first, a confession…

Fighting My Own Challenges

Throughout my life, I’ve allowed myself to fall victim to this on countless occasions. It may seem hypocritical to write about it since I’m fighting my own demons, but there’s a justification. Anyone who talks about fighting sins is technically a hypocrite because we’re all sinners, but that doesn’t make the message any less valid.

I grew up watching television. Lots of television. By the time I was an adult, I was an avid sports fan who followed many teams religiously. I started writing a screenplay with the dream of making it in Hollywood. I watched tons of movies. I studied many of them, reading the scripts and breaking down performances in a way that took it beyond being a hobby.

It’s a struggle to avoid clicking on links about this celebrity event or that actor’s latest follies, but I’m doing everything I can through discipline and prayer to pull away from these distracting aspects of the world.

Now, let’s discuss why it’s important.

Different Scales of Idolatry

Graven ImageThe second commandment might seem like something that does not apply as much today as it did in the times of Moses. It speaks of graven images, the creation of which was common back then but that very few in western culture practice today…

… or do we?

Just because we aren’t in the desert melting down our gold earrings to be formed into the image of a calf for worship doesn’t mean that we’re not participating in idolatry.

Let’s look at it in the Bible:

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)

We can assume that we’re not practicing Biblical idolatry as it pertained to the Jews of the Torah, but that’s not the only place that speaks of idolatry. While we see the second commandment as a binding statement to guide our lives, we must also look to Paul in his letter to the Colossians to gain a better understanding of how idolatry can affect us in modern times.

4 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. Colossians 3:2-7 (KJV)

If there’s one delusion that has overcome nearly all in western society, it’s the delusion that shrouds covetousness. Very few people would admit to it because they’re probably not even aware of it, but the primary reason that we follow our “idols” of movies, television, music, and sports is that we covet what they have. It’s not just the fame and fortune. It’s the skills, talents, attention, lifestyles, and access to things that we do not have in our own lives.

Sports IdolatryAt this point, many of you are shaking your head. You find nothing wrong with watching a movie or following your sports team. How can that be a sin? Nobody’s perfect and God doesn’t care if we’re enjoying ourselves while rooting for our Super Bowl team, right?

Let’s reiterate Paul’s words: “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Do we spend more of our time watching movies, television, listening to music, or watching sporting events than doing things that honor our Lord? Are our affections focused on things above or things on the earth? Finally, is there a scale when it comes to idolatry? Is wearing our favorite football player’s jersey less idolatrous than praying to a graven image?

The last questions are tougher and definitely up for debate, so let’s look at it from a practical perspective.

Time Well Spent

We can assume that in a world that has its attentions focused on the secular that few will be convinced of the concept that watching movies is a sin. Pointing fingers and declaring something is unholy simply isn’t practical.

I know this because I struggle with it all the time.

The thing that helps to keep me focused is the preciousness of time. I have a family. I run a company. I drink lots of espresso to try to keep up with both. Without distractions of entertainment, I have to make a conscious effort to set aside time for my Lord.

Part of this can be accomplished by inserting a Biblical mindset into everything I do. It’s hard sometimes because there are always things to do that don’t have an easy path for inserting that Biblical mindset, but nobody said this was going to be easy.

What’s the point of all this? Knowing that I want to please my Lord with everything I do acts as a reminder to avoid the distractions of this world. A popular question that many ask (at least they used to ask it) is “What would Jesus do?”

I prefer to look at it by asking the question, “Would Jesus like what I’m doing right now?”

Star Wars The Force Awakens Storm TroopersIs it a good use of our time to engage in spectator entertainment? Some would say yes because the time spent relaxing and disengaging with the real world allows us to relieve stress and refresh our minds. My counter argument is that the same thing can be accomplished by reading the Bible, listening to commentaries or sermons, and praying.

In 1987, I watched every single Mets game.  All of them. I used to spend Saturdays and Sundays watching football for at least 4 hours each day. Add in Monday Night Football and there’s another three. Until a decade ago, I would watch 2-4 hours of television per day. Until about five years ago, I would watch a minimum of two movies per week. Looking back, I know that every minute of time spent entertaining myself in this manner did nothing to honor my Lord nor expand my spiritual understanding. I had set my affections on things of the earth.

This isn’t meant to condemn any of us for what we’ve done or what we’re doing now. It’s simply meant to make us think about what we’re going to do going forward.

Comments

  1. Pingback: How Christians Can Handle the Loss of Privacy and Freedoms

  2. I had a serious and intense affection and attention setting problem in regard to the Edmonton Oilers. I had grown up in Edmonton and had played hockey as a child. I had given my life to the LORD in my teens and had given myself fully to the calling He had given me and saw a huge and wonderful change in my life. Over the past 3 years, as I entered my mid-30’s, I went through several fairly severe stressors that I was emotionally unprepared for. I had become somewhat complacent in the intensity of my seeking of the LORD, thinking that I was safe as I knew my heart was close to the LORD.

    It all started innocently enough, or so I thought. My cousin, who I love, was going through a difficult medical condition and I had sought to help him as we intermittently phoned each other across the country. He was a devoted Oilers fan and mentioned that he was planning to wish his wife happy birthday on a Oilers radio talkshow in Edmonton. I decided I wanted to hear it, having had no interest in the Oilers for decades. Listening to the show pulled me in. I began to study the team and to watch the games. I was hooked. Soon I was spending hours a day watching games, reading blogs, studying stats, listening to Oiler’s talk shows, watching anything and everything Oilers.

    I didn’t notice any problems with my spiritual walk at first. But my affections had shifted and I was oblivious. I didn’t even notice early on that it had happened. I am honestly not sure how the LORD got my attention. But at some point the LORD began repetitively informing me of the problem. I ignored the feeling for some time and justified it. I would say, “What’s wrong with shooting a puck on the ice?” “There is nothing wrong with getting some exercise.” “There is nothing wrong with watching someone while they exercise.” I mentally debated every angle it seemed. I started saying, “I’m spending too much time on this.” “Why am I staying up half the night wasting time on this?”, when I had to work the next day. “There must be something wrong with what I am doing.” I distracted myself with thoughts like, “It’s the violence of the fighting that is bad.” “It’s all the intense focus on competition that’s bad. It must be that.” Yet, I still continued to watch. Those concerns did nothing to deter my interest. “It must be all the stats analysis.” Blah, blah blah… It all sounded far too much like an addiction and the feeling grew that I needed to give it up. It took several attempts to cut it off.

    It took 4 years to finally give it up. I had to acknowledge that my affections had changed. My desire for spiritual things had notably eroded, a thing that took some time to become obvious to me. I had to admit I wanted to watch an Oilers game more than I enjoyed seeking the LORD in study or prayer. And recently it became obvious to me that I was, in fact, engaging in a form of idolatry. I was loathe to believe it at first. I could I sin in such a terrible way against the LORD. I didn’t want to believe it. But it was true. As the realization dawned on me, I mourned. I wondered how I could possibly have been so deceived and drawn away from my relationship with Jesus, a relationship I knew I valued more than anything else in the world. I had been duped and I began to hate my attraction to the Oilers. It was all so subtle, so conniving. I hated it. I became convinced it was a tool of Satan.

    The LORD has instructed, above all else, to guard our hearts (Prov 4:23), for everything we do flows from it. This I had failed to do and I paid a price of loss between my LORD and I as well as much wasted time. He wants us to carefully and actively set our affections and our attention on things above, heavenly things, things that lift up Jesus, that study Him, things that reach out and bless and love others. O LORD help me to never let another “god” come before You ever again. Teach me to cherish the incredible relationship I have with You and the amazing principles and laws you have taught me so I may always experience Your unspeakable joy.

  3. Thanks be to Yahshua I no longer watch TV !
    I was chained in darkness for years by it.
    But now I have my mind, body and spirit safely in His hands.
    I will not go back to being chained again.
    Thanks for writing this article!

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