Famous figures Josh Duggar and Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner have captured the nation's headlines. Duggar's molestation of his sisters and a babysitter during his childhood is discovered. Jenner's transition from one gender identity to another is revealed. Both news stories unfolded right before our eyes. Both capture our fascination. Both bait our mouse clicks, every time. Why?
While Duggar and Jenner are two different people involved in two very different and morally inequivalent situations, they can still be illustrative of the dangers of the pursuit of celebrity.
The pursuit of celebrity is an idol that urges us on promising fulfillment, affirmation, and a claim in society. It doesn't always deliver.
For Duggar, the promise was an elevated spotlight in a conservative pro-family movement. A position most 20-somethings from Arkansas would need to work 'round the clock, on a shoe-string budget before finally attaining.
For Jenner, the promise is a banner of valor, lucrative endorsements, and a new reality TV show separate from the Kardashian clan.
As we see in the case of reality television, celebrity can ultimately be turned on us and can tear us down pretty far. Indeed, there are consequences of the pursuit of celebrity.
First, celebrity seeking has the potential to hurt people that never wanted to be involved in the first place.
Few commentators have stopped to consider how the Duggar daughters or Jenner kids feel about the worldwide unraveling surrounding their families' personal confusion, frustration, abuse, trauma and healing.
During an interview with Fox News' Kelly File on Wednesday, host Megyn Kelly asked the Duggar parents how their daughters were affected by the public release of information surrounding their molestation by brother Josh. "They were crushed…Every victim should have the right to tell their own story, not a tabloid," replied Jim Bob Duggar.
Jenner feels certain in his new identity as a trans-woman. However, he has yet to discuss the emotional toil his identity decision has taken on his sons and daughters. Yes, there will be plenty of Tweeters who rush to defend Jenner's identity crisis. But if we were really honest, and Jenner was our dad, how many of us would struggle to understand our father's gender transition? Would we wrestle with anxiety, rejection, or pain? Probably.
Another problem with celebrity seeking is it encourages us to exchange our well-intentioned motivations with self-serving ambitions.
It doesn't matter if we are talking about the Duggar's, the Jenner's or the Smith's down the street. As Christians we have to stop and consider how living out our private lives on millions of TV and computer screens might cause us to elevate our goals, our pride, and our selves before the Almighty.
A.W. Tozer's writings compiled in The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, offer comment on the "cult of celebrity" offering:
Now we look to celebrity to dazzle us. For some reason, we assume that carnal entertainment is the appropriate replacement for the sanctified adoration of the Most High. All of this worldly talent celebrity status is foreign to the New Jerusalem. No cheap thrill can ever replace the ecstatic thrill of knowing Jesus Christ.
What this generation of Christians needs is not religious entertainment to satisfy carnal appetites; rather, it needs some biblically based literature that challenges and stirs the soul to deeper appreciation of God and Christ and the whole plan of salvation. It is true that what we feed is what grows. If we feed the carnal nature and its appetite, that will be the overpowering aspect of our life. If we feed the spiritual, our appetite for the things of God will grow.
I've heard it said that reality TV is the Roman Colosseum of our day. This comparison seems reasonable. Still, some people assume their celebrity status is cheered on by their audience. Remember, that is not always the case.
In the world's eyes, the higher the celebrity status, the more entertaining the fall.