Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.
The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.
We’re in luck. When it comes to celebrity, there’s something for everyone: film stars, indie bands, renowned pastors, popular writers, and corporate superstars. Our relationships with these celebrities are decidedly one-sided affairs. It’s not that we’re actively shunned by those on the other side. Instead, the laws of time and space prevent most celebrities from interacting with us on a personal level, and psychological realities may very well prevent them from even caring about our own lives.
Struggle of Unreciprocated Relationships
Unreciprocated relationships can be an emotional struggle even if that lack of reciprocation is logical and inevitable. How many times have we heard a story of someone being blown off by a celebrity when all they wanted was a picture or autograph? How often have we balked at their handling of a confrontation on Twitter? How often have we felt as if a celebrity was not accessible enough? If we don’t actively acknowledge the limits that apply to these real people, we’re likely to experience perpetual personal bitterness and frustration that bleeds into our actual relationships.
These kinds of one-sided relationships—with intense fascination on our part and social apathy or ignorance on theirs—are abnormal, if not inevitably harmful. We grow to know these personalities only through carefully mediated and curated opportunities. Even when the control of that mediation is out of the famous person’s hands, it is in the hands of someone else.
The human heart is deceitful and evil above all else, the Devil is roving to and fro like a prowling lion, and this seemingly mundane and trivial area of our life is an ideal foothold for sin. Rather than allowing our basest instincts to kick in, we must use our interactions with these personalities as opportunities to act in holiness, grace, and truth.
Celebrities as More than Commodities
Celebrities are more than mere commodities who exist to dispense entertainment, information, products, or even sermons for our edification and enjoyment. They are whole people with a spectrum of needs and preferences that have little to do with our desires or expectations. If we’re not careful, a film star can become an avatar for us to project our dissatisfaction, or a celebrity pastor can become a stand-in for impossible spiritual expectations, or worse, an idol that diverts our attention from God’s good work to their own. The best way to avoid this pitfall is empathy, a holy speculation about the various aspects of a celebrity’s life we may not see or understand.
It’s human nature to either excessively judge or revere those with whom we share little experience. Because it’s easier to write off those we’ll never have to confront face-to-face, we sometimes fail to discern the need for grace. While a graceless attitude toward the perceived missteps of celebrities may or may not have a direct effect on the celebrity, giving yourself to such postures only reinforces and normalizes that approach toward others.
We’re entirely too comfortable with the morally meticulous games we play with celebrities and other renowned personalities. Celebrities aren’t commodities who give us a break from loving our neighbor. Despite what we’ve been telling ourselves, Brangelina, Bieber, Obama, Piper, and Keller are as worthy of being treated with dignity as our neighbors or friends.