Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"These earthly gods will always fail"

The Way I See It #192
"Many people lack a spiritual belief system and fill that void with obsessions about celebrities. The celebrities are raised to the rank of gods, and these earthly gods will always fail the expectations the masses have set for them. The cycle runs thusly: adoration turns to obsession, obsession turns to disappointment, and from disappointment it is just a short emotional jump to contempt."
-Donna Phillips, Freelance Writer


The Starbuck's cup I was drinking out of tonight was semi-ridiculous to me. Now I say Semi, because I think Phillips, a freelancer out California, is right in some cases.


I think it is easy to be fascinated with people, and even become obsessed with them to the point of disappointment. I don't know that we adore people just because we lack a "spiritual belief system." And I don't think there are many people walking around despising celebrities because they've let them down.


Granted, I do think we are often more interested in Celebrities than God. Then when you mix celebrities and any-sort-of-god (Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson) they sort of start to get weird.


I think instead the greatest danger for many is when they put religious leaders in the celebrity position...then as religious leaders are elevated to status' almost equal to God, then there is room for disappointment (there's many examples, the first that come to mind is the scandal with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker awhile back, and the more recent scandal with Ted Haggard).


A few days ago The Church Report released its list of The Top 50 Most Influential Churches in America. Of these churches on this years list many of these churches are what typically get called "mega-churches" and many of them, are multi-site churches where the teaching is broadcasted to multiple locations. (Interestingly enough I have been to the physical location of 7 of these churches, heard 9 of the pastors speak, read books by 6 of the pastors, and been to at least 4 of these pastors blogs).


While I have no direct qualms with mega-churches or multi-site churches, I do think there is a drastic area of danger, which is the formation of a church leader as celebrity status (even mentioned on the list is Ted Haggard's church at 32, with interim pastor Ross Parsley listed as it's leader). There is a severe danger of what I have heard to referred to as the cult of the personality.
If the leader of any of these churches has a personal failing, they risk thousands of people experiencing severe emotional contempt as they question their own spirituality and personal growth in light of the failing of the one who took them someplace else in their faith.


Leaders on this list (as well as many other spiritual leaders not listed) have a huge responsibility to make God bigger, not themselves. This means letting other people in the spotlight frequently. This means being consistently honest with failings (past and present). And even still, this celebrity status will ensue, especially as the crowds get bigger and wider.


Here's how I would re-write Starbucks' cup #192:


"Many people with spiritual belief system accidentally develop obsessions with spiritual leaders as celebrities. The religious celebrities are raised to the rank of gods, and these earthly gods will always fail the expectations the masses have set for them. The cycle runs thusly: adoration turns to obsession, obsession turns to disappointment, and from disappointment it is just a short emotional jump to contempt."



9 comments:

Lorna said...

When in Starbucks, opt for the white china cup---it can prevent this harmful thinking thing...

andrea said...

interesting...
I have been to 3 of these churches. I have purchased or received as a gift 6 of these pastor's books.

Paula said...

"accidentally"?

There are no accidents. We make choices, choice after choice after choice, and the only way these people get power is when we give it to them. I'm not saying that people can't be misled...but even the lack of awareness and focus that leads to being fooled is a choice.

We need to be as wise as foxes.

Mercurie said...

In many respects I think that there is a much greater danger of individuals raising celebrity religious leaders up to the rank of gods than any other sort of celebrities. If one's favourite movie star has a personal failure, the worst that will happen is that the person who adores them will simply stop going to his or her movies. If a religious leader fails, it can result in a falling out with religion, something which is much worse in my opinion. I have to agree with you, it's not because many lack a spiritual belief system. Cults of personality arise in religious circles just as they do in other areas.

Erin said...

this "cult of personality" thing you describe is exactly what is behind mainline denominations like methodism transferring their pastors every few years. i believe the idea is that the congregation never gets too attached to one particular messenger and instead gets to focus on the message itself.

Adam said...

Yea, that's why I take my own mug to starbucks. Then, i'm not tempted to read the pompas drivle on the side of the starbucks cup.

kat said...

A friend of mine is the marketing guy at Starbucks that conceived the whole "The Way I See It" campaign. 2 years later and it's still doing what it's supposed to be doing: sparking conversation.

Attila The Mom said...

"Leaders on this list (as well as many other spiritual leaders not listed) have a huge responsibility to make God bigger, not themselves."

Brilliant!

MamasBoy said...

I second attila the mom.

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