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Celebrity Cult: Oh, to be like her...
08/12/2007
Scripture: Proverbs 28:19
Track 11 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 34 minutes, 55 seconds.


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Brent McCrory Speaker: Brent McCrory
Brent is an intern at Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


CWS

CWS is a growning phenomenon in the world. If it were limited to just the United States a person might think CWS stands for the College World Series. After all, many baseball fans have been bothered by recent scandals associated with America's favorite pasttime. Yet this is a world phenomenon...

What is it? The "S" stands for Syndrome. By definition a syndrome is "an abnormal condition or disease that is identified by an established group of signs and symptoms." Uh-oh, that doesn't sound good. If this "Syndrome" is spreading over the entire world is there any hope? You may be thinking that you've heard of the "Bird Flu" problem, but as of April 17th of this year the FDA announced approval of a vaccine. At least there is some peace of mind in that matter.

But what about CWS? Is there a vaccine for it...furthermore what is it? The bad news is there is no human made vaccine for CWS. Without "intervention" it will continue to spread. CWS stands for "Celebrity Worship Syndrome." Don't laugh; it is a growning problem...everywhere.

People who suffer from CWS, or "Mad Icon Disease," as it is also called, are likely living on your block (if you're in the city) or just a short drive up the road (if you're in the country). They may even be living under the same roof as you. If fact, some estimates state that 1/3 of the people you see on a daily basis suffer from CWS.

I realize this sounds like some sort of Saturday Night Live spoof of a real problem. It would be nice if that were the case, but it's not. People with CWS can have a "mild affliction" which means they pursue interests in one celebrity while denigrating others. They frequently get together with friends and talk about their favorite celebrities, accumulating great amounts of information about them. Someone with an "intense affliction" would do something illegal if asked to do so by their favorite celebrity.

A huge component of CWS is the subtle thought process of, "I'm important because people know who I am." That is certainly true from a worldly perspective. Yet the perspective that matters says, "You're of important because of Whose you are."

God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27). This gives all humans an inherent worth and value regardless of whether they are adored and other know their name. The follower of Jesus has the extra benefit of being God's child. That is the only level of notoriety that really matters

"CELEBRITY CULT"
8-12-2007

I don't know how many of you are American Idol fans. Many people follow that show very regularly. So in case you missed the headline this week I want to read it to you this morning. It comes from Dallas, Texas. It says, "For the first time in American Idol history a contestant went into labor while waiting with 3500 other hopefuls for her chance to become the next superstar. She auditioned anyway.

On Monday nine months pregnant Antoria Gillon arrived at Texas Stadium with hopes of becoming the next American Idol. However, as she waited patiently for her moment, the 20-year old hair stylist started having contractions. 'I didn't want to turn around and go home after being there all those hours in the heat with all those people and pushing. So my friend helped me walk through the line. I wasn't going to leave without singing.'"

"When she finally made it into the audition room, the ambitious performer admitted that her right hand was shaking as she grasped her bulging belly but continued to belt out the tunes. 'I gave it my all through the contractions. They were back to back and getting harder and harder, but I was more than willing to have my baby right there,' Gillon said. 'I wasn't leaving without my golden ticket to the next round.' A judge stood up and offered the Dallas native a seat, and when the ambulance arrived, she refused to leave telling them that she wasn't finished singing yet."

"After hearing that she was still in the running to be the next American Idol, the young mom was taken to the medical center in Lancaster where she gave birth to a healthy son whom she named Jamil Labarron Idol McCowan. Baby Idol arrived early Tuesday morning weighing 6 pounds, 7 ounces. He is the second child for the starry-eyed singer. 'I was raised that the only failure is not trying,' Gillon said. 'I always wanted to be an Idol since it started, but there was always a problem and sometimes I just couldn't make it to the auditions. So I wasn't going to give up my chance.'"

And as I read that story, as I read it this week and I read it to you right now, I don't really know what to do with that, because on one hand there is a lot of merit to what she says about the only failure is when you quit trying, because I'm sure many of you like me have had issues with sin in your past or maybe you have a habit that you have that you want to overcome. So you work at it and you make progress, but then after awhile you fall back into that habit and you just think, well, what's the use, and so the condemning feelings of guilt and failure creep in on you. So if people were to adopt that strategy that you only fail when you quit trying, that could be really helpful for a lot of people, I think. But then, on the other hand, I think about potentially birthing a baby with all these people at Texas Stadium, and I have no experience at all with delivering babies or anything like that, but that doesn't sound like a very good situation from my point of view. And that strikes me as a little bit haphazard or careless or even foolish perhaps, but yet that's where we are today with the celebrity culture that we live in. We are a culture that is so enamored with celebrities and even the possibility of someday perhaps becoming one that we will go to great lengths to try to achieve it or to follow the celebrities that we have an interest in.

On the front page of your bulletin insert this week you will be able to read about the celebrity worship syndrome. It sounds a little bit odd, but it gets better as you read through that because it's also known as the mad icon disease, and that sounds a little bit funny, but yet the implications of this are nothing funny at all. Some people even go to great lengths to perform a crime if the celebrity asks them to do it.

Just the other day I came across an article in which Grey's Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo was interviewed, and she says in that article "that the Hollywood socialites who are rich and famous for nothing set a bad example. I just think the media should take this country in a different direction," the 37-year old actress tells the news issue of Confidential Magazine. "We are so focused on the wrong things. We are teaching young girls that this is what they should be focusing on, rich and famous girls who are rich and famous for nothing. What are we doing to this younger generation? It's not very responsible." And at that point she was taking jabs directly at the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Brittany Spears who have been in so much trouble in the past few months. It's really very unfortunate. But yet we can follow those celebrities, and they portray the wrong type of image. And coming back to what Pompeo said, she said, "In our culture some people are rich and famous for nothing," as we shall say see in this video that we are going to watch here in just a moment, because many times the wrong thing is portrayed in our society.

(VIDEO SHOWN TO CONGREGATION)

Now, do you realize what the irony is in that video? I've never watched American Idol, never watched a whole episode. I couldn't tell you people who won. There is a handful of names I recognize because they have been in the media so much, but I know who William Hung is and now you guys do, too, and you will probably never forget who he is. Within a week a website was put up by a realtor and his wife that had over a million hits. Within one week there was an on-line petition that was started that had over a hundred thousand signatures to get him back on American Idol so that he could perform. He was given a record contract. Over 200,000 copies of his album has sold. He was given $25,000 to perform at the half-time of a volleyball game at the University of California at Berkeley. The list goes on and on and on. If you get on his website to read more about it, it's just fascinating because here is this show that is dedicated to finding musical talents -- and I'm not poking fun at him at all. He could be a wonderful person, he could be a devoted follower of Jesus, I just simply don't know, but the fact of the matter is he is more famous and has more celebrity status than so many people who made it onto that show and have advanced through the rounds.

We can visit the opening illustration that I opened with the young woman who almost gave birth to her baby at the American idol auditions, and I can just see the headline now a few years down the road, something like this, determined not to fail, why I risk giving birth on an American Idol audition, by Antorio Gillon. Buy it in paperback, only 14.99, and you can see her on the next Oprah. It's the type of thing that we do. We do it over and over in our culture.

But for those of you who aren't willing to expose your lack of singing ability or you're not nine months pregnant so you can't really risk giving birth in a public place, apparently all you have to do is put your body at risk. The "X" games were out in California this past weekend, and an Australian by the name of Jake Brown was skating. He went down on the ramp and he came up to the top and he got a lit bit disoriented and so he pushed off at the wrong spot, which doesn't really sound like that big of a deal, but he found himself about 20 feet away from the ramp and 40 feet up in the air, and so he plummets 40 feet straight down. And he becomes an instant celebrity. Now, on the video you can see he is twisting and turning his body because fortunately he knew how to fall so he landed so he spread his weight out. And he is knocked unconscious for about five minutes, and after about five more minutes of laying on the ground he gets up and limps off. He did have a bruised liver and some broken vertebra and a broken wrist, but he is just an instant celebrity.

People all over the world know about him now. During the rest of the weekend with the "X" games he went to some motocross race, and people were asking him about his new celebrity status and what it's like and everything. And he said, well, it's okay, I guess, but I would really rather be known for something that I actually do instead of almost being killed.

The amount of information that we can find on celebrities in our culture is just simply overwhelming, and it just seems that they are almost integral to our daily lives. It's like we almost can't live without them.

I was reminded this week of a song by a country singer Brad Paisley. I don't know if you have heard the song before, but it's aptly titled for this morning "Celebrity." It's a light-hearted song. It makes fun of the antics of some of the celebrities. And even if you are not a fan of country music, I would encourage you to go on-line this afternoon and go to the website where you can download the lyrics and read the lyrics. They are quite humorous.

The first chorus goes like this: "Because when you're a celebrity, it's adios reality. You act just like a fool, people think your cool just because you're on T.V. I can throw major fits when my latte isn't just how I like it. They say I've gone insane. I'll blame it on the fame and the pressures that go with being a celebrity." If you see the country music video that goes along with it, you will see various celebrities playing out their antics that they are known for during the course of this song as he sings about them. But it's really fascinating because, as he says in there, when you are a celebrity adios reality.

What I propose to you this morning is that many times it's adios reality for us, because we can become so engrossed and so wrapped up in trying to follow our favorite celebrity and finding out all about their lives. It just doesn't have to be a movie star. It could be a professional athlete. It could be a singer. It could be some sort of musician. But we get so wrapped up in following them that we lose sight of our own lives and the lives of others around us.

Now, I realize as I'm going through this that some of you may be sitting there and just thinking, I don't really have that problem. I don't suffer from celebrity worship syndrome, so this really isn't applying to me, but maybe you can identify with me in this way. It happens to me every now and then. Sometimes it's fleeting. Sometimes it hangs around a little bit longer. It depends on whether I dwell on it in my mind. It's kind of an escape for me because the thoughts are fun to entertain.

I think the first time it happened I was probably around, I don't know, seven or eight years old, and I watched one of the Rocky movies. I like the Rocky movies. I think a lot of people do. I mean, who doesn't like a Rocky movie, right? And after watching the Rocky movies basically without fail I would go down to the basement of my parents' house and I would start boxing. I would start air boxing. Here comes Apollo Creed, and I would just deck him, and then Clubber Lane would come and I would annihilate him. It's my own fantasy world.

And then as I grew up it started happening with other movies because the superhero movies started to come out, and that wasn't all that long ago really. But I find myself even at my age just thinking, which X-men would I really want to be? If I could only pick one, who would I want to be? And then Spiderman comes along, and then, of course, there is the Star Wars movies, and I think about being a Jedi knight. I mean, my goodness, who would not want to be a Jedi knight. That would be about the epitome right there for me.

And I think you guys can see what I'm getting at. It's that the movies and the Hollywood culture is so engrossing that we get sucked into it, and it's this illusionary world and it affects us. It affects how we think. If you are not more prone to the action movies, more often than not the women are more inclined toward the romantic side of things. The Hollywood love scenes just set you up for failure. The love stories, the way they end up, Hollywood doesn't portray any bad consequences. And while we can look at those things and we can realize that's not real, that's make believe and that's fake, it still affects us, and we want part of that for ourselves. And so we are disappointed when things do don't quite work out that way.

It happened to me again just this past week. Melissa and I we went last Saturday to see the Bourne Ultimatum, the Jason Bourne movie. It's a trilogy. Jason Bourne is a trained assassin, but yet he suffers from amnesia so he doesn't know who he is. And throughout the course of these three movies he is trying to figure out who he is while people are trying to kill him. He is piecing these things together.

I leave the movie theater, and I let my wife in on her side of the car, and I walked around my side. I get in, and I start up our Ford Taurus, and my mind races back to some race scenes in the movie. I'm thinking, man, what would it be like to just rip through the streets of Quincy like a hundred miles an hour just throwing caution to the wind? That scene was just so awesome. But then reality sets in, and I think, well, no, that's probably not so safe. We probably ought to just stick to the plan. We are going to the grocery store and we are going to get some groceries.

But then even in the grocery store we would come out, I let Melissa in again, I put the groceries in the car, and I get in, and I ask her, I said, did you feel like you were with Jason Bourne in there because we had to get in and out real quick because these people were trying to find us and kill us?

And I got to thinking about that later on during the week, and she knew I was joking and I knew that I was joking, mostly, but I totally discounted the fact that this guy was an assassin, a guy who was trained to kill other people, does it very efficiently I guess you could say, during the course of the movie, and I was fantasizing about what it be would be like to be like him or at least be able to fight like him. I would just use it for self-defense like stuff.

But it happens also with movies like Oceans 11 or the newest one Oceans 13, if you saw that this summer, where you find yourself rooting for this group of thieves to rob these other people blind.

And what's wrong with this whole process? It sucks us in, because it's larger than life, and we want just a glimpse of that. We want some of that for ourselves. It's a matter of escape for many of us. But the interesting thing is it's not just escape for us. It's escape for some of the Hollywood stars as well.

Sean Connery is a well-known movie star. He has been in numerous, numerous films, and he was interviewed just a few years ago, and at this point he has been making movies for over 40 years. And they asked him, why do you keep going at your age? You have more than enough money. You're world famous. You got all these homes, all this stiff. Why do you keep doing what you are doing? And his reply was, because I get the opportunity through acting to be somebody better and more interesting than I really am. Wow. Here is a guy that many people throughout the world would probably almost literally kill to be and he still acts at his age because he gets a chance in his own words to be somebody better and more interesting. It's even an escape for him.

And so that translates into our own daily lives, the celebrity cult mentality, that I am significant and important because people know my name. They know what I'm known for. I can do something worthwhile and important. It makes inroads into our lives like when we were students. When we are students -- I guess you guys are over here -- and you pursue academics or you pursue athletics or musical abilities that you have and you make that your priority. It happens when you are not a student.

You become an adult, and you after you go to college -- you ought to go to college after all. And then do I have a nice house in the right neighborhood? Is my car nice? Is my career a respectable one? It can even happen when we are parents because we want to be known for having the right kids. Oh, you're Billy's dad or mom. Oh, Billy is about the best thing on the face of the planet. Let me tell you a little what Billy did the other day. He is such a nice little boy.

Now, I hope you don't misunderstand me, and I'm not saying that pursuing good grades or wanting to raise good children or anything like that is worthless. I'm not saying that. I'm not advocating mediocrity. But what I'm saying is if you make that your pursuit, if that's your end goal, if that's where you get your significance from, it's going to lead you down a dead end path.

I have a list of names here. They all have something in common. James Sherman, Charles Fairbanks, Thomas Marshall, Charles Dobbs, Charles Curtis, John Garner, and Henry Wallace. Those names are quite possibly foreign to many of you. They were completely foreign to me. Those men are all Vice-Presidents of the United States during the 20th Century, people who had achieved the level of the success that quite honestly most of us here are not going to achieve, and we don't even know their names anymore. They are basically just simply forgotten.

And that's what happens when we start to pursue things from an earthly standpoint. So I hope you are seeing this morning that this idea of this celebrity cult mentality while, yes, it does tie in the worship of the celebrities, we have to know things about it. It makes inroads in our lives in many different ways.

So what we are doing throughout this course of the sermons is we are looking at what does God's word say to us. So we turn to the book of Proverbs, and Proverbs Chapter 28, Verse 19 it says, "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty." Now, we are not talking about hard work versus laziness here, but what we are talking about is worthwhile pursuits and pursuing the right things. The writer of Proverbs here says, if you pursue the wrong things, you are going to end up in poverty. You are going to wind up bankrupt. Not bankrupts in the sense that you are not going to have any money, but I mean in the sense that if you follow that train of thought out you are going to be left with ultimately nothing left to show for it.

But yet there certainly are those who seem to have achieved a lot of success, and so that sets us up, and we think maybe I could achieve that success, too. So that's why we have shows like American Idol, for example, because it's just the thought that the possibility of becoming that next superstar, that next superhero. But yet if you make being known for something your life pursuit, eventually you are going to be forgotten anyway. It happened with the vice-presidents. We don't even know their names anymore. It happens even today.

Jennifer Lopez was interviewed this week, and she confessed that she fears of one day being hated by Hollywood. She says, "I wake up everyday, and I'm worried that it all might end. You just never know in this industry. This is Hollywood. It's unpredictable." I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up everyday worrying about losing my significance or my name and notoriety. For me that would just simply be a paralyzing fear, and I don't think I could overcome it. I just don't think I can handle that.

So what is the solution? How do we combat this thought process that I'm significant because people know my name, I'm known for what I can do? And the answer is not asking the question of what can I do that is important or significant but in asking to whom do I belong. At the end of the day no matter what happens, to whom do I belong? Who owns me, in another sense?

Larry read from Genesis this morning. The praise team did as well. And Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 27 it says, "God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them." And that verse is so significant because what that verse says is that every single person sitting here this morning, the people that aren't here this morning, the people that are even on death row for heinous crimes, are all created in God's image, and they all have dignity. For that fact alone they are part of God's creation.

But for those of you who are followers of Jesus it gets better than that. At the beginning of the gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 12 it states, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God." Because that's as a follower of Jesus you are now God's child, and that is the most significant thing that you could ever be known as, even far surpassing anything you could ever do on earth.

But the problem is we don't really grasp that. We know it up here, especially if you have been raised in the church. You went to Sunday school. We know the answers to give to the questions. But it hasn't impacted the depths of our soul. It hasn't changed us and impacted our lives in the way that it ought to be, the fact that we are God's child that that gives us significance. That's the most significant thing that we can ever have.

So instead we pursue things like affluenza, the purchase of things to fill up voids in our lives, or we keep ourselves insanely busy. Because we have a busy schedule, that means with we have some self-worth because we can talk about all the things that we do instead of simply just being content with the fact that at the end of the day you are still God's child and allowing that to give you the significance.

It's at this point I must confess to you that in many ways I'm not really the person to be preaching this sermon to you this morning because over the past few weeks of things that I have been working on it's been coming to my mind repeatedly and I have to battle and it's really hard for me that I am not really content with being God's child. I know I am and I know I have made great strides, but there is still things that I struggle with, my only self-worth, my own self-esteem, and so I need to constantly remind myself that I am, in fact, God's child.

I'm just like all of you. I grew up and I had a childhood. Things happened to me in my childhood, things that happened to you as a child, some things that were intentionally done by other people that hurt you, some things that were done unintentionally but they still hurt. The bad news is it doesn't stop once you become an adult. Things still happen. Words are still said. Things still happen in your life that cause wounds on your heart and soul.

And the problem comes when we don't address those things, when we just cover them up and we turn to something like drugs or alcohol or we turn to our job or how busy we are because we can find some comfort in that because I'm significant because I'm doing this thing. But we don't stop and realize that we belong to God and we are God's child.

I learned something through a class I took a couple years ago, and it's called -- it's the formation of what's known as a truth paper. And what you do when you write a truth paper it's really rather simple. You take a list of verses from scripture. I have a list that I would be more than willing to give you. I'll have them in the hospitality room after this service. And what this scripture is this scripture is God's truth, Gods's truth spoken to your life, spoken to all of us, and you read down through that list with a pen and paper in hand and you write down your initial reaction to what that verse wells up inside of you.

So when you read Romans Chapter 8 and you get to the end of Romans Chapter 8, in Verse 39 where Paul talks about how nothing separates you from the love of God, and your reaction is, well, yeah, but, you see, I've got this sin problem and I keep doing it and I feel really guilty about it and I'm ashamed to talk to anybody about it and I just think that sooner or later God is just going to end the deal and God's not going to love me anymore. That's the wrong answer. At times I wish I was more boisterous, because I would be yelling right now, because that's just simply the wrong answer.

Paul says that when you are in Christ that nothing separates you from the love of God, nothing. It doesn't matter what you do. You are in Christ. Nothing separates you from him. You're his child. Sin is not to be taken lightly. In Hebrews it's talked about as a weight that ensnares and entangles us and hinders us to run the race that God intends us to run, but it does not separate the believer from God's love.

I want to take a moment here, and I'm going to read just a little bit from Melissa's truth paper. Melissa is my wife. Some of you know her. I would read to you from mine, but quite honestly hers is just simply better. I'm just going to share the better one. But it says that "The enemy will try and get you down and, yes, he can manipulate and maybe even get you down, but he cannot steal your soul or snatch you from my firm grasp. Your eternal destination is secure because of Jesus. Nothing changes Jesus. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If nothing changes Jesus, well, you do the math, nothing changes us."

"The time you stay away in guilt and shame is time lost that I can celebrate and rejoice over you. I know your life has taught you some nasty things thus far, things that are not true to your story. It is for freedom Christ has set you free. Now, don't go back to your old learning and what it has taught you. Come with me, my beautiful, to a whole new reality where my steadfast love is lived out in you, my child. You have no reason to doubt me. I'm not a man that I should lie."

"Melissa, you can face whatever comes at you in your life and you can face your fears for Christ. Will you let me help you be more than a conquer, to fulfill my purpose in you, to with Brent fight off the chaos of the world with all the love. You matter. You mean so much to me. The lies experience has taught you about guilt and shame are not true. Look at me. You are in Christ. There is no condemnation, and shame doesn't exist. It doesn't exist."

"Work with me to destroy your old truth that betrays you and sets itself up against my truth which will not betray you. Walk with me. Work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't put anything on you that you can't bear. Trust me. Keep company with me. Then you will learn to live freely and lightly. You are altogether beautiful, my love. Trust. You are safe to trust me."

I just think that is so powerful because that is God's truth spoken into a person's life. That's God's truth that is spoken into your lives as well. I'm sure some of you picked up on the scriptural themes from what I was reading there just now.

I'm sure some of you may be wondering why you were given a name tag when you walked in this morning. I'm not really George Foreman. That's the name that I was given. George Foreman is famous. I'm not. And with these name tags are an identity of just the celebrity cult mentality that I'm important and I am significant because people know my name, they know who I am, and that's what really matters.

When we have looked at God's word and we've looked at what it said this morning, God's word says you are created in his own image. God's word says that you are his child as a follower of Jesus. And it comes down to whom are you going to listen? Are you going to listen to what the world has to say, or are you going to listen to what God's word says?

In just a moment the ushers are going to come down the aisle and they are going to be giving you guys a new name tag that you can put on. It symbolizes who you are in Christ. You will get names like cleansed, redeemed, saved, because that's what you are when you are in Christ. We are now going to sing a song. So if you guys would please stand, we are going to sing to the one who knows our name.

[Transcribed by GN12]