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Filtering by Tag: celebrity

The Life of the Local Instagram Celebrity

Ross Gale

paris-hilton4 I followed this blonde woman on Instagram. Her life seemed like an unending vacation: bikini pictures with beautiful friends on white sand beaches, cocktail parties on high rises with cityscapes in the background, jungle hikes to secret waterfalls. I thought she was a local celebrity of sorts, popular and adventurous. I thought maybe I’d meet her someday. Actually, I did.

At work I was called in to the Emergency Room to help a patient without any insurance. I found her lying on a bed, high on drugs. I asked her the necessary questions for the paperwork. “I’m broke,”she said. I couldn’t believe it was her. In her social media profile she was so put together, so perfect. I didn’t imagine this scene in her life would make it onto Instagram.

How do we navigate the complexities and nuances of ourselves? How do we share our lives full of mistakes and sins? It’s not only that we like to broadcast the best story of our selves. It’s that we’re unable to reconcile how to tell the actual story of our life with cultural expectations. So we don’t tell those stories. The truth, we think, is too much. We create unrealities, fictions, because telling stories, the full story, the real story, the ugly story, is too damn hard.

In the Gospel of Mark, when an unclean woman tries to sneak in through the crowd and get healed, Jesus turns around and calls her out. “Who touched me?”The woman, now healed through the power of Jesus, could have snuck off into the crowd, could have hemmed and hawed, said it was an accident. She could have continued her new, healed life without the crowd knowing who she really was or what she had done, what kind of uncleanliness had defined her for so long. But she doesn’t hide her story, her shame, her struggle, her embarrassment. And Jesus, as he’s wont to do, redeems her.

There are tools at our disposal that allow us to tell the real story. Specifically Scripture informing the Christian imagination, and the miraculous work of Christ giving new hope and new life. It’s not Instagram filters or Snapchat stories, but a language and an opportunity to spread the joy of redemption. There is hope in our truth, the truth we can bring to Jesus. That’s a story worth sharing.

More Popular Than Jesus

Brad Fruhauff

portrait As I prepare to host some friends for a 50th anniversary screening of the The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, I've been thinking about that period in history when people went so nuts that John Lennon could suggest The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Beatlemania really was something like a religious experience; kids acted as if rock and roll could save them.

Some American Christians responded to John's comment by burning their Beatles records and banning their songs from the radio. Today Lennon might only get some "Farewell, John" tweets, some blog posts about our anti-religious culture, and then some counter-responses trying to rise above the fray by suggesting there might be some truth to the idea.

I also imagine a facebook meme, in black and white, of Jesus in a collarless Beatle-suit being chased by adoring fans down a London street over the word "JESUSMANIA." This would be an inevitably ironic reference to the opening scene of Hard Day's Night, which, if anything, dramatizes the very phenomenon that sparked Lennon's comment. And it's hardly even drama; the film used actual fans and The Beatles themselves were amateurs, so what we get is not just a New Wave realism but nearly cinéma vérité. Nor are we over The Beatles; witness the number of tribute bands, or the continual release of repackagings of their music, or even The Beatles Rock Band. I myself avoided them until college precisely because "everyone" was into them, but when I actually started listening, they quickly won me over. I can't imagine myself getting flushed and sweaty and screaming just for being in the presence of the Fab Four, but maybe a part of me is fascinated by that ecstasy, that longing for a fantasy of total freedom. I rarely have that in music, art, or faith. In fact, I suspect it, like they did in the 18th century, of "enthusiasm."

After all, rock and roll channels a liberative, individualistic, often sexual energy that the Church will always be in tension with. Rock says: It's all about you. If it feels good, do it. Christianity says: It's all about the Christ. If it pleases Him, do it. That will never be a popular line.

Christ also said to cut off your hand if it offended you, so it's not entirely far-fetched to think it better to burn your Beatles CDs than to burn in Hell, but we also know to suspect absolutes: some people might need to trash their CDs, but that doesn't mean we all do. It's not necessarily The Beatles that should concern us but our relationship to them. If they really were more popular than Jesus, that couldn't be their fault (nor should it probably be very surprising).

What's strange (or not) is how we look to things like rock groups (or politicians or self-help gurus or Bachelors) to save us. It's the old "you have to serve somebody" line. The Beatles' broad appeal enables them to offer an attractive version of the self as acceptably erotic and rebellious. You can't found your whole life on that, but you can enjoy it for what it is for the brief time you're engaging it if we understand the difference between enjoying and idolizing.

If you've never seen the film, the anniversary is a decent excuse to enjoy a movie characterized by creative cinematography, an anarchic sense of humor reveling in wordplay, a reflexive system of metaphors for celebrity, and really fun music. I have to think God likes us to enjoy these things so long as we don't depend upon them.