Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved the performing arts. I love putting on the clothes of another person, stepping into her shoes, and becoming a different person for a day. I love living someone elses’ life and thinking someone elses’ thoughts, dealing with friendships and relationships that do not truly belong to me. I love that I can be a naggy old grandmother one day, an abusive mother the next, and a foreign immigrant from China on the third. I love that acting allows me to do things I would never do, say things that I never should, or go places I never thought I’d ever visit. Acting allows my imagination to run wild, my creative juices to flow freely, and my entire being to find pleasure in pretending. What’s more, I absolutely love standing on centre stage, soaking up the spotlight and basking in my audience’s applause.
As a kid, my love for theatre went far beyond rehearsals and performances; I craved the fame and fortune of being an established performing artist. For most of my childhood and teenage years, I really wanted to be a celebrity. I wished to be talent-spotted from every play or production that I performed in. In my own playtime, I would make-believe that I was an international superstar that people the world over loved and worshipped. I even practiced signing autographs! I guess it was all harmless fun then, save for the unhealthy dose of self-obsession that I often indulged myself in.
Thinking back on these childhood aspirations, I cannot help but realise how incompatible “celebrity” is from the values of my “Christianity.”
In show business, there is a never-ending quest for beauty and perfection. Female celebrities are first judged by how flawless their skin is, how big their breasts are, how long their legs look, or how thin they can starve themselves into. Male celebrities on the other hand, seek after toned abs, huge muscles and chiselled faces. It does not matter how talented you are, you will only go far if you’ve got looks at the top of your agenda. Lucky you, if you have been born looking like a god/goddess. If you aren’t blessed in the looks department, then you better dig deep into your pockets for some plastic surgery cash!
How greatly this diverges from God’s teaching! God cares not for whether we are aesthetically pleasing or not, He looks deep into our hearts to know who we really are. Even Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b); if the man God approved of and loved most never needed to be handsome and charming, why then are we so obsessed with outward appearances? “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman who feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
In the world of celebrity, self-promotion is also key. You want producers to use you in their next movie, you want someone to invest in your next music album, you want endless invitations for your appearance in advertisements. And so, people put themselves out there to sell themselves. Who cares that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Who cares that God is unimpressed when we brag about our greatness, but instead delights when we boast about our weaknesses? Scrap humility, scrap integrity. I am amazing, I am beautiful, I am desirable, choose me. Oh, that isn’t good enough for you? How about if I dress really skimpily? Or if I make headlines with scandalous news? I promise you’ll get your money’s worth by using me.
Speaking of money making, the entire entertainment industry revolves around dollars and cents, doesn’t it? One doesn’t just become famous, one becomes rich and famous. When you acquire celebrity status, people pay to watch you. And because they have paid you, you do what they want you to do- kiss someone you don’t love, film a bedroom scene as an adulteress, curse and swear like an unrefined hooligan, propagate corrupt values that belong to a fallen world. The money will make you rich, but it will not make you happy, because the money was paid for you to sell your soul, your body, your integrity. It is no wonder then, that so many celebrities are depressed and desperate, drunken and drugged-up to escape the despair of having bartered their lives for a wad of cash that can never buy back their freedom and privacy. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Behind the stunning dresses, gorgeous shoes and blinding bling, we often find a sorrowful skeleton who has forgotten what it is like to be a normal human being, because he or she has chosen to serve money over God.
And finally, idol-worship. A sin against the first of God’s 10 commandments, yet a sin that can never be divorced from show business. God explicitly says that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Yet, we defiantly insist on robbing Him of His rightful throne in our hearts. And in His place, we shove a celebrity onto the pedestal that only God can be truly worthy of. We throw on a fake robe and put on a rusty crown for our idols and worship them as though they created the universe. Hearts are sent racing and bodies trembling when our favourite celebrity lifts a finger to pick their nose or fix their hair. And somehow, some of those worshipped strangely manage to convince themselves that they are indeed God, and that they deserve to be honoured and exalted for… nothing? We have gone completely bonkers with idol worship in this totally depraved world.
Having said all that, I am not trying to imply that all Christians should shun work in the entertainment industry at all costs. The inside workings of the industry is complicated and its values often dodgy, but it is filled with people who need to hear the gospel! How will the godless ever come to know the Lord if Christians refuse to bring the gospel to them in their own environment? How will they come to learn of the love and friendship that Jesus offers if Christians do not come and share it with them in their workplaces? When Jesus walked on this earth, he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He did not shun them because he was “holier than thou;” instead, he befriended them because they needed the salvation that he had to offer.
It makes me smile every time I see a celebrity publicly talk about their faith in God on TV. Firstly because God and His greatness is being publicly professed and the thousands of people watching TV will hear it, and secondly because it is nice to know that there are still Christian artists fighting the good fight of faith.
I cannot begin to fathom how hard it must be to love God and obey His laws in such a hostile workplace. They must have suffered mockery from those who have discarded Christian values into the bin of “old-fashioned irrelevance.” It must be difficult having to deal with being put on God’s throne against your wishes by fans who love you too excessively. Oh how I would hate to become the very idol that causes God’s wrath against another person! Attendance at church must be a huge struggle for Christian artists too, especially when you have a seven day working week that bears no recognition of the concept of weekends or private time. How Christian celebrities press on in their faith with little spiritual feeding and minimal fellowship from their church families truly baffles me. It can only come from God.
May God watch over the Christians in show business.