June 12, 2008
Like a Shooting (Nashville) Star
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. - John 12:42-43
I have a confession to make. On Monday night I watched part—not all—of “Nashville Star.” You know the show: NBC’s answer to “American Idol” with a country music twist. Instead of Paula Abdul you get Jewel (Jewel?), and standing in for Ryan Seacrest you have Hannah Montana’s dad Billy Ray Cyrus as your host for the evening.
Of the artists I saw on the show it appears there is some real talent. Not Carrie Underwood talent, but better-than-karaoke talent. And if I were a betting man I’d put my money on Coffey Anderson. But the singer that made the biggest impression on me was the one NBC brought in to kick-off the competition, current country music teen phenom Taylor Swift.
I’d heard of Taylor Swift (her self-titled debut album is again #1 on the Billboard charts) and her “Teardrops on My Guitar” actually made it on one of our playlists. But this night there would be no tears from Swift, but a high energy rendition of “Picture to Burn”—and some advice to the contestants. Yes, wisdom for aspiring country music singers from an 18-year-old rookie. So what did Swift offer her admirers?
You’ve got to figure out what it is about yourself that makes you different. Treat people with respect. No matter how far you get always remember that you’re nothing without fans.
My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief at the words, “… always remember that you’re nothing without fans.”
Now I know this phrase was probably mere pandering to the live audience and the millions of television viewers. Exalt the fans because NBC wants better ratings. I get it. But this “advice” is a window into an all-too-common worldview that plagues today’s reality TV, user-generated content culture.
Taylor Swift touched on our contemporary obsession: be a star, become famous, get the applause of man. For in my popularity with people (how many “friends” do I have on my Facebook account?), I find my worth. Or in the sage words of Taylor Swift: “… always remember that you’re nothing without fans.”
Jesus, of course, sees things radically differently. He turns our conventional wisdom upside down.
For example, Jesus warns against broadcasting our good works so that we may be honored by men (cf. Matthew 6:2). And one reason he gives for people’s unbelief is the fact that we are constantly seeking “glory from one another” (John 5:44). We are hot-wired to love the applause of man (cf. John 12:43).
But the praise of man is fleeting, like the beauty of a shooting star. It’s here for a moment and then gone. This is why it’s so tragic that countless people today are finding their worth or dignity in terms of their fame—perceived or real. God would have us seek His praise. And the stakes could not be higher.
Intersecting Faith & Life: When the Lord comes will the purposes of my heart reveal a man that sought the praise of God or the applause of man? Am I seeking His glory or man’s? The apostle Paul reminds us that what matters most in a person is an inward change of heart wrought by the Spirit, not by the letter. For this person there is a breathtaking promise: praise will come not from man, but God (cf. Romans 2:29). This is no “shooting star” fame, but a commendation that will secure my eternal joy