Are You in Danger of Worshiping Christian Celebrities?
- Hope Bolinger Contributing Writer
- 2020 4 Sep
Often Christians may feel they don’t have any issue with celebrity worship. After all, if we see a celebrity who doesn’t believe in Christ engage in immoral living, we often will distance ourselves from them, from Hollywood, and from any other entity that gives them a platform.
But what happens when celebrity worship creeps into our Christian circles?
What do we do when a Christian celebrity, or a so-called believer who happens to have a large platform, falls far off the path? And what happens when believers find even their own faith shaken because this celebrity commits apostasy or acts far from what the Gospel has called them to do?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the dangers of celebrity worship, some modern examples, examples of celebrity worship in the Bible, and some ways to avoid letting Christian celebrity worship invade our own lives.
A Caveat: No Condemnation, Just Conversation
Before we dive into this topic, we should note that this article in no way intends to disparage individuals mentioned in the section about modern celebrity worship. As Proverbs 21:2 explains, we cannot determine the hearts of men (something only God can do). We cannot know where many of these individuals stand in their spiritual walk.
The individuals selected either are Christians now or have claimed to be in the past and fell away from their faith. The “modern examples” section seeks to explore where celebrity worship within Christian circles caused believers to stumble, when the celebrity either committed a sin or appeared to show some sort of deception.
As I have followed the journeys of a few of those mentioned on social media, I want to allow for the benefit of the doubt. I hope to focus more on the effect of these celebrities rather than the hearts of the celebrities themselves.
With that caveat in place, let’s dive into the subject at hand.
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What Does the Bible Say about Celebrity Worship?
Barring the examples of celebrity worship that we’ll see later, Scripture does have clear warnings against idols (Exodus 20:4, 1 John 5:21). Although those during the time of the Old and New Testament would’ve had a different understanding of the word idol (a physical engraved image or statue) the idea of an image does translate differently in our society.
We’re constantly bombarded by images via Instagram, Netflix, and many other mediums. Wesley’s Explanatory Notes (regarding Verse 3 in Exodus 20) covers in depth the various forms of idols, images, and their effect on people.
In other words, if the Bible talks against idols, it speaks against celebrity worship. We should not worship anything other than God.
If you’re worried that you’ve promoted a celebrity instead of the message of a celebrity, even Christian ones, check out this Crosswalk article on 6 signs to know if you have fallen into celebrity worship.
With this in mind, let’s explore some of the more recent examples of where celebrity worship in the Christian world backfired.
What Are Some Modern Examples of Christian Celebrity Worship?
No doubt, many of us swell with pride when we learn that a famous athlete or movie star believes in Jesus.
But many believers do take this admiration too far—and start promoting the person rather than promoting the word of God. In this section, we’ll explore three examples of when Christian celebrities fell short of the glory of God...and where those who followed these celebrities struggled with doubts about Christianity after they discovered their idol did not live a perfect life.
1. Joshua Harris
Our first example left the Christian faith a little over a year ago. His book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, had been the core curriculum for youth groups and Christian schools as a guidebook on how to pursue purity in a sex-crazed culture.
So when Joshua Harris renounced his faith publicly, many believers struggled. After all, many had seen Harris as a mentor of some sort and reevaluated their own faith, since Harris’ teachings had played a major part in them.
So much so that the lead singer of Skillet, John Cooper, posted on Facebook about apostasy and celebrity worship.
He said, “And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ivan Vislov
2. John Crist
Our second example, Christian comedian John Crist, still professes to be a Christian, but his sexual harassment and misconduct allegations threw many believers for a loop back when the allegations came to light last November.
The article above details several of the allegations, including using his celebrity status to ask for sexual favors from women, many of which hoped to watch him during his comedy shows.
Since then, John Crist has sought healing and a path away from temptation, but not without severely hurting many women in the process prior to the public revelation of his misconduct. Because Crist had such a large platform, this illumination came as a shock to many fans.
3. Rachel Hollis
Our final example very recently has ended her marriage and received a lot of pushback for doing so. Many fans of Rachel and Dave Hollis were particularly hurt because until the announcement of their separation, Rachel and Dave Hollis had led many marriage conferences and often gave relationship advice on podcasts and other media.
Many fans felt duped as Hollis had struggled in her marriage for years but gave off the false image that she and her husband had a perfect relationship.
Furthermore, many fans felt frustrated because they paid hundreds to even thousands of dollars to attend conferences or retreats held by Hollis, events which focused on marriage and relationships.
What are Some Examples of Celebrity Worship in the Bible?
Celebrity worship existed long before Instagram. Even during the Old and New Testament, people worshipped people rather than God.
For instance, Paul had to address this very problem amongst the Corinthians. The Corinthians had all picked a favorite preacher to follow and associated themselves with that speaker only.
Some Corinthians revered Apollos (a renowned public speaker), others followed Paul (1 Corinthians 3:4). Paul refuses this celebrity worship and tells them to follow God instead.
We also see another instance of celebrity worship backfire when Herod (Acts 12:18-25) addresses his people. When the people say he has the voice of God, and he doesn't deny their claims to his divinity, worms eat him.
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3 Signs of Worshiping a Christian Celebrity
Christians may wonder...how do any of us avoid celebrity worship? We likely want to support Christians in potentially dangerous fields, such as Christians in Hollywood or famous Christian athletes. But how do we know we’ve gone too far in our admiration of the celebrities?
First, analyze how much time you spend on the celebrity versus time you spend with God. If you find yourself dedicating more time to the celebrity, then you may have found yourself ensnared in this sin.
Second, observe what you share from this celebrity. Do you promote them as a person? Or do you promote the godly messages they share? If you find yourself talking more about the person rather than the message of the Gospel, you may need to reevaluate your admiration of this celebrity.
Third, ask yourself what would you do if this person renounced their faith today? What would happen if you discovered they had committed heinous sins? Would it shake you to your core, or would your life be generally unaffected? If the former, you may have engaged in some celebrity worship.
Sin can often find us in the strangest of places. We may never expect that a Christian celebrity or influencer could cause us to stumble. But we need to make sure to root our faith in God—and not in people who believe in God.
We never know who may fall away or who may be revealed to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When these events happen to a Christian celebrity, we can rest assured that we place our faith in God alone.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. Find out more about her at her website.