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The rampant idolatry of celebrity, Part III

By Scott Tibbs, December 18, 2009

Earlier this month, a scandal broke regarding a professional athlete who has allegedly committed adultery with multiple women. While the sin of adultery is important and this could potentially serve as an opportunity to teach about God's plan for marriage, the sin that is being ignored is the sin of idolatry. As I said over the summer when a famous pop singer passed away, celebrities are the gods that modern society worships. (See Part I and Part II of this series.)

Is the latest celebrity sex gossip really so important that it deserves coverage over the violent protests in Iran, President Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and the debate over health care reform? In fairness to the news media, the obsession over this celebrity's sex life has not gotten the wall-to-wall saturation coverage that the death of a famous pop singer got over the summer. Nonetheless, there is no news value to the alleged adulterous affairs of a famous professional athlete and it will not affect our lives in any way.

Celebrity sex scandals may make for sensational tabloid headlines, but I really do not care about what a professional athlete is doing or who he is doing it with. That is a private matter between the athlete and his wife, and should also involve the athlete's pastor and church leadership in seeking repentance and implementing church discipline if the celebrity refuses to repent. That is a far more appropriate place than the front page of the newspaper, the splash page of news web sites and featured spots on cable news channels.

Where sex scandals matter is when someone in a position of authority is involved. When a politician is committing adultery, it goes to his credibility as an elected official. If a politician's wife cannot trust him (as in the case of disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, disgraced ex-President Clinton and many, many more) the voters clearly cannot trust him. Sometimes, political sex scandals involve abuse of power and misuse of taxpayer funds, as when Montana Democrat Max Baucus used his position as a U.S. Senator to help his girlfriend get a job as a U.S. attorney. (She later removed herself from consideration for the job.)

Of course, I can't blame the news media for saturation coverage of non-events like the death of a famous pop singer or the alleged adulterous affairs of a professional athlete. The media is simply giving us what we want, and this culture worships celebrities as deities. Were it not for our idolatrous celebrity-obsessed culture, these stories would not have prominence because there would not be an audience for it.

As before, I am not saying that professional sports, music, movies and television programs are inherently bad. What I am saying is that we need to be very careful that enjoyment of entertainment should be kept in the proper perspective and not cross the line into idolatry. Pastors and elders in churches also need to be vigilant in warning their congregations about the eternal implications of idolatry and calling the flock to repent of the idolatry of our age.