Monday, December 17, 2012

Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame...


Tom Cruise as Stacy Jaxx –
Fame made him pure-T
cray-zeeee.
I’ve been thinking about my last post – about how big my head got just because I had an article in the paper that people complimented – and it occurred to me… If putting myself out there in such a mild way was so … um… harmful for me, clearly I wouldn’t be able to handle a bigger piece of that pie… I mean, how do pastors do it?

My own brother has worn “the cloth,” so I am well aware that pastors are just people, but they’re out there… writing weekly sermons, and maybe articles and books… people see them every week or so, focus on their words, and maybe even take notes, and follow up with an email or other attempt to discuss. There is plenty of evidence (scandals) that there are hazards to being a religious leader.

David Menconi
wrote this novel
 about a crazy
rock star.
Going one step further, how can anybody be FAMOUS without turning into the guy that Tom Cruise plays in Rock of Ages, Stacy Jaxx… ie. Pure-T cray-zeeeeee. Yeah, rock stars can be the worst case scenario when it comes to fame-handling. Because of their youth, fame gives them a sense of entitlement that is like no other. Although, I always thought David and Solomon (and other kings) may have encountered this same demon.

He also wrote this
fascinating book.
Although… in the case of rock stars it may sometimes be one of those proverbial chicken-egg scenarios… Did the person become an artist because they were super-sensitive, volatile, charismatic, creative, artistic, etc., or did the crazy follow the fame that came with expressing oneself in a rock and roll environment? Our local rock writer, David Menconi has a novel in which the main character (a rock writer) is involved in the career of an up and coming local musician who seems kinda crazy – violent, unpredictable, self-sabotaging. In this case, the crazy comes first. I guess here would be a good time to note that the character of the musician may be loosely based on a real person.

U2 - swaggery, right?
On the other hand, I’m thinking that it’s pretty common knowledge that fame can be damaging to a person’s soul. When U2 started out, they were involved with a pretty serious evangelical protestant group, and at a certain point, they nearly threw in the towel… because they knew the danger they might be facing, soul-wise. Fortunately for us – if not for them as well, their manager persuaded them that it would not be exactly “Christian” to fail to fulfill the contracts and obligations they had already committed to.

Our boys from Ireland did, of course, go on to become humongous rock stars, with fame and fortune out the wazoo… They (and by “they” I mean Bono, the “face” of the band) seem sort of swaggery, now, but maybe that’s just masculine energy. I mean, I saw them perform in 1983 and they were just as swaggery as they are now. They have also been known to present themselves as over-the-top parodies of rock stars… but I have to wonder if they’re actually mocking what they’ve become instead of what they might have become.

Sure he's swaggery, but
Bono started ONE, a
"hard-headed movement of
people around the world
fighting the absurdity of
extreme poverty."
However, they – Bono, especially – also attempt to use their powers for good… politicking around the world, raising money for good causes like world hunger and the global fight against AIDS. So who can know how many people their fame has fed? How much medicine it has procured for people who were dying? I would say that this is a pretty good use of the resources that God has given them. Other than that, who can know what their fame has done to their souls – I mean, we can’t see what their souls look like, can we? That’s really between them and God, right?

Moses – super famous,
but the humblest man
who ever lived.
I know that being simultaneously humble and “out there” are possible – remember Moses? The ├╝ber famous leader of the Hebrew people – led them out of Egypt, gave them the Law, kept them going until God was ready for them to spill into the Promised Land… Heck, he was even allowed to converse with God face to face. Not really something that happens to everyone, right? You know what the Bible says about Moses? That he was the “humblest man whoever lived.” Now that I’m typing this, I wonder if his deep humility was the product of seeing God face to face.

Is that me he's lovin' on?
Or Morticia Addams?
So, maybe… even though the guys in U2 may not have handled their fame 100% correctly, I’m thinking maybe their relationship with God may have played a part in whatever they managed to do right.

Clearly fame is NOT a problem that I will ever have to deal with, as I am not likely to gain any amount of notoriety. (Although, when I was a proto-goth, back in the day… at first having people look at me, point and take my picture was kind of a kick. But after a while, I just felt like hiding. When I was out in public, this would be running through my head, “don’t look at me don’t look at me don’t look at me…” Of course I’m so silly that it was a while before I figured out that if I didn’t want people to look at me, I shouldn’t go out looking like a cross between Boy George and Morticia Addams. I thought at the time, "This must be what being famous is like." But I guess that was just about inconvenience.) Nonetheless, as I have revealed, if real fame happened to me, I wouldn’t handle it very well.

Journalist / writer / satirist
Malcolm Muggeridge
had the right of it.
Anyway, so because of these events and this realization, I was pondering the question of fame and the things I might write about it, and our pastor used this quote in his sermon: “I may, I suppose, regard myself as a relatively successful man.  People occasionally stare at me in the streets: that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the highest lopes of the internal revenue.  That’s success. Furnished with money and even a little fame, even the elderly if they care to may partake of trendy diversions.  That’s pleasure.  It might happen once in a while that  something I said or wrote was sufficiently headed for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time.  That’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you and beg you to believe me. Multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing – a positive impediment measured against one draft of that Living Water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”

So did Apostle / Saint /
prolific letter-writer Paul
Goocher, right? It’s pretty much what I wanted to say – a modern “been there done that” version of this quote from Paul: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”

David Bowie tried to
tell us about fame
.
And we also have that incident where the disciples argued over who was going to be the greatest in heaven: “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Remember when these guys
wanted live forever?
And then there was the time that the disciples came back from doing a bunch of teaching and healing and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” But Jesus said, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Now, this is more about power, but aren’t fame and power and money and such all intertwined with each other?

Famous, and also redeemed.
And again, I'll quote Bob Dylan, one of the most famous people in the world: “No kind of life is fulfilling if your soul hasn’t been redeemed.”

So that’s my take-away. Fame is a complex issue, but if I'm going to boil it down: Fame can be inconvenient, and quite bad for you. Knowing God is infinitely more valuable. However, should you achieve fame – or have it thrust upon you, sticking close to God can possibly lessen the probability of corruption. And if, you, like Irene Cara, desire fame in order to “live forever,” if you are tight with God, you’re already there.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm a loser, baby...


They claimed to be losers.
 When last I wrote, I was a tad freaked about something that was about to happen, so I wanted to share with you how it all played out… If you don’t want to go back and read the last post, here’s a brief summary: Wednesday last, I had a column run in the Chapel Hill News, a sweet little community newspaper… in which I did not pull any punches about my love for Christmas and Jesus. And I was worried… maybe because I didn’t want people to think I’m a loser…?

Beck also claimed he
was a loser.
Well, turns out I am a huuuuuuuge loser, as was revealed in several ways. First of all, when I told her I was worried, my friend Grace asked the group called on our church’s prayer chain to hold me up in prayer, and they certainly did. They prayed that the words would speak into people’s hearts for Christ… and here I was just hoping that no one would say anything mean to me about it. Heck, I didn’t even want them to THINK anything mean about me! So right off, I could see right away how petty and self absorbed I am. It was downright embarrassing… but not a surprise to me. I mean, I know who I am…

Then, when the thing actually came out, I got quite a few email “Huzzah!”s from people in the church, people on Facebook and one complete stranger. It was awesome. However… it completely went to my head! Which is hilarious – I mean, it’s not like I cured cancer or won a Nobel Prize. Honestly, I'm not even sure the article was that good. Nonetheless, by Sunday, it actually crossed my mind that maybe people at church would compliment me. And one actually did… but it certainly wasn’t a deluge of “Well done, you!”s… 'Cos guess what – church isn't about me!

ACTUAL LOSER
So... what had begun as a desire to share Christ with the world, accompanied by a relatively healthy measure of pride in my work... turned into something kinda nasty in my crazy human brain. Isn’t that the way of it? One day I’m typing, “Wooooo! Jesus!” and the next I’m sunk all deep in a mire of my own crap – fear of man and an unhealthy amount and kind of pride in my own ability.

Yeah. I’m a loser. That said, a friend (Nat Stine) once posted this on his status update: Jesus is for losers. And, yes, I would have to say, He absolutely is. That’s why I love Him – He absolutely is for me. And if He is for me, who can be against me? No one. Not even my own loserishness... which has been proved over and over... And all God’s people say, “AMEN.”