Today when I got on twitter I saw that the BIG NEWS of the moment was that Zayn Malik, one of the members of the popular boy band One Direction, was quitting the band. Big deal, right? I’ve often wondered how someone with any musical integrity at all could be in a band that is only popular because the members are cute and the music is manufactured by professionals who know how to craft bubblegum pop to appeal to the masses.
If you have ever heard a sermon on modern-day idolatry, I’m sure you’ve heard celebrities mentioned. A number of people, both Christian and secular alike, are disturbed by the way people treat celebrities as gods.
As I read through the comments bemoaning Zane’s departure, however, I realized that treating celebrities like gods extends beyond mere worship.
Have you ever noticed that people often get the idea that God owes us something, whether it be a happy life, a job that we enjoy, or a romantic partner? In a similar way, people get the idea that celebrities owe them something.
Over an over I saw the same disturbing type of comment. “How dare he leave the band? How dare he not give me my favorite music? How dare he not be the person I want him to be?”
In general, I try to spend as little time as possible thinking about people like Zayn. This struck a nerve with me though, and suddenly I was having flashbacks to a year ago, at Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute (SMBI), when I was first struck by a large-scale feeling of not living up to what strangers expected me to be.
I don’t claim to be a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination. In Oregon, isolated from the Mennonite world at large, I rarely meet strangers who know me through my writing. But at SMBI, five out of the fifty students admitted to me that they were big fans of my blog.
Now, five might not sound like many. But that was 10% of the student body, and SMBI provides as smooth of a cross-section of Mennonites as you’re likely to get. And that scared the heebie-jeebies out of me.
Those were just my hard-core fans. Multiple other people knew who I was, similar to the eerie way Mennonites always seem to know who Hans Mast is even if they don’t know much about him. All three of my roommates later admitted to knowing who I was before they met me, and, worst of all…
I wasn’t like they expected me to be.
I am perfectly fine with being the unexpected Mennonite you’re just not quite sure about. If you’re not in my family or my community, and if you’re not my God, I never thought I owed you anything.
I never thought you expected me to owe you anything.
Let me just clarify: My roommates were all lovely ladies and we had great fun together. Sooner or later I was bound to find out that I have an audience, and that the audience has expectations, and that it is impossible for me to meet those expectations.
All the same, it was very painful, and I have had a hard time writing for an audience since then.
Recently I’ve begun to feel that God wants me to write more, and if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I think it’s time to get over my fear of being idolized, and embrace the blessing of actually having an audience.
At the same time, I have a plea for you readers: Please remember that people you have never met are humans too, whether they be your favorite author, an annoying celebrity, or a little blogger with only a few hundred subscribers.
Idealizing someone, even that Christian writer who inspires you to follow Jesus with your whole heart, is very often a form of idolatry.