11/4/15 at 01:56 PM 10 Comments

Embracing Christian Celebrities

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Kirk Cameron as much as the next guy, but the desperate evangelical embrace of Christian celebrities is, well, desperate.

Big celebrity or minor celebrity; it makes no difference to us. If an extra from a 1992 episode of “Golden Girls” hints she is now a Christian, we fire up the presses and spread the news, “She’s one of us!”

We get downright tingly when we hear about any celebrity making some sort of profession of faith. Consider this brief list of celebrities the evangelical community has welcomed with open and undiscerning arms:

Mel Gibson: We loved Roman Catholic Mel, but our affection cooled when he made Jewish slurs while being arrested for drunk driving.
Tyler Perry: Hailed as one of us, Tyler publicly gave one million dollars to modalist TD Jakes while speaking a prophecy over him.
Justin Timberlake: We gobbled up the rumors that JT was raised a Southern Baptist; and then he brought sexy back while smoking pot.
Ryan Gosling: This popular actor appears on the lists of several Christian celebrity websites. Apparently they forgot to Google him and discover he is actually a Mormon.
Justin Bieber: It wasn’t just teenaged girls who were breathless for the Biebster; evangelicals were absolutely giddy when we discovered he had a Jesus tattoo on his calf. I wonder if the police took a picture of it when they booked him for driving under the influence and resisting arrest.


Heaven rejoices when anyone gets saved, and we do too, but why do evangelicals seem to get more excited when a celebrity makes a profession of faith? Here are some options.

• We are just as enamored with celebrities as the people who buy entertainment rags in check out lines.
• We act like geeky kids who discover that the quarterback actually likes algebra or science. It makes us feel like we aren’t so dorky after all.
• If a super cool person likes Jesus, then our faith must not be misplaced.
• We think that Jesus needs a celebrity endorsement to validate His deity.
• We imagine that we might bump into our former heart-throb at church.
• Corporations pay millions for celebrity product endorsements because it brings instant product credibility. Evangelicals must think the same thing.

While we don’t pay up front for their endorsement, we ultimately pay a price when something goes haywire. Consider the fallout from the tale of Josh Duggar. His public disgrace left us all with egg on our faces; and it gave the world plenty to howl about.

Stop the presses

Here are just a few problems with our ravenous desire to hoist any professing celebrity onto the evangelical petard.

• Typically they are new believers. Electing a new believer to be a Christian spokesperson is like asking for scandal (I Tim. 3:6).
• We rarely vet our Christian celebs. Seriously, do you have any idea what any of our evangelical celebs believe? Did you know that the Duck Dynasty family believes that baptism is required for salvation? Did you know that Angus T. Jones from Two and a Half Men is actually a Seventh Day Adventist? Before you showed “Mom’s Night Out” in your church, did you know that Patricia Heaton is a devout Roman Catholic? Did you know that Kevin Sorbo made a follow up movie to “God’s Not Dead” that mocked the Protestant Reformers?
• When a celebrity sins, cable news loves to blast the news of Christian celebrity hypocrisy. We rejoiced when Joe Jonas announced that he was going to remain a virgin until marriage. We groaned when he happily announced he failed to keep his pledge. Then we all blushed when his purity ring wearing brother, Nic, appeared at a gay strip club and posed nude in a magazine.
• Nobody gets saved because a former TV actor gets saved. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17), not because universalist George W. Bush goes to church on occasion.
• If the born-again celebrity turns out to be still-born, let the embarrassment and disappointment begin. Who can forget the evangelical excitement when we read that Miley Cyrus was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church in 2005? Now we would like to forget twerking and tweets like, “Forget Jesus. Stars died so you can live.”

When will we stop acting like teenaged girls who just received the latest edition of Tiger Beat? Maybe, just maybe we could learn to put the brakes on our desire to shriek, “Mark Wahlburg goes to church.” He sure does; a Roman Catholic church.
When it was discovered that Carrie Underwood attends an Evangelical Church, the Christian news sites were agog. It was months later we discovered she supports gay marriage. At the very least, can we proceed with caution before we give our public endorsement of the latest celebrity conversion?

• Let’s find out what church or denomination they belong to. If it is wonky, stop the presses.
• If they have no accountability, they should not have our endorsement.
• Let’s give them time to mature. If they endure in the faith for more than five minutes without tarnishing their profession, then perhaps we can make a big deal out of it.
• Let’s give them time to bear fruit and not bare themselves.
• Let’s vet them as much as we vet our pastors. Granted, a celebrity spokesperson is not the same as a local elder, but he or she has a higher visibility than a preacher. Let’s make sure they don’t bring shame to the name of Jesus because we have standards that are lower than Lil’ Wayne’s pants.

Should our born-again celebrity brothers and sisters make it through the vetting process, let’s make sure that we are more enamored with Jesus than with Hollywood stars. After all, we are Christians, not groupies.

Embracing celebrity Christians has to stop.

Excerpted from Judge Not: How a Lack of Discernment Led to Drunken Pastors, Peanut Butter Armpits and the Fall of a Nation.
Available Nov. 16.

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