The issue of Christian celebrity should be eradicated rather than fixed.

The issue of Christian celebrity should be eradicated rather than fixed.

In this scene from The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of the earlier book The Hobbit, has just heard some advice from his wizard friend Gandalf. Gandalf tells Bilbo he needn’t attempt a task that would be challenging and quite likely deadly. Bilbo expresses his suspicion, saying, “I have never known you to give me pleasant advise before.” “Since all of your poor advise has been helpful, I wonder whether this suggestion isn’t also helpful.”

The issue of Christian celebrity should be eradicated rather than fixed.

Even though Bilbo was proven to be wrong in this instance, there is still a lesson to be learned from his statement: There is such a thing as making a situation too simple. And occasionally, that mistake can have disastrous results.

While reading Katelyn Beaty’s book Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church, this idea crossed my mind. The book is quite admirable. For starters, Beaty, a writer and former CT editor, is a skilled observer of power relationships among organizations and movements. She is also a solid student of modern technological developments and has a solid grasp of how popularity and celebrity issues, both inside and outside the church, have been altered and made worse by digital technology.

Furthermore, I thought her smart advice on how to rein in the worst excesses of stardom was laudable and wise. She had conversations with Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Andy Crouch, and Dallas Willard in the book’s last chapter.

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