The Crowd Roared: Christian Reflections on Fame

paprazzi-flash

Recently, I went to a Lakers game with family and friends, and I came away with a philosophical reflection. I noticed that every time Lakers star Kobe Bryant touched the ball, scored a basket, or even appeared on the big screen, the crowd at Staples Center visibly changed. Lakers fans became loud, energetic, and collectively erupted into a roar. There was an electrical excitement in the arena that buzzed at every connection to Kobe Bryant. This “Kobe focus” could be explained by the fact that the Lakers have little to cheer about these days, or that this is Bryant’s last season, but I think there is more to it than just that.

Major sports figures, like celebrities in other fields, seemingly carry a unique ability to stir large crowds of people. I wonder what triggers such energy and why people are attracted to such individuals. Is it their skill, personality, or sheer celebrity?

Kobe Bryant’s reputation was tarnished by a certain past event. Though now, at the end of his career, he seems to be more popular than ever. It would seem that with Bryant, his fame, attraction, and electric persona is connected to his amazing skill on the basketball court and his ability to lead the Lakers to multiple championships.

Yet in today’s world of reality shows and social media, there seems to be people who are well-known for no other reason than because they are popular. That is, they don’t necessarily have a skill or accomplishment that made them famous; they’re famous simply for having access to the media or a large social following. This seemingly artificial form of celebrity strikes me as odd and unjustified.

I also wonder what fame, earned or unearned, does to a person in terms of character and virtue in life. Is it possible to keep your feet on the ground when everyone knows your name and even cheers for you? How do the really big celebrities in life keep from becoming self-absorbed and narcissistically entitled? Is fame good for the state of a person’s soul?

Humans—God’s created beings—weren’t meant to be worshipped, and when they are, it seems to disrupt their hearts and egos. Some people can handle their fame well and even do good things with it, but they still face challenges. They must sacrifice privacy and anonymity. In fame, everyone not only knows your name, but your sins and slip-ups. Still, being well-known offers rare opportunities to raise awareness for charities and humanitarian causes, and to serve as a Christ-like example to large audiences.

Kobe Bryant said it this way:

“If you want to be great at something, there’s a choice that you have to make. … What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that.”

As Kobe Bryant retires, he’ll do so with five championship rings and over 33,500 points scored. These are major accomplishments that no doubt caused him to make weighty sacrifices in his personal life. Would such fame and achievements be worth it in the end?

I’ve asked myself whether I would want to be famous. My reflective answer is only if it could result from me being just, wise, and good. But even then, would the benefits of fame outweigh its detriments?

Reflections: Your Turn

What about you? What would you want to be famous for and would the costs of fame be worth it? Is fame a reasonable goal in the Christian worldview?

Resources

For more reflections on fame and its ramifications, see my three-part article “Money, Fame, and Influence: HBO’s Documentary on Former Beatle George Harrison” (part 1, part 2, part 3).

  One thought on “The Crowd Roared: Christian Reflections on Fame

  1. May 10, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Reblogged this on Life Episodes and commented:
    Lessons to learn

    • May 10, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Qubammish:

      Thanks, again, for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

  2. hans peter
    May 10, 2016 at 10:56 am

    As a retired pastor/army chaplain I’ve observed that if you want to
    destroy someone give him recognition; not everyone can take it.

    • May 10, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Hans:

      Greetings.

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

      Thanks for your service on behalf of our country and on behalf of Christ’s church.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  3. Matt
    May 10, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    My wife and I recently learned that we’ve been letting our mango tree grow too much. It’s huge, but doesn’t fruit very well. My wife reminded me that “…every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” and noted that what looks like “Christian growth” is not always fruitful. So if Christ needs to keep fame away to keep us small and fruitful, he is faithful to do it.

    • May 11, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Thanks, Matt.

      God’s sovereignty is a great reassurance in life.

      Some would distinguish between fame and celebrity. My favorite baseball player Ted Williams said that he appreciated being famous but didn’t like the celebrity aspect that went along with it.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  4. May 12, 2016 at 11:27 am

    There is no commandment or instruction per se from God to not seek success in our livelihoods or efforts at enterprise. If God in His providence gives someone great natural skills and/or the resources and circumstances to rise to fame and riches in a secular endeavor, the question for that person becomes “What you gonna do with it?” Will the wealth and fame be used for self, or to joyfully serve our King who made it all possible? Success to the excess is dangerous to hold. We all know Jesus’ hard lesson that compares a camel getting through the eye of a needle to a rich man entering the Kingdom of God.

  5. Rita
    May 17, 2016 at 7:48 am

    In my natural state I would not want to be famous. Unless God requested that a gift/talent would give Him honor and glory in the world, I would then have to submit and offer it as a sacrifice. Even then He would provide solace from the distractions of fame. (I am grateful not to have that decision before me.)

    • May 17, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      Well said, Rita.

      Ken Samples

  6. Izzy
    May 17, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Fame is a futile endeavor in the life of a Christ follower (Christian). I pray my life be broken and I be brought low for the glory and fame of my Savior Jesus Christ. We strive to be servant to all and have our names mean nothing & Christ be everything. Right?

    • May 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Izzy:

      Some Christians without seeking fame and instead seeking to glorify Christ have nevertheless become famous: St. Augustine, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Corrie Ten Boom, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham. Some of these same people seem to have handled their fame pretty well. Though for many if not most entertainers and athletes fame and celebrity can be toxic and self destructive. People were not meant to be worshiped.

      I think there is a difference between fame and celebrity. It seems to me upon reflection that celebrity is the greater challenge of the two. Personally I don’t seek fame and I would only want to become famous if it were for being just, wise, or good. That is for character instead of personality.

      Lastly, I don’t need to pray that my life be broken because it already is because of sin. I pray that God’s grace will heal me and strengthen me so that I can serve others and not be so influenced by ego, pride, and envy.

      Thank you for your interesting comments.

      Warm regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  7. May 17, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Anonymity is my integrity.

    • May 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Careful, Gino. Your pithy saying may make you famous. 🙂

      KS

      • May 17, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        Or they could think I mean I have something to hide, which would make me infamous.

  8. Aunt Eli
    May 26, 2016 at 9:29 am

    When I was a child, my father was in public office and well-known throughout the area. As the eldest child, I sometimes had to represent my siblings at public events, and my photograph was all over the newspapers.

    We were brought up that we had to set an example, in every way. Our dress had to be perfect, our manners had to be perfect, our conversation had to be just so. Any mistake – and the punishment was rejection, a fortnight’s silence from my mother for having let the party down.

    Result: I sympathise with people who want to wear burkas! No way do I want to be famous, or even known at all. I hate having my photograph taken, and I like to be on my own, tucked up with a book and a mug of hot chocolate. I almost want to sign someone else’s name when I write a letter. Fame is horrible!

    • May 26, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Thanks, Aunt Eli, for sharing your comments.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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