Thinking Out Loud

September 4, 2017

The Degree to Which We Confer Celebrity

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

For several years while it was in its heyday, it was my custom to try to catch part of a slightly delayed broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show on WHAM-AM radio in Rochester. Some of it resonated; some did not. I am a fiscal conservative though I recognize its liabilities and pitfalls.

At the time, Limbaugh would often be away and leave the program in the hands of a guest host. That was the case on Friday, September 5th, 1997. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the fill-in, but will add it here if someone can document it for me.

On the previous weekend, the world had woken to the news of the death of Princess Diana in the very early hours of Sunday, August 31st in Paris. Days later, the outpouring of public grief continued and the guest host was asking the provocative question — radio being an entertainment medium after all — “Would we be paying as much attention if, for example, Mother Teresa had died?” Calls poured in. The contrast was well-chosen; the Catholic nun was revered worldwide, but hardly had experienced the paparazzi chasing here each time she ventured out.

And then it happened.

Coming out of a commercial break, words to the effect, “I’ve just been informed that the thing we’ve been debating here has in fact happened. Mother Teresa had died.”

It was eerie.

You probably found out some other way, but that is how I learned of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of Missionaries of Charity. You know how they say you always know where you are when ______ died? Well that’s my story.

The similarities and differences between the two women were striking. That is probably better left to better writers than I. The criteria for celebrity is always intriguing. 20 years later, the death of Diana still overshadows the death of Mother Teresa, whose passing two decades ago might appear as a footnote on tomorrow evening’s network newscasts; though I expect greater mention in Europe than what we see in the US and Canada.

Which brings us to…

Tomorrow morning on the blog we have an exclusive, full-length article about the Dalit people of India. I have been in development with this with the author for about a month, and we’ve met twice to discuss it. For security reasons he cannot be named.

I could have run it anytime in the last 72 hours, but being the Labor Day Weekend in this part of the world, I told him that I would hold it until Tuesday, never realizing the coincidence of the tie-in to Mother Teresa’s death 20 years ago tomorrow.

Be sure to check back.


Image: The New Royalty World (click picture to link)

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February 21, 2011

Billy Ray Cyrus and Andy Stanley: Contrasting Quotes on Raising Kids

Yesterday morning at North Point, one of the largest churches in the U.S., pastor Andy Stanley defined their Christian education strategy for children in a single sentence.  As I watched online, I quickly typed the quote into an e-mail so I wouldn’t forget it:

“We are not just babysitting children; we are planting an anchor very deep in their hearts so that if  they drift, they will not drift far

~Andy Stanley 2/20/11 (italics added)

What a contrast then, when this morning I read an Associated Press story from earlier in the week. Apparently the ‘anchor’ wasn’t there for this kid:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Billy Ray Cyrus says the Disney TV show “Hannah Montana” destroyed his family, causing his divorce and sending daughter Miley Cyrus spinning out of control.

In a December interview published in the Feb. 22 issue of GQ Magazine, Cyrus said he wished the show that launched his daughter to pop stardom had never happened.

“I hate to say it, but yes, I do. Yeah. I’d take it back in a second,” Cyrus said. “For my family to be here and just be everybody OK, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I’d erase it all in a second if I could.”

Cyrus and his wife, Tish, filed for divorce in October. They have three kids together – Miley is the oldest – and two from Tish’s previous marriage.

Billy Ray Cyrus said when he asked about the rumored video footage of his daughter smoking from a bong at her 18th birthday party in December, he was told it was none of his business. He refused to attend the party, saying it was wrong to have it in a bar.

Cyrus, a native of Flatwoods, Ky., had his own success as a country singer beginning in the early 1990s with his huge hit “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Cyrus says in the interview that he tried too hard to be a friend instead of a parent to his daughter. He said he is scared for Miley and compared her current path to those of other stars whose lives ended tragically, including Kurt Cobain, Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson.

“I should have been a better parent,” Cyrus said. “I should have said, ‘Enough is enough – it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.”

He said his entire family was baptized before leaving Tennessee for Los Angeles to protect themselves from evil, and he believes Satan is attacking his family.

“It’s the way it is,” Cyrus said. “There has always been a battle between good and evil. Always will be. You think, ‘This is a chance to make family entertainment, bring families together …’ and look what it’s turned into.”

Sidebar 1: Andy may have said, “when they drift,” but it’s not a given that kids will “wander” when they enter their teen years. The message will be online later in the week if anyone wants to check this.

Sidebar 2: Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, ran the AP Cyrus story without the second-to-last paragraph. Wouldn’t want to bring religion into the story, would we?

Related post at this blog:  Pattie Mallette and Justin Bieber

January 4, 2011

Pattie Mallette: Behind Every Great Teen Sensation…

Don’t worry if you don’t have a clue who Pattie Malette is, but chances are greater you’ve heard of her son, Justin Bieber. The Biebster is everywhere right now; his name being used to attract readers to all types of text media, and his image being used to do the same for visual media. I almost hesitate to mention him by name here.

But it’s not the first time. On November 24th, J.B. was mentioned twice in this blog’s Wednesday Link List.

  • The blog On The Fence With Jesus, where a skeptical screenwriter and a Christian pastor discuss faith, asks the musical (pop music) question, Is Justin Bieber Really Religious?
  • Bieber also talked about how his faith keeps him grounded in the madness of Hollywood and celebrity. He told the AP[Associated Press], ‘Like, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I’m here.’”

Around the same time as Justin’s faith background became more public, the blog Bene Diction Blogs On ran a link to a Huntley Street interview with mom Pattie. The clip was from an interview done prior to the family move to Atlanta, and before Justin’s career had broken wide open, and it was therefore focused on Pattie’s story.

Justin was invited on set about a minute before the interview ended and didn’t get to say anything. If you know anything about the history of Canada’s daily Christian talk show, you know that historically it’s not unusual for them to have a guest and not let the guest get a word in edgewise. But I digress, and the day was about his mom’s personal story. But it means that technically speaking, Justin was on Canada’s faith-based television show, and it’s a video clip that his fan sites can never get enough of. I often wonder how many people have heard Pattie’s testimony as a result. The first of the four main interview clips is now up to over 46,000 views.

Then there was a Toronto Star cover story — Saturday issue, no less; in Canada the ‘big’ newspaper day is Saturday, not Sunday — prior to Justin’s Air Canada Centre concert and appearance on CBC Television with The Canadian Tenors where a reporter went to great lengths to tell the world what a polite, well-mannered and caring guy J.B. is. Character does count, and when a stagehand suffered a minor injury and Justin stopped what he was doing to make sure the worker was okay, the reporter noticed.

One my personal fears is that Justin might not be able to handle the fame and go the way of Miley Cyrus or Avril Lavigne, both of whom were raised by Christian parents, but both now living a life that obscures that background. Sure enough, mid-October, there was a story that said Pattie had hired a lawyer after only learning through the media that a book was in the works with HarperCollins.   And on the last day of the year, CTV News had an extended piece speculating as to how Justin would manage his career and personal life now that he is turning 17; a piece asking the questions many are thinking but afraid to ask out loud.

When Christmas rolled around, I couldn’t help but wonder if I dared repeat my usual blog post on the subject of the endless list of Cliff Richard‘s Christmas songs. I then connected the dots and realized that if I ever had the chance to speak to Pattie Mallette (or Justin himself) I would say this:  Get your hands on a copy of a biography of the early career of 1960s UK pop sensation Cliff Richard;  an example of someone who enjoyed amazing music industry success — even though he’s not as known on this side of the Atlantic — and maintained a strong Christian identity at the same time as his chart-topping hits.

Or better yet, a more recent example, consider Adam Young, who records as Owl City, and had hit with “10,000 Fireflies.” On his blog he writes:

As I’m so often reminded what a priceless gift my life is, I ache with everything in me to make it count, so that when I finally cross the finish line, I’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To me, there is no greater reward.

Of course, all of this weighs heavily on the spiritual scale, so allow me to be completely honest and say none of it is intended to be “crammed down the throat,” if you will. That is not my intention. This is what I wholeheartedly believe, and to that belief, I remain steadfast until He returns or calls me home.

One thing is certain:

When He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me… because my banner will be clear.

Young wrote that at the same time he recorded an off-album version of “In Christ Alone.”  But there is actually a worship song on his hit album too. In Meteor Shower he sings, “I am not my own; I have been made new…”

It can be done.

As I write this, I’ve clicked back to Pattie’s 100 Huntley interview. Hers was a life of stress, abuse and tragedy.  She has come so far, and learned so much. I think her potential influence in Justin’s life at this critical time can be so crucial to where his story goes. I can only end this the way the Huntley Street interview ended, encouraging you to pray for this family. Maybe some day I’ll learn why I was led to post this at this particular time.

February 20, 2010

My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. ~ from the text of Tiger Woods comments at 11 AM EST, 19/02/10

At this point we don’t know any of the particulars surrounding the announcement on Thursday that Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn was filing for divorce.    So please don’t think I am inferring any — absolutely any — parallels between Tiger Woods and Benny.

However, I did not check the “religious news wire” before heading out of town on Friday, so it was against the backdrop of the Tiger Woods press conference that I read the news about Benny and Suzanne Hinn around suppertime.

Benny Hinn and I are not friends or even true acquaintances, but our paths did cross many years ago.   The original crusades he conducted in Toronto, Canada were held in the church that was the base for the mail order business I operated.   The Joyful Noise Record Club had customers across Canada, and later became Searchlight Music, a company I still own in another form.

The head of another ministry based in the building was about to be married, and people from various ministries operating in the Toronto church were invited to the wedding.   Some of us apparently were invited at the last minute.   I had no date for the wedding, and as I remember it, neither did Benny Hinn.   We talked briefly waiting for the door for the reception to open, but I was terrified he would suddenly lay hands on me, cause me to fall over, or announce to everyone some great secret sin — probably lust — that I was harboring at the time.

Fortunately, we were seated at different tables.

Benny’s ministry in Toronto was somewhat high profile — at least among Charismatics — but nothing compared to the size and scope of it when he moved to Orlando and married the daughter of Charismatic pastor Roy Harthern.   The website Precious Daily Devotions tells the story:

In the summer of 1978, on a flight returning from a conference in Singapore, Benny Hinn met Roy Harthern, an Englishman who was pastoring the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. They got to know one another on the long flight. Roy showed Benny pictures of his family. When he came to the photo of Roy’s daughter, Suzanne, Benny heard a voice inside him saying, “She’s going to be your wife.”

Roy Harthern invited Pastor Benny Hinn to come to his home for Christmas, he accepted. When he met Suzanne, Benny remembers jokingly, “I looked into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and my knees became weak”. When his friend Maxine LaDuke met Suzanne, she took Benny aside and confirmed that this was his wife.

Benny knew she was the one. He took Pauline Harthern aside to “ask her something.” Pauline thought he wanted to ask her permission to date Suzanne, but instead, he said “I want to marry Suzanne; I am in love with her.” “Well, well,” Pauline replied, “you really need to speak to her father.” When Roy gave his approval, Benny Hinn immediately went to find Suzanne. Suzanne accepted and Pastor Benny Hinn and Suzanne tied the knot on August 4, 1979.

The rest, as they say, is history.   Hinn catapulted to fame and infamy, as Wikipedia reminds us:

By far the most controversial aspect of Hinn’s ministry is his claim to have the “anointing”, the special power given to him by God to heal the sick. At Hinn’s Miracle Crusades, he has allegedly healed attendees of blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and severe physical injuries. Since 1993, however, investigative news reports by programs such as Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, the Australian edition of 60 Minutes, and several network affiliates in the United States have called these claims into question.

Hinn made a number of unfulfilled (religious) prophecies for the 90s, such as God destroying America’s homosexual community in 1995, the death of Fidel Castro, the election of the first female president of the USA, the East Coast of the United States being devastated by earthquakes, etc., all before the third millennium. Hinn also appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in October 1999 to claim that God had given him a vision that thousands of dead people would be resurrected after watching the network—laying out a scenario of people placing their dead loved ones’ hands on TV screens tuned into the station—and that TBN would be “an extension of Heaven to Earth.”

Again, I have no reason to link the divorce announcement to anything to do with Tiger Woods except to say that it was against that context that I heard the news.   But maybe that’s not it at all, maybe I’m also reading into this story against the backdrop of the post I wrote last week about Todd Bentley.  (But again, there’s been no inference of infidelity, the grounds for divorce filed are irreconcilable differences.)   Another celebrity.  Another Charismatic evangelist.   Another divorce.

There are two sides to every story, and Hinn’s people have allegedly already started going into damage control mode, and not everyone is buying it.

It’s all so very sad.

To those of you who are just starting out in your journey of faith, or building a ministry, remember:  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.   Don’t aim for crowds, respect, praise or what some would consider success.     Because success and praise always come at a cost; the adulation of the crowds always comes at a price; and then, if you fail, you take down all the people who worshiped you.

Additional sources USAToday; Bene Diction Blogs On. Picture:  The Daily Show. Update: Confirmation at Benny Hinn Ministries website.

June 25, 2009

Celebrity, Fame and the Passing of Time

His death on November 22nd, 1963 was significant in many different ways, but the passing of British author and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis got pushed off the front pages by the assassination of U. S. President John F. Kennedy the same day.

Fast forward 46 years…

Jackson Fawcett 2

One national evening TV newscaster today clarified that the passing of actress Farrah Fawcett was to have been the lead news item, until, minutes before airtime, they learned of the sudden passing of pop music icon Michael Jackson.    At least Fawcett didn’t get bumped from the broadcast entirely.

We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture.    Tabloids are often the only contact some have with newsprint.   TMZ, Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight are often the only “news” shows that some people view on television.

The “fans” have an insatiable appetite for the latest gossip.   The “stars” love the spotlight.    The philosopher Tacitus said,

“Love of fame is the last thing even learned men can bear to be parted from.”

The Christian community is not immune to all of this.   What most astounds me is how preachers — not Christian athletes or Christian musicians — are the object of cult-like worship, even among people who should know better.   When some of them weigh in on an issue, You Tube embeds of their pronouncements are flying through the blogosphere faster than you can say ‘idol worship.’

We were downloading some sermon podcasts for an extended car trip on Monday, and my wife said, “I don’t want to hear anymore superstar sermons; I want to hear someone different.”   Good for her.

But our preoccupation with celebrity is not entirely limited to those of the ecclesiastical class.   We also have Jon and Kate Gosselin.    But maybe not for long.   With the announcement this week of a pending divorce, evangelicals will drop these two from their superstar ‘friends list’ like the proverbial hot potato.

That’s the price of fame.    Soon you’re forgotten.

I’m sorry everyone ignored Clive Staples Lewis’ passing on that November day in ’63, but in some ways, it’s like he never died.    He certainly lives on through his writing, though in a celebrity saturated culture, he lives on for many because filmmakers made ‘Narnia’ into a ‘brand.’     Sigh!

Graphic:  USA Today online page
Topic Irony:  Post appearing above this one

February 3, 2009

In Christ Alone, My Hope Is Found

Filed under: Christianity, Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:38 pm
Carlos Whittaker:

After standing in a room tonight with a hundred or so AMAZING people who all are “somebody”, I realized again…
It’s not who you know…It’s Who you serve.

At the end of the day it is not about getting “the deal”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the song”
At the end of the day it’s not about meeting “the man”
At the end of the day it’s not about your church hitting “that number”
At the end of the day it’s not about speaking at “the conference”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the book”
At the end of the day it’s not about losing “those pounds”
At the end of the day it’s not about being invited to “that party”
At the end of the day it’s not about being on “the list”
At the end of the day it’s not about opening for “that band”
At the end of the day it’s not about dating “that girl/guy”
At the end of the day it’s not about hitting “those stats”
At the end of the day it’s not about getting “that award”
At the end of the day it’s not about selling “that number of copies”
At the end of the day it’s not about creating “the perfect sermon series”
At the end of the day it’s not about solving “that problem”
At the end of the day it’s not about preaching “that message”
At the end of the day it’s not about shmoozing “those reps”
At the end of the day it’s not about everyone lifting “those hands”
At the end of the day it’s not about praying “that prayer”

All that crap is just crap.
It does not matter.
It is not your identity.
It will ALL go away.
But what will not go away is that moment that you stopped believing all your self righteous lies and found your identity in Christ alone.
Not the deal, the song, the man, that number, the conference, the book, those pounds, that party, the list, that band, that girl/guy, those stats, that award, that number of copies, the perfect sermon series, that problem, that message, those reps, those hands, or that prayer.

It is about Christ in you the hope of Glory.
So let’s make a deal.
For today, myself included, let’s not drop one name, not unless it’s His.

Carlos Whittaker blogs at Ragamuffin Soul.   See this post here, or check out the rest of the blog with this link.

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