Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The King" vs. the King of Glory - Star Power, Cultural Priorities & Evangelization

Yesterday, I blogged on the metoric rise in popularity over the past week of sports figure LeBron James, who will apparently end the suspense about which team he will choose soon, in a 90-minute prime-time TV appearance. (No doubt the ratings for that ESPN show will be huge.)  LeBron's showing on Twitter (over 150,000 people signed up to follow him in the first 7 hours he was on that vehicle yesterday) is symptomatic of our obsession in this culture with "stars" - people who garner the attention of most of us because of their talent.  ABC News actually just referred to LeBron as "the King." (Hmm - the last guy they called this was known as "the King of Pop.") LeBron's search popularity has skyrocketed on Google as well.

In the case of sports figures, this national obsession lasts as long as does their top performance.  It's about what they do and achieve, not who they are.  I live in the Chicago area, and when the Blackhawks were in contention for the Stanley Cup, team mania rose to fever pitch. When "Lord Stanley's Cup" came to Chicago, people flocked to see it, to celebrate, and to have their picture taken beside it - the actual trophy itself became an object of obsession even more than the players who had won it.  Now that the fever has subsided, things have gone back to normal, and the street-corner winning team t-shirt vendors are offering their wares at half price. 

Star-power -- it's hard to measure. Some stars persist in the national consciousness long after their deaths Elvis ("The King"), Marilyn Monroe ("the Blonde Bombshell"), and now Michael Jackson ("The King of Pop"). Notice the gender disparity. Women can be "Queen for a day", but no female star has ever been crowned on a permanent basis. Hmmm.

Other people, whose achievements are less lasting are a mere flash in the pan - the "one-hit-wonders" who occupy the center of our attention briefly and then fade back into obscurity - or at least into the background. These are the Susan Boyles.  Artist Andy Warhol once referred to this as a person's "15 minutes of fame." No one calls them "king." There will come a time when we will ask "whatever happened to ____?"
In contrast, we have among us the lasting memory and legacy of someone who has been revered for 2,000 years not only for what he did, but for who he was and IS. Jesus Christ, the one with "the name above every other name"- the King of Glory, who was, is and will always be.  How much attention does He get on an average day?  Has he ever topped the Google search statistics? 

Unfortunately, Jesus, for many in our culture, is "old news" instead of the "Good News."  He even makes a comparatively poor showing when put into the same "time slot" as sports/  When the Bears play football at noon in our area, attendance at my parish's 11:30 Mass is even thinner than usual. (In previous parishes, presiders were known to "rush" Mass so that people could run home to see the game.)  And these are the good people who do bother to go to Mass. They actually have a desire to squeeze their faith into their life priorities. I suspect this is true for every region of the country, no matter which team is popular.

Our challenge, as believers, disciples called to go out to the world to preach, teach and draw others to Christ, is to renew our own enthusiasm for the faith so that we can evangelize our culture - to help people see that Jesus Christ is the true "Superstar" - the one who is not just a flash in the pan - whose message is for all time, not just for the moment of our current attention span.  However, until we are excited, we will not excite anyone else. If the fire of conviction and devotion does not show in us, we have no hope of setting anyone else on fire. For whom are YOU on fire today?

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