by Living Liminal cross posted from her blog Living Liminal
In the 2000 movie, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the two cartoon characters are arrested and brought before ‘Judge Cameo’ who, as soon as she recognizes them, dismisses the case against them stating that “celebrities are above the law”.
Now, in the context of the film, it was funny – even while it took a clever jab at the attitude that condones and excuses the bad behavior of the rich and famous. No matter what they’ve been accused of, no matter how they’ve behaved, they are not to be held to the same standards as the ‘common’ man – simply because they are famous!
But in real life, that attitude is far from funny.
And when the ‘celebrity’ involved is the head of a mega-church, there’s nothing at all to amuse us.
Yet, sadly, Hillsong’s ‘Fearless Leader‘ Brian Houston recently provided another example of this very attitude.
After implying that he had decided to cancel his planned interview with Mark Driscoll at this year’s Hillsong Conference, it then became apparent that he had merely been playing semantics to avoid a legitimate protest of his actions. The interview went ahead – it was just pre-recorded rather than live – and it was screened on Day One of the Sydney conference!
Brian Houston’s words and actions were, at best, disingenuous, and some people might say that they were deliberately deceptive – that Brian Houston lied to silence the protest and to avoid any accountability for his actions.
People have been protesting Mark Driscoll being given such a high-profile platform (by a ‘celebrity’ leader) when there are still so many unresolved issues, so many unanswered questions and so many unreconciled relationships left in the wake of Mark’s own celebrity leadership. Some people suggested that it would have been more appropriate to be interviewing some of the ‘bodies’ Mark Driscoll had thrown under the Mars Hill bus rather than being seen to lend legitimacy to a leader who had caused so much pain and heartache to his brothers and sisters.
But regardless of whether we think the interview should or should not have happened, there is one significant question to be asked, “What sort of message did Brian Houston’s actions send?”
I don’t know what he was thinking or what motivated him to take the action he did, but I do know what message I received from his behavior. That somehow, this man thinks he is above the standards of honesty and integrity of an ‘ordinary’ follower of Jesus. That he feels entitled to be arrogant and dismissive of his brothers’ and sisters’ pain because he is a leader, a ‘somebody’, a person of greater prestige and importance than those lesser mortals.
And the tragedy is not only that this attitude seems to be rampant within so much of the leadership of the institutional church, but that those who follow these ‘celebrities’ see nothing at all wrong with it. Scores of people commented on social media, blindly supporting the leaders of both Hillsong and Mars Hill. “Don’t question our leaders!” was the constant cry. “We idolize these men and they can do no wrong,” was the implication. It sounds horribly reminiscent of the Israelites’ foolish demand for a king!
And yet, according to Jesus, celebrity has no place in the Kingdom. Those who would be ‘great’ are called to be the servant of all, and the lives of those who would ‘lead’ must be above reproach.
Does that sound like the celebrity culture we have created and called ‘church’?
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