I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bearing the Cross of Fame and Immortality

Follow up video from our current discussion on the desire of suicide shooters to gain immortality via the fame of the media. I see this as indicative of our American culture's current obsession with fame.

I had a brief conversation with co-worker/internet legend James Spinti on the issue. One thing that came up in the conversation is that it seems as though our culture has lost a sense of Self that we then supplement through fame: we have YouTube ("broadcast yourself"), Myspace/Facebook, American Idol, and other variants of these trends that are avenues for the Self to be noticed and to rise above the Herd (Nietzsche). We are lost in the Crowd (Kierkegaard). With no inherent sense of self-worth and Identity our only recourse is mass recognition. But it is all a mirage. Puddle of Mudd says,
Be careful what you wish for
Hope that its everything that you dreamed
When everythings falling apart at the seams
And I know that you never believed in me
Don't ever let them fuck with your dreams


In light of this situation, my question is this: Is the church really all that different? We typically create institutions and cultures with our own pop stars: Pastors, Speakers, Preachers, Teachers, Worship Leaders, Worship Band Members, Elders, Deacons, Counselors, Famous Authors, etc. We put people on pedestals and create hierarchies. Since we lack intimate relationships in the Body it becomes difficult to cultivate the Self in a genuine and authentic way. (The Self always needs to be cultivated within genuine relationship with others.) Without a true sense of Self, we revert to the same avenues as our peers to develop Identity: Become one of the Christian pop stars. Be known in my church as someone who is one of the best Christians in the bunch.

In my opinion, then, the deception within church is then worse than the culture at large because we can spiritualize it. We can act as though spiritual stardom is our cross to bear and that pride is our thorn in the flesh. But maybe spiritual pop stardom was never God's idea to begin with. Maybe it is a product of our own fantasy and the recontextualization of the culture's values into the context of church.

(This video is kind of generic w/ pictures of the band. Maybe when the real video makes it on to Youtube I can replace this one. Ironic, isn't it, that a band's song bashing fame will increase their fame???)

Interesting reflections by Puddle of Mudd on generating drama for the sake of writing "passionate" lyrics:
“Have you ever heard those lyrics by Nine Inch Nails: ‘I just made you up to hurt myself'?” he continues, laughing. “That's kinda how it is for songwriters I think: you almost create drama in your life just to get some good inspiration! Anything that irks you a little bit, for some weird and unknown reason, is good for really passionate songs. I write a lot of the stuff, but it's like a team – everybody's got their inspiration that they put into it.” [from the band's Myspace page 12/10/07]


Melody said...

In light of this situation, my question is this: Is the church really all that different?.... We put people on pedestals and create hierarchies.

Clearly not, Paul warned against this type of thing, so it was a problem long before youtube and pop stardom.

Daniel said...

Jon, recent events have also led me to this question. So there are kids going into malls, schools,colleges and now churches to kill others and immolate themselves, and it seems to me that its all linked up with an experience of rejection at these places. So the kids that are rejected at school, envision the act of vengeance at the very site of their humiliation, and likewise with the mall, college... and UN embassy?

The latest incident at YWAM and the New Life Church showed this because the suicide gunman had been homeschooled and confined within Christian circles by his parents (reading between the lines of the press). Hence his rage manifested in the social space that he associated with his own failures and hatred.

(Interestingly, the message of hate he broadcast on the net on Saturday has been pulled off, presumably to avoid the massive attention it would receive were it to remain there. This seems like the right way to deal with the "virtual fame" side of things.)

I disagree somehow with Sam who in the last discussion asserted there is a difference between suicide bombers in Iraq, Israel, and elsewhere in the world, and the suicide gunmen terrorising America. Maybe this is because I do not see a war going on in those nations, but rather a police action by the American state upholding the global order. Or conversely, the same police action that Sam identifies within the USA, could be seen as a kind of war. The youth in the two contexts may have different ways of framing their discontent, and plainly Muslim fundamentalism is different to the youtube slayer mentality, but at base I suspect a similiar process of alienation and despair going on. I'm sure others are in a better position to explain the link better, from a psychological and spiritual point of view.

ktismatics said...

"I do not see a war going on in those nations, but rather a police action by the American state upholding the global order."

How would framing Iraq and Palestine as police state situations make the suicide spree killers in America more similar to suicide bombers elsewhere? Are you saying, Daniel, that the pressure of living in the American police state anywhere in the world leads to similar psychological distress anywhere in the world? That would be a provocative thesis. Are you suggesting that the Americanization of the world via Empire generates a sense of alienation and despair wherever it materializes? And that the political expression of frustration over American hegemony in other cultures corresponds directly to the isolated anomie characterizing the loner shooter in America?

Daniel said...

Well put, Ktismatics.

littleho said...

Jon: Thank you for your reflection indeed.

Preston N said...

Interesting post. I agree with melody's comment, but I think this problem has intensified over the past few decades. Look at what we call churches now - its no longer the church in the corner but its "Mega-church". Why?? Because our culture associates success with size, largeness, quantity. The "more" someone has thus the "more" successful he or she is. This is clearly not how the church is to measure success, but we measure success on how people are living their lives,their love and devotion to Christ.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey Preston,

I noticed from your profile that you "home church." How is that going?

As I read your comment I wondered whether there is, perhaps, a problem with not just with how we measure success but also with the very concept of success. As I watch my ministry friends grapple with how to measure success I just always wonder if "success" is really what Christ followers should be concerned about. If one of my Christ-following friends falls into an adulterous relationship, is this "failure"? Perhaps. But what about the countless millions of American believers that are just going through the Christian motions and have been spiritually content with their religious routine for decades. To me that is more of a failure than a "big sin." In fact, the big sins can jolt us out of complacency and into the sweet bliss of God's grace.

So, what is success? And why should I care?