Bobby Maddex, editor of Crux (part of our family of publications), recorded a series of commentaries for the Moody radio network on themes central to the new magazine. Transcripts of these radio talks are now available on the Crux website. I thought our readers would appreciate this insight from the second commentary in the set:
[What Douglas] Coupland (author of Generation X) calls “Fame-induced Apathy” [is] the attitude that no activity is worth pursuing unless one can become very famous pursuing it. Much to my embarrassment, I must admit that there exists no better characterization of my generation’s misguided approach to life.
I first noticed it when a friend showed up at my house with a t-shirt that read “I am not famous,” the implicit message being that one might have mistaken her for a celebrity if not for this wearable message to the contrary. Also embedded in the shirt’s statement is the notion that my friend, who also happened to be donning movie starlet sunglasses, blond highlights in her hair, and a pair of stylishly torn jeans, wants to be mistaken for a famous person. Indeed, the more precise message in her case would have been “I am not famous—yet!”
It is no coincidence that the proliferation of reality television shows coincides with my generation’s replacement of the Baby Boomers as the demographic targeted by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. These shows are not so much creating an appetite for fame as satisfying a desire that already existed. Whether it’s The Real World, American Idol, The Apprentice, or Survivor, such programs are merely supplying a shot at the celebrity status that we so desperately seek, even if it is a fame of the most exploitative and fleeting variety. The understanding here is that obscurity is tantamount to failure. Andy Warhol’s prediction that each of us will experience fifteen minutes of fame has become a promise—a right as inalienable as the freedom of speech.
And then there are those cosmetic surgery shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover. Did you know that the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that the overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased by 228 percent since 1997? Clearly, we are no longer content with admiring our celebrities; we want to be them in all their aerobicized and airbrushed glory. Pseudo-documentary television series like VH1’s The Fabulous Life and Behind the Music are also indicative of our lust for fame. Such biographical material encourages the illusion that we are intimate with the famous—just a few steps away from being famous ourselves.
With notoriety ostensibly closer to us than it has ever been, why not go for it? Why not leave our mark and be known? The problem, of course, is that such lifestyles are antithetical to Christianity. Remember when Jesus healed the synagogue ruler’s daughter in the Gospel of Luke? He charged the parents to tell no one what had happened, exhibiting in the process a humility made all the more profound by His status as God. Even more telling are the Beatitudes in which Christ announced that it is the meek who will be blessed, not the ambitious. The longing to be identifiable—to be stalked by the paparazzi and autograph hounds—simply does not jive with a Christian worldview.
To harbor delusions of grandeur, then, is to separate oneself from God. It is my prayer that my generation will stop seeking to store up such treasures on earth and choose instead to obscure itself in the anonymity that attends a life truly well-lived.