In this timely, gracious-yet-truthful critique of the American church’s relationship with celebrity, journalist and editor Katelyn Beaty pulls back the curtain on the human heart and its love of fame—for those at the top, and those in the pews. Thank you to NetGalley and Baker Academic and Brazos Press for the advance e-copy.
Let me just start by saying, this book is crucial for the Church. Who of us have not been touched by celebrity in some way? Whether our own platform and influence are growing, or we’re fueling this dangerous position of “social power without proximity”—a false sense of intimacy—we aren’t immune to the power of fame. Beaty describes how we can adore leaders to the point we’re following them instead of Christ, where our Christian identity is wrapped up with fallen people. It’s dangerous for everyone involved: leaders are not held accountable, and our faith is so tied to them that if they crumble, our faith does, too.
Beaty delves into the first Christian celebrities, showing how mega-evangelists built up their “brand” even before the age of internet and social media, and how their celebrity power and traveling crusades eclipsed “God’s Plan A” for the world: the local church. She talks about temptations Christian leaders face: to chase platforms in the name of “doing big things for God” and “reaching more for the kingdom,” and how people’s personas (the image they project to the world) can leave those behind the personas feeling more unknown and isolated than ever—a recipe for disaster.
I love that Beaty finishes this book by highlighting the lowly obscurity of Jesus’s entrance into the world and the humility of his ministry. He didn’t seek fame; he came to serve us all. And in that, he became the most famous person who ever lived.
This is a must-read for church leaders and laypeople alike.
Photo by: Anthony Delanoix