Celebrity Worship

As defined by Webster, a celebrity is a person who is widely known and often referred to as distinguished, renowned, noted, famous, or even notorious. To begin with, I have never referred to myself as a celebrity, although I have associ-ated with many who could be so identified. Fifteen of my teammates were baseball “Hall Of Famers” and thanks to baseball I have rubbed elbows, so to speak, with many public figures, even presidents, over the years. I consider a celebrity a person who is so well known that he/she cannot appear in public with-out drawing a crowd. Another word we might use is “idol” whether it pertains to baseball, sports in general, “country and western” singers, “pop” singers”, “rock” singers, Hollywood stars, or political figures. Many people have become, for better or worse, “American Idols”.

In writing this article, I may step on a few cherished “idols”. Actually I reject the whole idea of idol worship whether it pertains to men or gods. And so I want to touch on the good, bad, and ugly of “celebritism”. In doing this, I am not dis-paraging the idea of true “heroes”. I do not see anything wrong with giving honor to whom honor is due, and we all tend to have heroes of one kind or another, and it only becomes wrong if we honor the wrong kind of people or put people on a pedestal, thinking that they can do no wrong. Actually, I get a lot of pleasure out of watching talented people perform whether it is in the world of sports, music or the arts. So it is not talent, per se, nor popularity that I call into question.

The Bible certainly talks about certain “heroes” of the faith and people worth imitating as good examples (see Hebrews 11) -- men such as Abraham, Joseph, David, Daniel, Job and so many others. At the same time, the Bible never “idolizes” them, but regards them as mere men and even reveals their weaknesses. One reason the Bible is different from any other book is that it reveals the good, bad and ugly of its outstanding heroes, kings, nations, etc. Man tends to worship something, whether it be gods or humans, but the Bible sets forth clearly that only the true God is to be worshipped. When Satan tried to get Jesus to fall down and worship him, Jesus responded, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY'." (Matt. 4:10).

Some Bible Examples

When men tried to worship the apostle Paul and Barnabas, because of a miracle, they barely restrained them, “And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’ Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them” (Acts 14:12-18).

Peter, even though he was an apostle and could perform miracles, would not allow people to bow down and worship him. “On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man’.” (Acts 10:24-26).

The apostle John wrote this: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God’.” (Rev. 22:8-9).

There was another man, named Herod, of the infamous family of Herods, who put to death James the apostle, and seeing that it pleased the Jews, he attempted to do the same to Peter. But God protected Peter. This evil man gloried in the praises of men, even if they were much overblown with flattery, and we see what God did to him. “On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 14:21-23).

I have often wondered what kind of stars will actually allow others to yell, scream and go absolutely “bananas” at their concerts, and actually encourage or endorse this kind of behavior. Is it because it makes them a lot of money and increases their popularity? Is it because of their agents, or their being surrounded constant-ly by adoring fans? One such star declared that his singing group was more pop-ular than Jesus Christ!! Do these fans need some kind of fix, are they seeking some kind of identity or do they need to worship other human beings? I want to tell these people to “get a life!”

The Bible warns that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3). If we are talented in a particular area, it is not wrong to acknowledge that we have that talent. But it is wrong to glory in that talent and act as if it did not come from God. “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (I Cor. 4:7). I have often said that special talents lie in the “genes” and not just because of our efforts and energy alone. Also, every talented person who has success does so because of help from many others along the way. Therefore, it is wrong to be filled with arrogance and an exaggerated sense of self importance. Besides, everything we have comes from God: “for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).

Being a celebrity does not make one a bad person. Celebrityism is not something that is chosen, but rather, it is something, due to circumstances, that is often thrust upon a person. A celebrity can in fact be a humble person and not allow his popularity go to his head. There was a brief time, when my brother Von and I pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957, we received an extraordinary amount of publicity. This was mainly because we were brothers, ages 18 & 21 respectively, and were having a lot of success. At that time we received baskets of fan mail, were written up in Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and other publications. But we had a common understanding about “write-ups”. As a general rule, sportswriters either portray you better or worse than you actually are. We could not afford to believe our own press clippings! I have been fortunate enough to know a number of celebrities who are just good, plain common folk. If I were to name some, others might be inadvertently left out, and it would probably embarrass those whom I might name.

Keeping your head on straight reminds me of a poem written by Rudyard Kipling titled, “If”. You just don’t know how many times I had to repeat this poem during my baseball career. I repeat here the first and last four lines:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings --- nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours in the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Expose’ Books:

For a long time, baseball writers protected the “idols” of the game. They would often put them on pedestals and would not print anything that might tarnish their images. I also know that it is in the self-interest of baseball to glorify its product – baseball players. This is the role of P.R. men of the baseball clubs, announcers, and even members of the press, whose livelihood depends upon the glorification of sports and sports figures. Finally, expose’ books began to appear in the 1970’s and that became the fad during the next 30 years. I am not a fan of such books, for these are often about the pot calling the kettle black. I often wondered about the motive of the authors. Is it about money, honesty in writing, or part of the moral decline of America? Usually, they are packed full of four letter words. If I want-ed to write an expose’ book, it could be a real eye-opener, but what worthwhile purpose would it serve? It was during this time that I came into contact with many young boys who wanted to become baseball players so they could enjoy the good life. They wanted to be able to play baseball so that they could womanize and drink just like the famous ballplayers! Today, the subject has turned to drug and steroid use. Wait a minute, don’t we create a greater problem when we make “idols” (bigger than life figures) out of mere men just because they can hit and throw a baseball? So enjoy the game and accept it for what it is.

Do the American people need heroes to look up to? Yes, I do believe so, but there are two problems. No. #1 is that we highly publicize and reward those who are not real heroes nor examples to be followed by our youngsters, and No. #2 real heroes often receive little or no recognition at all. This reminds me of the little account found in Eccles. 9:14-18: “There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded. The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”

But I know one thing for sure. All men are of the same substance. They face the same problems and need to find the same solution, which is Jesus Christ, which is life indeed! It matters not if you are the star of the team, the equipment manager or the water boy. As to what our attitude should be toward others, here is a quote from Paul: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:1-7). No man stands so high that he can afford to look down on any soul. It is by God’s grace we stand in Jesus Christ!

Before I leave the subject of putting people on pedestals, I would include mindlessly following preachers or religious leaders. That, in fact, is the main warning found in the Bible. So what can I say? God is the only one we should worship and all praise to the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world!

--- Lindy McDaniel
E-mail: lindymcdaniel41@yahoo.com

P.S. Photo at beginning of article taken of me in 1969 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Ill.

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