Friday, January 24, 2014

The Pigeon Holes of Fame and Notoriety: How Do You View Famous Sinners?

Here’s something to think about:

Fame or notoriety? 

Most people would choose fame. Most people would want glory. There are, of course, the rare few who aspire to be recognized for evil. Generally, though, positive fame is what appeals to people.

Why do I ask?

Well, look in the newspapers or watch the news for one day. I invite you to look at the people highlighted in the media and try to imagine how it must be for them to be in that state of recognition, whether the recognition is for something evil or something good that they have done. Would they see themselves the same way that we do? Would God see them the same way that we see them?

As soon as a face appears on TV with the caption, “convicted abuser” below it, we subtly--and not-so-subtly--demarcate the figure’s identity within impassable walls of notoriety. People who do bad things and are recognized for it will always find it hard to erase the smear of notoriety.

Then, there are those whom we adore and admire. For instance, we just celebrated MLK day. We see a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and we instantly recognize him as someone admirable and attribute a certain “glory” to him, and rightly so, for people like him are worthy of emulation. 

The point, though, is that it is so easy to demarcate people into boundaries and leave them there without a second guess. When the media presents us with various figures, we plug them into pigeon holes and subtly assume that the media has exhausted all there is to know about them. We say, “Oh, he’s the one who murdered his wife,” and “Yeah, she’s the one who murdered her children.” 

Why do assume that a person’s worst deeds--or their best deeds--are what identify them?

When we see the pictures and names of criminals, they are forever “criminals” in our minds.

When we see the pictures and names of our favorite celebrities, they are forever hallowed in our minds...that is, until they become a “criminal,” or “sinner.” Celebrities and idols who turn sour have a tendency to be forever lost to us.  

Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Paula Deen, Mel Gibson, and Charlie Sheen are a few who come to my mind. They have all suffered the fall from fame to notoriety. 

Why is it so hard to remove stains from a famous person? How come we can never see them the same again?

I wonder how we would feel if we were in their shoes?

The collective consciousness of our society traps the sins of famous people in a perpetual display. Due to this, the mere mention of a famous ‘sinner’ immediately ushers in contempt. The bars of society that lock people away from redemption are too strong. No matter how much progress a famous sinner will make in life, they will always be “that one who....” They will always find it hard to attain the collective forgiveness of society.

Why is it that we admire celebrities and find it hard to remember our admiration once they “sin”? Isn’t it obvious that everyone sins and that these people happened to be the ones who were publicly recognized for it?

What if all of our misdeeds were made public? What if every ill thought of every person was printed in the local paper? 

I think we need to think twice about how we view others and their deeds and misdeeds.

To make matters worse, there are people who we only know because of their misdeeds. Those who I think of are Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Adam Lanza, Casey Anthony, Fred Phelps, Aileen Wuornos, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, etc. How can we possibly think of these people as “good”? They are forever “villains” in our minds because they have always been presented to us as such.

Am I condoning their sins? Of course not. I am not talking about their misdeeds, I am talking about our tendency to hold contempt towards them and assume that our contempt is completely justified. Aren’t we justified in having these attitudes of contempt towards these “bad” people? After all, they have sinned a great deal...

But what would God say?

Are these people entirely unredeemable? 

I invite us all to take a second look at people we admire and people we abhor. There is more to those people than our automatic assumptions towards them. They are human beings who are no less perfect than ourselves. We cannot exalt fellow human beings to the level of worship, nor can we condemn them to the level of satanic abhorrence. Everyone is on the same page; it’s just that some of us have been publicly recognized for our actions and words while the rest of us haven’t--yet.

Are those who have murderous thoughts better off than those who have actually murdered? Do those who keep their sinful desires to themselves have a different kind of sinful heart than those who have actually acted on their sinful desires? 

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Rom. 2:1)

We are all sinful.

I think we need to start trying to see things the way God sees them. It takes effort, and it’s impossible without God’s help, but that is exactly why we have God’s help. 

We are all on the same page, regardless of what the media and society like to feast on.

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