And The Oscar Goes To . . . Jesus!

Melody is one of our favorite commenters here at BCC. She earns a living as a Registered Nurse. She currently teaches Sunday School for twelve-year-olds and sings in the ward choir when guilt gets the best of her. She grows a respectable garden and hikes the trails of the Rocky Mountains year ’round. She writes when she’s not building sheet-forts with her grand children. Her poetry has appeared in Irreantum, Segullah, Utah Sings Volume VIII: An anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets, and in Utah Voices 2012, and in on-line journals and forums.

I missed the Grammys this year, but I’ve watched a few video clips. I had the same response this time as every other time I see a celebrity awards show: “Seriously? It’s not enough that they make millions of dollars, that they live like Royals, that they have a gazillion admirers who praise them, serve them, and seek their counsel and company? (Also: Oprah) Then they gather together as a group of worshipped beings to worship each other and themselves?!”

Even worse, I find myself wanting to be one of those people. Which makes me feel both joyful with the fantasy and sick to my stomach with the knowledge that in my own imagination I have become part of a deplorable culture. That’s when I stop watching and go eat ice cream.
I’m not saying celebrity is all bad. Most of us enjoy having our talents affirmed by folks who know and love us. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t herald achievements or celebrate the very existence of our loved ones. But lately I’m wondering about the No Other Gods Before Me idea. Perhaps it’s a good time to revisit this commandment.

For instance: not only do we have plenty of Gods available from which to choose to worship, but social media has given us all the chance to become the star of our own brilliant, real-life production. I haven’t joined twitter, but I check in with Instagram pretty routinely. And I log on to Facebook almost compulsively. I’m uncomfortable admitting that, but it’s true. I keep up on news, family goings-on and, you know . . . maybe someone likes what I posted.

By the way, have you seen how Facebook makes a film about your last ten years, highlighting posts that were “Liked” the most by your Facebook fans? That’s right – Facebook made a movie all about you. You’re famous! I wonder if you’ll win an Oscar. I refuse to make my movie because there is no way it will even come close to Rick Egan’s beautiful Facebook short. He’s a professional photographer and shoe-in for Best Picture.
Personally, I believe we are hard-wired for worship. Maybe it’s in our DNA. I don’t know, but that might explain why the Creator gave that first great commandment. It seems we simply can’t stop ourselves. We will find the thing we love and we will worship it. We’re like salmon, willing to nearly kill ourselves to get where need to be. We are driven by an innate desire to be with God, who is our home. But God isn’t always readily available. And some of us don’t even think S/he exists. So, things like George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, or Bill Nye (if you’re into that sort of thing) start looking pretty good. Praise, adoration, acclamation, and devotion connect us to deity and we, through our agency, choose who or what that deity will be.

Our desire to worship is one of the great gifts our heavenly parents gave us. It is like a memory of home, evidence there is indeed a God in what often looks like a God-forsaken world. It’s like residue of those clouds of glory we trailed when we came to the planet; divine glitter left in our hair and on our skin from the big after-party. Or, in this case, the before party.

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
–1 Nephi 1:8

I’d like to suggest there is only one celebrity worthy of our devotion and adoration: Jesus Christ. When we worship something or someone other than Christ, we utilize that innate spiritual, worshipful energy to support something unhealthy inside of us and possibly inside the object of our adoration.

On the other hand, the act of worshipping Christ requires us not only to acknowledge our fallen state, (thereby surrendering our own celebrity status) but also to in some small measure we recall a more exalted sphere where we lived in His presence. We restore our one-ness, our eternal gratitude and connection to the divine through worship. For me, the act of worshipping and praising God feels like the key to living both in mortality and eternity. It provides a way to balance self-denial and humility with healthy self-respect. Honestly, nothing makes me happier than to praise Jesus and our Heavenly Parents. And in some of those rare moments of worship, we come to know exactly who we are: beautiful souls who are loved, adored, and celebrated by the most awesome beings in the universe.
Now, shall we chat about the Wheaties?

Comments

  1. “I’d like to suggest there is only one celebrity worthy of our devotion and adoration: Jesus Christ.”

    Whoah! Going out on a limb there! Next, you’re going to blow our minds by telling us that God is love, or something.

    Seriously, though, I did like your suggestion that our tendency to worship celebrity is perhaps derived from a spiritually innate desire to worship. Yes, indeed, I liked this. And yes, we like you, Melody.

  2. Such a tricky line to walk I love people to like me and love me, to laugh at the things I have to say, to think I’m smart, and tell me when I occasionally have clever insights, I hope they find me useful, and amusing in my blunders but mostly find me kindly. All that said I’ve got no power to save, so I hope it all points in some way back to Jesus Christ, as I “trust in his redeeming blood, and try his works to do.”

  3. “Personally, I believe we are hard-wired for worship. Maybe it’s in our DNA.”

    I believe this is true. The best articulation of this phenomenon I’ve heard was in a commencement speech given by writer David Foster Wallace (who sadly later took his own life):

    “Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it [Jesus Christ] or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

    Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”

  4. There’s a good reason that young celebrities often turn into total quivering messes. In some ways, worshiping is the opposite of knowing someone. We worship our perception of that person; we create idealized or romanticized stories about that person and those are the substitute for that actual person. Knowing someone for real means we have to deal with all the parts that don’t fit out neat narrative about them, and it takes them off that pedestal of worship. Yet we do worship people. Until they become real.

  5. I think the hunger for celebrity worship is also at the roots of our sometimes unhealthy adoration of General Authorities, too.

  6. Kristine – Yes. Thanks for bringing that up.
    Angela C. – I love that image of quivering messes. Your comment is making me think . . . about the opportunities we miss when we create illusions about any given number of things-people, principles, organizations. Illusions have no subtsance, therefore, they provide no real sustanence. Still thinking about that. Thanks for your comment.
    BJohnson – Thank you for that perfect quote.

  7. Hunter–I know I’m preaching to the choir. Thanks for singing along. And for liking me!
    Dovie–Amen!

  8. Thomas Parkin says:

    Good post.

    I’m really tired of the word divine. But that’s just me. People hereabouts love it.

    “Most of us enjoy having our talents affirmed by folks who know and love us.”

    A solid 30% of what happens on BCC is this. Just so as you’re aware that we, the audience, are aware.

    ” Illusions have no subtsance, therefore, they provide no real sustenance. ”

    Indeed, reality is where everything is happening. But illusions are largely what we worship, anyway. We make a Jesus Christ who not only approves our message, but is actually constructed out of our messages and the messages that affirm us. Even our supposed self-abnegation is an attempt to find affirmation in an illusory divine. Reality, even divine reality, is manifold, and contains all kinds of things we don’t want to engage. Hence the need to be super-brave.

  9. Obviously, this tendency to worship and idolize / idealize is at the heart of many faith crises – when people realize those whom they idolized had flaws, even deep ones, and weren’t the superheros they were imagined to have been. That is one of the reasons I really love the new explanations that have been published lately, along with the entire Joseph Smith Papers Project. Hopefully, this tendency will be less of any issue for my children and their children than it was and still is for my generation and those on either side of me.

    Fwiw, I think all of the apostles now (and for a few years, at least) are aware of and uncomfortable with this tendency among the membership. I think some of them don’t realize how some of their messages contribute to the problem, but I do think they don’t want to be worshiped or idolized – or have that happen even with our former church leaders. I’ve heard enough directly from them and second-hand about them to believe that strongly.

    I would love it if this was addressed directly from the General Conference pulpit – to add to the less direct messages along these lines that have been increasing over the last few years.

  10. Another example of why Thomas Parkin is one of my favorite commenters – which validates one of the points of his comment.

  11. Great post, Melody. I especially liked this, “Our desire to worship is one of the great gifts our heavenly parents gave us. It is like a memory of home, evidence there is indeed a God in what often looks like a God-forsaken world.” Your observation about us being lovely for God and for each other is something I think about often.

  12. Great post, and great comments.

  13. I agree, Thomas Parkin, second to faith, courage is at the heart of real worship for most of us. If we are to worship God, Jesus Christ, then we are also compelled to know Him as he is. Not as we wish he were or how we construct him in our imagination. Wasn’t it Joseph Smith who said, essentially, that the greatest endeavor which we can and should undertake in this life is to attempt to understand the nature of God? I personally believe it is possible with faith and courage to surrender one’s “idea” of God, so that God and/Jesus Christ may reveal their true nature to us over time. Perhaps not as a personal visitation (or perhaps as such), but certainly in a way that will allow us to recognize the Savior when we see him — not as a reflection of our wish for who he is, but, in fact, as he is.

    And it’s interesting to me that Jesus himself used the most concrete, “real” object known to his followers at the time of his mortal ministry: a rock – to represent a very ethereal/illusory concept: revelation. So apparently there is a difference between worshipping illusions and worshipping beings who are made known to us via revelation, which makes spiritual truths concrete to our minds and hearts. I also agree the divine is manifold. And that our willingness to accept this idea opens our minds to know the God we worship.

  14. I also love Thomas Parkin’s comment. (Sorry about the ego-boost.) C.S. Lewis said that God is an iconoclast, shattering the images we make of him. Facing up to that sort of thing certainly does take courage.

    To the OP, what if, rather than being the One True Celebrity, Jesus is a kind of anti-celebrity? Maybe we could translate the messianic secret in Mark as, “I know that what just happened was extremely cool, but please don’t Instagram it. No, really.”

    Then again, as one of my students said last week, maybe the messianic secret is simply the most genius PR campaign ever. Forbidden knowledge: enticing people effectively since Eden.

  15. Emily U – thank you for reading and commenting. And Ben S too.

    Ray – In the book Celebration of Discipline, (trough which some of us around these parts are making a sort of twelve-month pilgrimage-to-the-soul) the author talks about humankind’s longstanding habit of finding a mediator between ourselves and God. In the church, I think we do this with GAs and other leaders. There is safety in allowing someone else to approach the divine on our behalf (Yes, I love the word “divine.” I also love “illuminate” fwiw). Then we can worship them, elevate them, revere them, rather than do the terrifying work of approaching God on our own. Like you, I assume those GAs, for the most part, would be perfectly happy to avoid celebrity status. And a general conference talk about it would be dandy.

  16. Jason K. – Yes! God as iconoclast. I haven’t thought about that quote/idea for years. And, so far as I can tell, Jesus always has been the anti-celebrity. Good point. Thanks for commenting.

  17. My favorite recent quote (from a favorite, wise, white-haired friend, just last week) when I called her and said, “Do you have a minute? Can we talk about the nature of God.” Her response: “Well, that’s a pretty presumptuous question! Can any of us talk about the nature of God with any real authority? God is far too complex to have that kind of conversation about.” Then we had a nice long conversation about God and other things.

  18. This just in: Hugh Jackman will host the 68th Annual Tony Awards, a role for which in the past, he’s received an Emmy. Or two.

    “Like [Neil Patrick] Harris before him, this will be Jackman’s fourth time hosting the Tonys. Previously, Jackman served as host from 2003-2005, earning an Emmy Award for his 2004 duties at the 58th Annual ceremony, as well as an Emmy nomination for his 2005 appearance at the 59th Annual ceremony.” – BroadwayWorld.com

  19. Twila Warner says:

    As usual, sister, you’ve set my mind and spirit seeking. For me the word worship implies some distance or separation. It brings to mind someone lower looking up at a Diety, a king, a queen, a scholar, a writer, an actor on the stage? I see the tiered seating that highlights hierarchy in our own religious tradition. Even with Jesus when you say worship, I see him above me, maybe descending from clouds of glory. But what I feel about my relationship to him is very different. What I feel is connectedness. What if what we call “worship” is a distortion of a pure desire to seek connection? What if worshipping Christ isn’t about creating new or different hierarchies where we talk about how to correctly worship, but simply looking into the face of a stranger with an open heart and allowing yourself to feel? I don’t know that I believe in the forms of worship I was taught as a child, or the some of the continued noise I hear as an adult. I mostly feel Jesus in an uncomfortable sort of tension. For example, the view out my window of a quiet mountain meadow and the picture in my mind of the unkempt woman who sits on the corner of Josephine and 17th in a wheel chair holding her cardboard sign. There He is. What I do with that tension, is that worship? I am working it out.

  20. Also, Jesus is the only “celebrity” who WON’T disappoint us or let us down, who is even better than we perceive, and who will take our adoration and give even more back.

    That being said–I really struggle with the word “worship”. Really, what IS worship? As I am approaching 50 years on this earth, more and more I feel like there is something I am not quite getting. I’m no longer content with what I was taught as a child and young adult, “We worship God through obedience to his commandments.” That feels, I don’t know, very passive or at least not like the intense and focused experience that the word “worship” seems to imply. (And maybe it is because I am simply not doing a good enough job of keeping the commandments that I am left feeling a little empty.)

    Someone recently made a comment, either here at BCC in a post or perhaps in a FB discussion, that we Mormons don’t have truly “worshipful” church services, and that he/she actually felt more of a sense of the literal act of worshipping God attending services of another Christian denomination. And other than taking the sacrament, I tend to agree.

    So– what do you think? What is worship? How do you worship? What am I missing?

  21. Very good question and thoughtful comment, Twila. What does worship look like for each of us?

    So, readers, what does worship look like to you? How do you worship?

    Kristine has brought some wonderful music to BCC. I find myself in a state of worshipping God whenever I’ve connected with inspired music. Maybe it’s not like that for everyone. I don’t know.

    And Twila, what if worship means an intimate embrace? A union of our fallen heart with His exalted heart? Sometimes that’s how worship feels to me. I’m not sure I can separate worship from atonement. . . Either way, I think there is room for the mountains and the unkempt woman between those two hearts. So worship on, my dear. I love your mind and your good heart.

  22. And Kerbearrn too – posting simulteneously. Great questions.

  23. Maybe like Dovie describes above, with an eye single to God’s glory, our every action can be considered worship. Granted, who is capable of remaining in that state all the time? And is it even necessary? But I love what she said,” I hope people . . . mostly find me kindly. All that said I’ve got no power to save, so I hope it all points in some way back to Jesus Christ, as I “trust in his redeeming blood, and try his works to do.””

  24. I think worship varies from person to person, since I tend to view it as a strengthening or deepening of connection – and that happens in different ways for different people. I think when we try to define “the one true way to worship”, we limit God in a real way – by excluding lots of people who could worship without the constraints of a singular model that is not best for them. (I think we do that with lots of things.)

    I also tend to equate worship, in an important way, with emulation – with trying to become like how we envision God to be. The following is something I wrote in July 2008:

    “They Shall Be Called the Children of God” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008/07/for-they-shall-be-called-children-of.html)

  25. I would like to extend the award for “Best first time guest poster who totally took charge in the comments” to you, Melody.

    I was reading an article today about how we are predisposed towards worship. What you’re basically talking about here seems to me like the classic battle of true worship vs. idolatry. It’s interesting and inherent to who we are, I believe.

  26. Thomas Parkin says:

    Where’s my like button??

  27. Thanks, Steve. I accept. Great fun on my day off work. And, yes, exactly. It’s an age-old problem with a new face in a new age. Have a lovely rest of the week.

  28. I’ve never been one to worship celebrities. So many of them are self-serving moral reprobates that are far, far below appropriate objects of worship. There are entertainers whose work I enjoy, writers I like to read. I admire them for those things. But their personal lives often leave a lot to be desired. As for General Authorities, well, they’re just men, too. I admire them, love and respect them, but worship them? Nope, not me.

  29. Melody what a brilliant post, I love it. Like Ray, I think the tendency toward idolized worship is at the heart of the faith crises of many. I know that until I let myself understand that Joseph Smith was a real human being just like me with the beautiful flaws we all share I struggled mightily with accepting him. Since doing the work and having those revelations/realizations (that he is neither an Angel nor a Devil) I have been able to fully experience my faith in the Restoration.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,514 other followers