“You exist for my entertainment.”

Can you imagine saying that to another human being? I would hope that none of us could imagine it. Especially those of us who are Christians. The words go against the very foundation of our faith—the belief that God made us, loves us, and died to redeem us, and that His love gives us each worth.

And yet, in recent months, I keep seeing conservatives, some of whom profess Christianity, post those words on Facebook. They’re part of a screed about celebrities that many have copied and pasted. Sometimes there are alterations, but the gist is always the same. It generally starts like this:

Dear Hollywood celebrities,

You exist for my entertainment. Some of you are great eye candy. Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes. Some of you can scare the crap out of me. Others make me laugh. But you all have one thing in common, you only have a place in my world to entertain me. That’s it.

It’s one thing to recognize a group as, by and large, your ideological opponents. It’s another thing entirely to reduce that group to less than human—to something not real and only made for your entertainment—because of that opposition.

It goes on in that vein for a while. Here’s another passage from it:

I don’t really care where you stand on issues. Honestly, your stance matters far less to me than that of my neighbor. You see, you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again.

After seeing this pop up several times in my Facebook feed, I traced it to the blog of Jennifer Hast. Her original title for it was “Dance, Monkey!” and you can read the whole thing here. The screed, in any of its various versions—some of which are far harsher than the original—tends to bring applause and cheers from commenters. Which, if I may borrow a phrase from Hast, scares the crap out of me.

Of course, I’m familiar with the ongoing, ever-escalating cultural battle between modern conservative Christianity and the entertainment industry. It’s hard to avoid. In a never-ending cycle, Hollywood jabs at conservatives and Christians, who respond with everything from boycotts to expressions of contempt like Hast’s, which inspire more jabs, and so on and so forth.

I saw another example of this trend right after the Grammys, when a Christian Facebook friend posted, tongue in cheek, “What is a ‘Beyonce’?” I’m not really into Beyoncé myself, but some of the answers he got chilled me to the bone:

“Something to be avoided.”

“A satanic pagan Thing.”

“Puppet of demons?”

“A demon.”

“Nothing worth knowing about, believe me.”

This goes beyond opposition. This is a sort of hatred, encouraged and nourished by self-righteousness. And worse—it’s dehumanization. It’s just like the “Dance, Monkey!” post—an attempt to strip celebrities of their humanity. And it’s something that worries me deeply when I see Christians buying into it.

It’s one thing to recognize a group as, by and large, your ideological opponents. It’s another thing entirely to reduce that group to less than human—to something not real and only made for your entertainment—because of that opposition.

I recognize that, because one side in this ongoing conflict has more wealth and power and more of a platform to share their views, the other side often feels helpless against that level of cultural influence. Perhaps that’s what leads to a desire to cut them down to size, to reduce them to nothing. If you’re a Christian, there’s just one problem with that: they are your fellow human beings. And God doesn’t allow you to view your fellow human beings that way. As Paul put it, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV)

This issue of dehumanization goes even beyond the issue of how we treat our enemies. It goes directly to the heart of our worldview as Christians. As a friend of mine observed in a Facebook discussion of this topic, the belief that any human being exists solely for the entertainment of another is the same sort of belief that, further along the spectrum, justifies prostitution. It’s certainly not the belief given to us by the one we call our Lord and Savior, the one who taught us to love and bless and pray for everyone—including those who oppose us.

We don’t have to like or approve of everything that comes out of Hollywood. But what if we were able to show love to members of the entertainment industry, anyway? We’re always congratulating ourselves on our ability to do that—I’ve heard “hate the sin, love the sinner” ten thousand times if I’ve heard it once—but I don’t seem to see us actually putting it into practice very often. Not when we’re calling people puppets and things and saying that they don’t deserve an independent existence just because they publicly disagree with our views.

If we’re able to show people who hold opposing views love instead of hate, we just might end up changing this whole culture for the better. It’s what artist and writer Makoto Fujimura encourages us to do in his new book Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life—not just with celebrities, but with artists in general. Fujimura writes, “Many [artists] have resorted to various efforts to shock or transgress to get attention. I have often noticed that when these same artists are placed in an environment of nurture . . . what they create has a different tone.” He believes that the constant culture wars are poisoning our society and our souls—and that we can only start to change this by cultivating a different, less warlike attitude toward those who create our art and entertainment.

But, you might argue, most of us will never come into contact with celebrities, so how can we show them love? Maybe we can’t always do it directly, but we can start by changing the way we think and talk about them. We can consider each one of them as a creation of God, beloved by Him . . . just like us.

But she got up at that awards ceremony and lectured me!

Yes, and God still loves her.

But she promotes abortion and homosexuality!

Yes, and God still loves her.

But his act is disgusting and not fit for my children to see.

And God loves him anyway.

But he thinks he’s so much better than me just because he’s rich and famous for pretending to be someone else on a screen.

Maybe so. But even so, God still loves him.

The question is, knowing this truth, will we still choose to see these people the way pimps see prostitutes or sexual traffickers see their victims? Or will we choose to follow God in this area? We need to make a choice—because we can’t do both.


3 Comments

  1. The dearth of comments shows that what you said here is true and unanswerable. I have called people wicked, and those people may have done many wicked things, but I have to remember that God loves them, and that He longs to save them. And to pray that they will come to know Jesus. If I cannot truly say about anyone that I would rejoice if they repented and were saved, then I can be sure that my attitude toward them is sinful.

  2. Good article, well written.

    I personally feel that it is dishonourable to use a platform such as awards ceremony etc. to promote a political message (of any sort), but nothing anyone could ever do would invalidate them from God’s love, or from our duty to love them.

    Imagine how terrible some of the proclamations we’ve made in our lives must seem to God. By the measure we treat others’, He will treat ours.

  3. A well-written post Gina, to which I’ll only add one additional perspective:

    Many of us who are tired of hearing celebrities preach at us from the ‘awards lectern’ are tired of hearing *EITHER* side of any argument – the conservative or liberal, although in that community it tends to skew towards the latter. It isn’t just opposing views, its ANY viewpoint other than one’s experience from or gratitude for the performance which is being recognized – THAT’S our beef!

    In fact, several times the AMPAS (owners of ‘Oscar’) has also tried to reprimand Academy members for getting political in their acceptance speeches, noted in the clip at the bottom of the following page (sorry, couldn’t get a direct link), which has some verbiage you’ll recognize about 2:50 into the video. :-D

    http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/2/14792442/amazon-s3-outage-cause-typo-internet-server

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