As Christians and consumers, what can we do to prevent our favorite public Christian figures from feeling like they are subjects to us?
Even as Christians, we are fans from various genres of music and worship and inspiration. We can be very vocal and passionate about who we follow. This can become unhealthy because some fans praise their favorite public figures as if they are gods.
The singer Lecrae talks about how expectations of the public can be toxic, primarily directed at his latest album titled Church Clothes 4. In an interview with podcaster Tim Ross. Lecrae said, “It costs me to process what many people can process alone, in front of the world, and so there’s a lot of grace for people who process things behind closed doors … but when you’re in the public eye … I don’t get a pass because, ‘Nah, you signed up for this.’”
Christians may treat public figures as if they are objects who are subjected to our demands. We classify them into boxes, setting the expectations for the public figures. But if they start to act outside the desires of the consumer, we throw them away as if they were broken toys.
Kirk Franklin has been a victim of this effect.
He’s been in the gospel music industry for a long time now. His upbeat, catchy, inspirational songs have influenced modern gospel music hugely. He is considered the grandfather of modern-day gospel music.
A video is circulating of Franklin being publicly rebuked by a street preacher who believes Franklin is not using his platform well. He cites the gospel star’s performance at the BET Awards, which he claims did not bring glory to God.
“What you do is nothing but a sham before God,” the street preacher told Franklin.
Even after further private conversation, the two men couldn’t agree on what’s appropriate for a Christian musician to do with the platform he or she has. Franklin believes he brings glory to God by performing wherever he can. This one fan disagrees.
Any of us may put public figures on a pedestal as if they are perfect, infallible gods made in our image. By doing so, we take away their humanity and their calling to ministry.
So again, as Christians and consumers, what can we do to prevent our favorite public figures from feeling like they are subjects to us?
First, we must understand these public figures are humans just as we are. They are entitled to private lives and the ability to voice their opinions within their platforms.
Second, we can learn to support them not because of the products they produce but because they are humans living out their own divine callings.
Third, we should pray for them. We should pray for their mental health. It is not easy being in the spotlight all the time. We also should pray for ourselves, that we can understand our favorite public figures are not subjects to us. We should give them the liberty they deserve without being crucified by their fans.
These Christian public figures, sometimes seen as mighty superheroes who have all the knowledge, are just like you and me. We are finite humans who make mistakes, show emotions and have opinions.
We must show mercy on them because we would all like mercy shown on us.
Jeremiah Bullock is a junior at Wingate University and serves this semester as BNG’s Clemons Fellow.