Faith and fame don’t mix

Actor Shia LeBeouf’s reception into the Catholic Church was in the news again for a while, but then it quickly receded. I don’t know if that’s just because people get tired of news much more quickly than they used to (likely), or because people have actually learned a thing or two about Catholic celebrities (highly unlikely). Either way, it’s a relief.

I don’t know much about LaBeouf. I’ve seen him in a few unimportant movies, and I heard some grumbling about how it seems awfully convenient that he found the Lord right when he was going on trial for some kind of unsavory behavior. I also saw a few photos of him right after his baptism, and he sure looked happy.

But this isn’t about him, in particular! What it’s about is this: Fame and faith do not mix. When they do, it almost never turns out well! There’s so much harm that can come of Catholics elevating a celebrity to favored status just because they join the church: Harm to us Catholics, harm to the rest of the world, and harm to the celebrity himself.

I’m a terrible spoilsport, I know. It’s been an awfully tough decade or so to be Catholic, and it’s natural to feel encouraged when we get someone “important” on “our team.” All too often, Catholics only reach the headlines when they’ve done something awful, or finally got caught after having secretly done something awful for decades. So when the church can claim someone the world has already acknowledged as cool and attractive and appealing, it feels like a win.

Which is fine. But we have to remind ourselves sternly that it’s also a win when the hinky-looking, unpopular, wheel bearing salesman we never heard of becomes Catholic. It’s a win when the cousin you never liked very much becomes Catholic. It’s a win when a fisherman or a tentmaker or a leper is baptised, and the Gospels seem to be just as jubilant over this as they are over, say, a Centurian joining the fold.

But Simcha! you may say. It’s not the caché that matters. That’s not the reason we get excited when a celebrity gets baptized. The thing we’re really thrilled about is the influence such a person could have over their audience. Famous people get others to imitate them in all sorts of ways: How they dress, what they eat, how they raise their kids, what they do for hobbies. How could it possibly be a bad thing for a celebrity to become Catholic very publicly, and open the possibility for lots of their fans to follow?

Moreover (you may say), the Gospels actually enjoin us to be noisy about the good news, and to be ready and willing and able to speak about our faith! Why should people be barred from this good work, just because they happen to be well known?

One of the answers… Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

image via pxhere (Creative Commons)

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4 thoughts on “Faith and fame don’t mix”

  1. I agree with you. We all need to keep our eyes on our own paper when it comes to be followers of Christ.

    I think you may have a false friend word:

    A cache is a group of things that are hidden, and is pronounced like “cash.” Cachet can mean “prestige,” “medicine to be swallowed,” or “an official seal,” and is pronounced “cash-ay.”,pronounced%20%22cash%2Day.%22

    I think cache is related to the French verb cacher, which means to hide. The verb form is pronouncer cash-ay.

  2. What do you think about teens and young adults helping to teach kids preparing for Confirmation? Our parish likes to use peer leaders for formation classes like Confirmation prep. I have a teen and young adult who love to help out, but I do wonder about their lack of experience as young Catholics teaching other young Catholics. But then I remember Bl. Carlo Acutis helping to teach catechism to younger students and think it’s probably doing my kids some good too, giving their time to others and staying active in their faith. I would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. I think that, no matter what age someone is, a VERY important qualification for teaching is to know your own limits, and to be comfortable with saying, “Gee, I’m not sure. Ill find out, and get back to you.” People run into problems when they feel like they have to come up with a glib answer to everything, and they can do a lot of harm that way.

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