Well, a number of you may have heard the news about Dinesh D’Souza, an ostensibly Christian conservative author/speaker with a very high profile in the political realm. He’s engaged to another woman who isn’t his wife… while still married to his first wife. Upon the outrage that ensued on the breaking of this news, he insouciantly wrote an open letter expressing his astonishment that it was frowned upon in evangelical circles for him to be engaged to another woman before completing divorce proceedings with his first wife.
First of all, Mr. D’Souza shouldn’t need to be told that divorce in general is frowned upon in evangelical circles. But yes, the fact that he, in the stinging words of a liberal media report, “didn’t quite get divorced fast enough” before announcing to the whole world that he had a new cutie—yes, that does rather add another layer of grime to the whole thing.
It got me thinking about how we view Christian celebrities. It seems that more and more, the attitude seems to be “Don’t expect anything from them when they’re not failing, and make excuses for them when they fail.” Am I right? When Christians find somebody to admire, it seems like there are always other Christians throwing a wet blanket over everything: “Yeah, but I mean don’t get your hopes up. Sure, things are going great now, but you never know what could happen and everyone sins. So don’t expect him to keep being awesome.” On the flip side, when a Christian celebrity falls off the pedestal, those same people are going “Hey, hey, no judging! Don’t you dare judge! You never know, you might have done the same thing. We need to pray for so-and-so, not point fingers. Yes, he sinned. Like nobody else has ever done that.”
I don’t agree with this combination of low expectations and excuses. I’m not saying Christian celebrities need to be sin-free to be respected. The Bible is clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But it’s one thing to be a sinner who is in a continual process of repentance and sanctification, whose delight is the word of the Lord and whose pleasure is His will. It’s another to be a sinner who chooses something else over and above the gift of salvation, something else he’d rather cling to than the cross. It’s another for him to choose that thing knowing full well that thousands, if not millions of people will be crushed and disillusioned, because he doesn’t have the courage to love those people more than he loves himself.
You might say that sounds pretty harsh. Let me ask you this, was the cross harsh? Was it harsh for Jesus to be scourged multiple times? For him to be spat on and mocked? For him to carry his own cross all the way up the hill of Golgotha? For him to hang there suffocating for hours until he could finally breathe no more?
Now let me ask you this: What did he die for? Because I can tell you that he didn’t die so that Ted Haggard could resign his position as a pastor amid sexual scandal. He didn’t die so that Ray Boltz could leave his wife for another man. And he didn’t die so that Dinesh D’Souza could leave his wife for another woman. He died so that we could be… what’s that word? Oh yeah, holy.
I think it’s an insult to make excuses for our celebrities when they fail miserably. It’s an insult to all the Tim Tebows and Rick Santorums and John Pipers and Jim Caviezels and Michael W. Smiths of the world who never let down the people who looked up to them, not because they were perfectly sinless men, but because they remained faithful. Do you see the difference? Who has more courage, the runner who sits down in the mud and decides he’d rather settle there than press forward to the bitter end, or the runner who falls down and gets back up again?
As Christians, do we really want to send a message to our celebrities that says, essentially, “We don’t expect anything of you?” Because I don’t. I want to send a message that says, “We recognize that living righteously is not easy, but since you are in a position of such influence and popularity, we are hoping that you will use that position to be a continually faithful witness.”
So no, Mr. D’Souza, we don’t expect you to be perfect. We just happen to think that not leaving your wife is a good place to start. But I guess that was too much to ask.