On Dinesh D’Souza, Christian Celebrities and Low Expectations

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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “On Dinesh D’Souza, Christian Celebrities and Low Expectations

  1. Brigitte

    That is precisely the problem with a Christian celebrity…. with all the influences of the world it is hard for a Christian to stay true. (Note: I am NOT saying that a Christain cannot be a celebrity) And of course we definitely SHOULD expect something from them, but be understanding if they fall, after all they ARE human and not perfect! Its just kind of bad when someone so looked up to fails because (correct me if I’m wrong) I think that it makes Christianity look “fake” to the rest of the world, and makes religion look hard or whatever…. no, its just that when people get too hungry for attention and popularity, they sometimes take that over God, and that is when there’s a problem. Ok, I’m done with my sermon ;) BTW, this story you posted about Mr. D’Souza almost reminds me of Michael English’s story… we can only pray that God helps D’Souza as he did M. English!

    • I guess my question is, what exactly does it mean to “be understanding”? Does it mean that we say “Well I might have done the same thing” (even if you’re a very faithful husband or wife who knows you’d never leave your spouse in a million years)? I guess my point in this article is that it’s still a long way from simply “not being perfect” to leaving your wife. Of COURSE we’re not perfect, nobody is. But it takes a really serious lack of self-control and integrity to do what Dinesh did. I agree that it gives Christianity a very bad name in the rest of the world. Now personally, I think the people who foam at the mouth over Christian hypocrites just hate Christianity in general, so anything we do is a lose-lose as far as they’re concerned. So some people, I don’t think we should worry too much what they think because they’re just (to borrow a bit of their own lingo) haters. However, it is still a disgrace to Christianity.

      I do respect Michael English for openly repenting and admitting that he needed God’s grace and forgiveness. I still feel uneasy about the re-marriage, but I know that at this point it would take something pretty extreme to “undo” that part of his sin, and pretty much nobody does that, even those who have repented of leaving their first spouses. The truth is once you’ve come this far there’s no easy way to make it completely right.

      • Brigitte

        Completely true. What I meant about “be understanding” was that we should understand that people do mess up but without totally excusing their sin. And of course, pray for them :) I definitely agree with everything you said in the last paragraph. (and mostly everything else too) :)

  2. Norm

    Sounds like quite the ladies’ man among good-looking conservative women. Apparently he dated Ann Coulter, was engaged to Laura Ingraham, married Dixie (a White House intern when Republicans in power) and is now with Denise Odie Joseph who had been married earlier. Seems like powerful men in any field don’t have much difficulties attracting women.

  3. I have always had a problem with celebrities in general. Being well-known is all fine and good by me, and even looking up to someone as a personal “hero” has its merits, but I think too many people put their faith in another person rather than in Christ. They view celebrities (Christian or otherwise) as a liason, so to speak, to their own faith.

    I think a lot of people look for someone who can be an example, someone to strive to be like. Christians will look for other Christians who can set that example. But even in non-Christian situations, people can be, have been, and will be let down. Does it make it any less wrong? No, but the fact remains that the ONLY one worthy of our faith is Christ.

    • But I think we were designed to admire and trust other people. I think people, especially young people, look for examples because it’s natural—it’s how we’re wired. Of course we should be prepared to accept it without being completely crushed if that person falls, but does that mean we were wrong to admire them in the first place?

      I just think we need to make sure that our reaction to a celebrity failure isn’t “Well it was his fans’ fault for looking up to him too much.” I don’t think it’s necessarily a case of “putting your faith in so-and-so instead of Christ.” You can be a very sincere Christian who also happens to be glad that a person you look up to is doing good work for Christ in a public way. If that person fails, I don’t think you necessarily need to feel convicted that you somehow weren’t putting enough faith in Christ.

    • Lydia

      When the Apostle Paul talks to Timothy and Titus in the pastoral epistles, he quite clearly teaches that they and the pastors they ordain are *meant* to be examples to the believers. Here is just one verse, in I Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” That’s why we find Paul listing all sorts of qualifications for being a pastor.

      Christians weren’t meant to have to “go it alone,” but too often nowadays we almost have to. A lot of evangelicals understand that we weren’t meant to go it alone, but they then relate this only to horizontal, egalitarian friendship, which gets designated as “Christian community,” not to examples and authority. But the Bible doesn’t seem to look at it that way. The Bible clearly envisages a Christian community that has actual leaders to which other people look up and who are required to be especially exemplary in their lives.

      A huge problem with Christian celebrities is that they are not accountable and that they are examples to such a huge number of people, a sort of diffuse following, that they don’t feel responsible to a particular group. D’Souza evidently never said to himself, “What is it going to mean to the people at this church to which I am going to speak if they come, purchase my book, giving me a standing O, and then are shocked by my introducing this woman as my fiance when they are meeting and greeting me afterwards?” He didn’t have that kind of maturity nor that kind of personal connection to the people to whom he was speaking. They were not, to him, his sheep. They were just his fans, and he felt no particular responsibility to consider their feelings.

      A true leader is a leader of a clearly defined group of people to whom he feels responsible and whose well-being he considers. This is becoming even harder to maintain in the Internet age. If one runs a Facebook group, does one bear that relationship to all of the people who are members of that group, many of whom one doesn’t know?

      But we need to work to maintain as much as possible of that sense of leadership, personal connection, responsibility, and accountability. King’s College has taken a good step by firing D’Souza. If he could be said to have a real, personal connection to any community, it would presumably be the college of which he was a president. Indeed, part of the problem they had sensed for a while seems to have been that he wasn’t doing much for the college to earn his extremely high salary.

      In any event, I think that putting this in biblical perspective should make us hesitate a bit to apply the motto to it that no one deserves our admiration but Jesus Christ.

  4. When I first heard of this situation I was just reading a book by Mr. D’Souza. The strangest thing happened … I immediately started to read the book differently. I was much less inclined to believe what he wrote.

    It’s sad when a man of such distinction does not have the insight to realize that action speaks louder than words. It’s even sadder to see that a man like Mr. D’Souza has no idea that his actions are inappropriate and plain wrong. He has been a man of importance (a celebrity, if you will), a teacher, someone who influenced people. You should think he would know better than to fail like this.

    Even if his marriage was beyond repair (and that can happen in the best of Christian circles, even after many counseling sessions etc), he could have dealt with it in a proper and dignified way, admitting what went wrong, taking responsibility and taking time before even thinking about entering another relationship.
    That would have send a whole other message. It still would have been painful and seen as falling (and failing) but at least it would have shown he knew what he was doing.

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