Celebrity Deaths and the Compassionate Christian

Today was a pretty busy news day. Two icons of the entertainment world Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson have passed today.

Whenever celebrities die it’s a big deal. The news goes crazy, people talk in the office, and these days Twitter and Facebook go nuts with activity. Everyone wants to know what happened and be the first to share any new sliver of news.

What also happens though, is people get pissed off about the attention these events get. As I was following the data stream out there on the intertubes, I noticed several rude comments from strangers, but more surprising, from some Christian friends, that implied that following such stories is a waste of time and we shouldn’t be making a big deal about them. One person started throwing out stats on AIDS deaths as if dying from AIDS is somehow more noble than dying in other ways. One conversation regarding a child dying in a car accident today elicited a response from another who said “i’m glad that you have something worthwhile to pray about now, not Michael Jackson”. Wow. The callousness of these statements, especially those from Christians, amazes me.

Here’s the deal; Yeah our culture makes a big deal about celebrities. And that’s wrong. It’s wrong to put people on a pedestal and worship them for simply making use of the gifts only God has allowed them to use. But I don’t think it’s wrong to mourn their deaths.

The fact is that celebrities are artists. They are people with God given talents who create music, and movies, and pictures and stories that touch people in meaningful ways. Yes it’s sad that thousands die of AIDS daily, their deaths should not be trivialized. But honestly, none of them wrote the song that I was listening to during my first dance, or the movie I took my first date to, or the book that sparked my young imagination. This is why artists hold a place in our hearts.

Why then is it unacceptable for people to be saddened at the loss of a Farrah or Michael? Their work has touched millions of people. Who are we do minimize their deaths because we don’t like their art or because they were imperfect people? We are all imperfect people in God’s eyes.

We are told not to worship idols in the Bible, but we are also told to have compassion for others. If anything, these deaths should serve as a reminder of our mortality and all of our need for a savior.