Amy Winehouse and the Deification of Celebrities

Like so many others in the blogosphere and in Twitterverse, I was saddened over the weekend by the death of music artist Amy Winehouse. She had tremendous talent, but also tremendous scars and pain that she simply could not seem to escape in this life.

I am saddened by the loss, but I am not shocked, as so many proclaimed to be. Her struggle with addiction and her refusal to humbly submit to admitting a weakness, her many failed attempts at rehab, her public meltdowns and relational explosions have been well documented the last few years. It has been painful to watch a human life spiral into destruction through the lenses of the paparazzi. An honest social commentary entitled “Amy Winehouse Dies, Before Our Eyes” was published by Gazelle Emami on Huffington Post on Saturday; it’s a good read for anyone who is concerned about the ever-present self-destructing celebrity.

This is not the first time that society seems to have been shocked by a celebrity succumbing to a human ailment. Shock and dismay were proclaimed in the streets when Michael Jackson died two summers ago. Some simply could not believe that Patrick Swayze could have fallen victim to cancer in September of 2009. But since the advent of movie and television, celebrities have taken on a form of immortality that is rocked at each unexpected death. Look at the impact on American society of the deaths of celebrities like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.

To believe that celebrities should be somehow immune to the natural consequences of living in a fallen world show that they have become functional gods. To be dismayed that they are “merely human” indicates that, deep down, we believe them to be something more.

Why do we place celebrities in the entertainment world on a deified pedestal? Is it that they possess fame and fortune that we really do desire to be our own? Are they the ones we worship, or does it eventually all go back to self-worship; we worship what we desire for ourselves?

Matt Maher has a song entitled “Flesh and Bone” and in it the chorus states, “I’m dying to believe/ I’m trying just to show/ That we are less than perfect/ More than flesh and bone”.

It is written on the human heart that we are in fact more than mere flesh and bone; we are created in the image of the God of the Universe, the only thing in all of creation for which God felt it necessary to get His hands dirty and then breathe life into us. But just like we are told in Romans 1 that certain things are written on the heart of man as universal Truth, we also have exchanged the Truth for the lie; that the created one can be worshiped instead of the Creator. And the unusual amount of sorrow displayed over the deaths of people we don’t know, people who just happen to have careers that place them in the limelight, display both of these truths perfectly.

We know there is something inherently special about humanity. And we choose to worship the creation rather than the Creator.

So should we as believers approach tragedies like the death of Amy Winehouse? How does one address grief over a life lost too soon while still keeping a check on one’s own heart and focus of worship? Can such tragedies open the door to healthy discussion with the body of Christ concerning the worship of celebrity?

Some questions are difficult to answer, but one thing is for certain, the life and death of Amy Winehouse is a painful real life lesson that choices can have disastrous natural consequences when we choose to worship creation over Creator.

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