by Dr. Leslie (Jack) Fyans
Earlier this summer, the news was filled with stories about the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. The international attention this generated was astounding, even for a former Jackson fan like me! I have compassion for the loved ones of these celebrities, but I wonder how we can help our children keep such tragedies in proper perspective, given other pressing issues of our time such as poverty, war, and a troubled economy.
Regardless of how you feel about these celebrities, one cannot deny the impact their lives and deaths have had on our nation—even on the world. Grief on this level is a phenomenon not only in the entertainment industry, but in the worlds of business and politics as well. I recall the shock I felt on a personal level—and the coverage worldwide—at the death of President Kennedy in 1963. Families grew up watching him nightly on the evening news. His causes were our causes. Not everyone voted for him, but citizens as a whole grieved his loss.
Similarly, millions loved, listened to and, in some cases, idolized Fawcett and Jackson for their creativity and ability to entertain. They and others who have attained star status helped provide for many a helpful diversion from life’s stresses. But, as you suggest in your question, the stardom we afford celebrities is a double-edged sword.
How do we affirm their positive impact and still maintain a biblical perspective on the value of each human being—and our joint responsibility to meet the needs of the human community at large in very troubled times? National and global economies are in chaos, millions live on the street, threats of terror and an increase in crime are evident, and the specter of illness and death is always close by.
The death of well-known individuals is an opportunity to identify and draw attention to the serious causes these “stars” might have adopted. For example, Fawcett helped millions who are living with cancer by sharing her own story in a nationally televised documentary. We can model for our children ways to appreciate entertainers’ contributions without making them larger than life.
We all are children of God, and the redemption made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice is available to all, regardless of status. This is the message that shapes our priorities, our prayer for every person, and the hope that guides our life.
Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address.