All it takes is a 30-second perusal of the supermarket tabloids to confirm what you already know:
There is an excessive, if not obsessive, draw to celebrity in the culture. From Tim Tebow to Kate Middleton to Kim Kardashian, people are drawn to certain individuals, for any number of reasons.
But a fascination with the famous is by no means a new phenomenon. It manifests itself differently today than 50 years ago, but human nature is still the same. Often an obsession with celebrity is marked by a sort of innocently conceived voyeuristic spirit, but there have been times when it’s had tragic consequences.
When 25-year-old Mark David Chapman stepped forward and fired five shots outside New York City’s Dakota Hotel on the night of December 8, 1980, killing Beatles legend John Lennon, he did so, he said, out of a compulsion for fame. “I thought [I] was a big nobody, a big nothing,” he told investigators, “and I couldn’t let it go.” Eventually convicted for murder, Chapman stood before the parole board 20 years later and admitted with frustration, “I’m [now] a bigger nobody than I was before.”
His request for release from life imprisonment was denied. He remains in prison today.
Less than four months later, on a cold and wet March 30, 1981, another 25-year-old drifter, John Hinckley, fired six shots at President Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton. In a letter the would-be assassin never mailed, investigators found the source of his motivation.
Writing to then eighteen year-old Yale student, actress Jodie Foster, he stated, “I will admit to you that the reason I am going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait longer to impress you.”
In both instances, and in several other high-profile assassination attempts since, including the tragic shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, pundits and popular media have attempted to assign political motive to the shooter. Reality has proven otherwise. Although some degree of mental illness is usually found with those who attempt to kill celebrities, a landmark study commissioned by the Secret Service analyzing would-be assassin motivation concluded that most felt invisible to society. In their evil act, they sought fame or notoriety as a means to gaining the significance they so desperately craved. And even when the individual may have initially framed their motive in political language, more times than not, they were basically murderers in search of a cause.
For Chapman, Hinckley and Giffords’ attacker, Jared Lee Loughner, their pursuit of filling their “God-shaped vacuum” led to them using deadly force in order to worship and achieve their idol or god of fame.
But are we ultimately any more enlightened or wise to the sin and danger than these individuals?
Idol worship comes in a variety of forms. From beauty to power to money and achievement, every one of us is guilty to some degree of worshipping something short of God. We’re all idolaters in some form or fashion, and this robs us of a deep and fulfilling relationship with our Maker and Savior.
What idols have you struggled with in your life? What are you struggling with today?