In light of my blog’s name – I think it’s important to note when I write a post on my lunch break. This is one of those times. This is therefore more authentic.
The Internet is a competitive world. There is a, quite natural, constant ‘dog eat dog’ environment of straining for traffic to your blog or website. And to get that traffic, you have to capitalize on what people are searching for or interested in. Our celebrity cult is an easy market. The flood of blog posts about the recent scandal of celebrity photo leaks is an example. Jennifer Lawrence is trending on Twitter, and bloggers and tweeters are capitalizing on the situation.
And Christian bloggers, or theologians online, etc., are no exception to this sort of tendency. We feel the need to come up with ‘theological reflections’ upon all sorts of fads of the day. We need to give Christian responses to the current controversies, in order to garner the public attention we want. I could write about the Church and ethics in terms of internet security and privacy questions, I could write about sexual exploitation in popular culture, I could write about the cult of celebrity.
I could confess my huge crush on Jennifer Lawrence.
The flood of posts after Robin Williams’ death was perhaps the most potent recent example, and something I took part in myself.
And, honesty, I’m shooting down a bit of a straw man. I have yet to see a ‘Christian Response to Leaked Photos.’ But this sort of thing happens. And it would be helpful to think about it.
People want news and reflection and Christian guidance on the issues of the day. There has always been a place for Christian prophets and critics who respond to current events, and the current concerns of the people. This isn’t all bad or unprecedented.
But forgive me for being a little cynical. I just wonder if we can think more intentionally about what is hurt when our theological reflection is too closely shaped by the fads. When we think and discuss and ‘do theology’ as a cover for playing into the culture of striving after traffic and ‘hits’ and ad-clicks, is something lost? Do public Christian voices have a responsibility to shape interests instead of merely pandering to them for attention?
And let’s not forget that celebrities are people too and when we gossip about them (even in their defense) we reward the people who capitalize on celebrity gossip and photo-leaks (including those celebrities who are themselves egotistical – many of them), and add to their shame and embarrassment.
I’m guilty now, of course. I want traffic as much as the next guy. I want attention. I want to gain a bigger audience. Despite my cynicism on the one hand, I’m tagging ‘Jennifer Lawrence’ on this post with the passive aggressive desire that this will get some new readers. Keeping my mouth shut would have been the best way to do my part. Integrity must be sacrificed to make a point, I guess?….. (sarcasm?)
I have avoided the temptation to pay for a public domain picture of Jennifer Lawrence or steal a copyrighted one of her from the Hunger Games, from google images. So, there’s some points for me, I guess.
Some people have talked about these sorts of questions in terms of churches – the conflict over being relevant and faddish vs. traditional and at worst, out-of-touch. Is it wrong when we use business models and building campaigns, and use advertising to reach out to find more congregants?
These aren’t all bad things. But I think a little awareness, a little self-criticism, a little pause and reflection, could go a long way.
My opening post on this blog reflects on these dynamics, and the incessant need (a temptation I have regularly succumbed to) be heard in social media and the blogosphere by searching for controversy and obsessing over constant critique, to sometimes very self-serving and self-obsessed degrees.