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What’s Your Spiritual Celebrity Index?

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Who can resist People magazine? It’s the sugary donut of the mind. There you are, in the checkout line at the grocery store, and if you’ve successfully avoided Cosmo or the National InquirerPeople seems like a safe choice. Where else can you learn that Jennifer Lopez is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World and Bradley Cooper is The Sexiest Man Alive—but wait! That is so 2011. Apparently both celebrities are no longer world-class beautiful. And this is the spiritual application: I’m well aware of Jennifer Lopez and Bradley Cooper. I know more about the famous the rich and the beautiful than I probably should, and I know less of Heaven’s beauty than I should. I may know all about Tay-Tay, but what do I know about spiritual celebrity?

What’s Your Spiritual Celebrity Index?

So, back in 2011 I developed a new way to take my spiritual temperature. I call it the People Magazine Spiritual-Celebrity Index. It works like this: There’s a connection between my ability to recognize celebrities and my ability to recognize what the Kingdom of God values. It’s an inverse relationship. These days I pick up People Magazine and look at the pictures, carefully avoiding the captions, and try to name the celeb. If I know them instantly, that’s one negative point. If I think, “who is that?” that’s one positive point. These days, for me, any score above zero is a winning score.

In fact, when I look at the magazines carefully, I see beauty in a dreary sameness: impossibly white teeth, complexions as smooth as ink on paper, and perfectly Photoshopped bodies. I’m beginning to understand what Leo Tolstoy said about happy families: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same is true for modern beauty. How many astonishingly beautiful people do I need to see? But it’s like drinking seawater—ten minutes later I’m thirsty for more beautiful sameness. This is what we value: a beauty that changes nothing in me, and cannot satisfy.

When I turn to the letter of James (that’s near the back of the New Testament) I discover a stern warning: “don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” But James was always a buzz-kill. Except he got his ideas from his big brother, Jesus, who said, “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Of course, James was talking about covetousness, and Jesus was talking about money, but how difficult is it to make the connection to nearly everything we value in our society?

We need not reject society, nor do we need to criticize the values of this age. But we desperately need to refine our own tastes, and model the true beauty of God. We can all be cover girls of the Kingdom.

Heaven is filled with beauty: ethereal, eternal, and true. No doubt it dazzles the eye as well. But it’s the fresh beauty of deep-down things, causing us to “behold and become;” giving us the freedom to admire beauty without the desire to possess or use it.

I want to gaze on the kind of beauty capable of changing me: carrying me from glory to glory, as Paul’s graceful phrase reveals. What if Heaven’s beauty is part of God’s message, calling me upward and away from the passing pleasures (and tastes) of this present age. There is a lasting beauty, and it is beautiful because it invites me into a beautiful realm.

There’s only one kind of beauty that transforms, and I won’t find it online or at the grocery  checkout line. What’s your spiritual celebrity index score?


This article about spiritual celebrity originally appeared here, and is used by permission.