The Case of Celebrity Sin and Role Models

I am concerned for this next generation in Canada! I am a Christian leader who has been leading for 35 years, and I am constantly aware of the impact leaders have upon those who look to them for direction and moral clarity.

I remember my first counseling session, coaching a married couple into reconciliation. As a young pastor, I recall the heavy burden I felt to give perfect advice, knowing that they would probably attempt to follow it and put it into practice. I felt the weight of responsibility that was involved in not only saying the right words but being the right person.

I have also seen the devastation that has occurred within the soul of a community when respected leaders have fallen. It doesn’t have to happen often to affect you for life. Once is enough. Bubbles burst. Questions fill the mind. Trust vanishes. Anger emerges from the heart. The struggle to believe sets in.

The reality is that many people are looking for someone to follow, someone to model their life after. Over the last few decades, I have seen every area of social life morally undermined by delinquent role models. Almost every day we are seeing the real life dramas of the rich and famous lived out in public view: politicians, business leaders, ministers, movie stars, etc.

Remember the global effect on the political world when we heard the truth about President Clinton’s marital affair with Monica? Impeachment proceedings were based upon his lying under oath, not his affair. Adultery was considered a moral offense, not a criminal one. How did we ever get there?

Didn’t engaging a woman, who was not his wife, in illicit sexual acts speak to the greater issue: the willingness to break a covenant, a vow, an oath? Society is now living with The Clinton Legacy: some acts are not sexual, improper or adulterous, if they stop short of intercourse. A generation has bought it, hook, line and sinker.

Christian leaders have failed this generation – Ted Haggard. Often their explanations and justifications have had a greater negative affect than their immoral actions. There is forgiveness, but what about repentance, public accountability, even long term consequence. Talk to King David about Bathsheba and adultery’s effects on generations!

Sports heroes have failed this generation – Kobe Bryant. Listen to Kobe: “This isn’t about morality (it’s all about morality) or crime. I’ll let others better qualified than I sort that out (he didn’t know the difference?). It’s about doing the right thing (there is a right thing) after you’ve been caught doing the wrong thing” (italics mine). I thought character is what prevents us from doing wrong stuff in the first place!

Movie stars have failed this generation. Remember actor Mel Gibson having to publicly apologize for his shameful conduct: ie. drunk driving, swearing and anti-Semitism? This, Mel engaged in, right after producing one of the finest movies on the Passion of the Christ. I know what it is like to live my life under constant public scrutiny. What I do and say, my attitude and behavior, affects people’s lives. A leader can lose their life modeling career in a day – come on, Mel! You know that too!

And, what about Paris Hilton? The heiress was sentenced to 45 days in jail for driving with a suspended licence from DUI, later reduced to 23 days. For unspecified medical reasons – eg. rash, psychological reasons – she was reassigned from her stay in a 12-by-eight foot cell into a 2,700-square-foot Hollywood Hills house arrest.

The Game Show Network (GSN) readjusted their focus and made her homestay a joke. They launched “The Prison Life of Paris” this week, featuring a cartoon version of Paris wearing a prison-issue orange jumpsuit, stilettos and oversized sunglasses. GSN certainly picked up on the spirit of the times. This stuff all sounds like a game than real life. She does her time at home, adding a new ankle bracelet to her wardrobe, and this generation does time watching her!

Does anyone get the picture yet? Is anyone watching the moral radar screen? This generation is looking in all the wrong places for life models. They are being raised without an understanding of a moral plumb line, rights and wrongs, “yes’s” and “no’s”, consequences for actions, internal and external accountability.

It’s got to change! Are there any role models out there willing to pay the price of decency? What ever happened to good manners or common sense? Is integrity, character, and virtue an outdated idea, or is it what this generation desperately needs?

I happen to think that the list of dysfunctional North American idols is getting ominous and onerous. It’s time for a new generation to emerge and show themselves.


Castanet Article
Thursday June 28th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column