The seduction of celebrity power

Andy Crouch commentary on celebrity power, allegations, and institution-building—insightfully and succinctly written on a Twitter thread of tweets. Posted with permission.

If you’re someone growing in celebrity, your first priority should be to build systems of unimpeachable independence and credibility that can hold you accountable. The problem is that almost no one who tastes celebrity makes this a priority.

And when credible allegations of misconduct come — as has happened in two cases in my circles this week — you are stuck. Even credible allegations can be false. But if you haven’t built a system others can trust to fairly assess those allegations, how can we believe your denials?

This is the great tragedy of two generations’ worth of impatience with institutions (which reached a peak with my GenX cohort). We neglected real institution-building and settled for celebrity power. But that is a house built on sand, and when it falls, how great is its fall.

And culture basically dies if it isn’t transmitted over two generations (think language). Where do emerging adults go to see healthy models of institutions that both increase creative power and limit the capacity for destructive power? It’s very hard for them to imagine.

There are countless glorious exceptions — individuals and institutions. But almost by definition, they don’t partake in the culture of celebrity, and thus they are culturally invisible, or far less visible than they ought to be given their integrity and trustworthiness.

Meanwhile we have to endure the rise and fall of one celebrity after another, who suck all the oxygen out of the room both on the way up and on the way down.

May God have mercy on us all, and give us the grace to “live quietly, mind our own affairs, and work with our hands” today (1 Thess 4:11) — trusting him to bless us, the work of our hands, and the generations to come.


[and, also read the longer version of Andy’s more thoroughly thoughtful reflections about reckoning with celebrity power of Christian leaders, at The Gospel Coalition]