The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

My Photo
Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Elvis Cup and 'Hotel California'

I’m not the pop culture aficionado I was a few decades ago. Despite my vocation as a journalist, I sometimes get lost in the blur of names and faces that roll past the screen.

Maybe it’s age.

But I surfed over to on People magazine’s Web site a little more than a week ago and here were just a few of the headlines: “Angelina and Brad’s adoption of Pax Finalized,” “Hepatitis Scare Hits Ashton, Demi and Madonna,” and “Johnny Knoxville Recovering from Motorcycle Injury.”

You could surf over to about another half-dozen or more related stories on Angelina Jolie, and even get a glimpse of “Brad & Angelina’s Date Night.”

We obviously can’t get enough of celebrities — particularly, I suppose, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; however, we’re now into celebrity offspring.

A couple of years ago, we couldn’t get enough of Shiloh Jolie, when People magazine paid $4 million for the U.S. rights alone to shoot pictures of the baby. Within the past month, Christina Aguilera debuted her newborn son, Max, on the cover of People for a reported $1.5 million. Not to be outdone, it was recently reported that Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony were negotiating a $6 million deal for exclusive photos of their twins.

Danielle Friedland, who runs Celebrity Baby Blog, said the craving for celebrity news is fueled by the tabloid media.

“Celebrities always have children ... it's just that we're paying so much more attention to them right now,” Friedland told The Associated Press. “The more that we see of them, the more we want.”

But why blame the tabloid media? We’re the ones who can’t get enough of this stuff.

Celebrities have been turned into little gods on big screens, and now we are worshipping the children of little gods.

We live in a culture of celebrity worship, but it apparently doesn’t take a whole lot to achieve the status of celebrity. The late social historian Daniel Boorstin, who died in 2004, wrote, “Anyone can become a celebrity if only he can get into the news and stay there.”

And that is what many of them do best: They get in the news, and stay there, and we glorify them all the more … sometimes, even after death.

Refusing to let a celebrity die in peace, the culture of celebrity worship creates conspiracy theories surrounding their deaths to keep them alive. Urban legends abound maintaining that Elvis is not really dead, nor is Jim Morrison of The Doors. We assign these celebrities the status of immortality, for it is difficult to let little gods die.

Len Sweet tells about the vial of “Elvis water” that sold on E-bay for $455 a couple of years ago. The water was the property of Wade Jones of Belmont, N.C., who said a police officer gave him a Styrofoam cup as a souvenir after a 1977 show by Presley in Charlotte. Inside the cup were a few sips of water. Jones writes on his eBay posting that after he got home he put Saran Wrap over the cup, put a rubber band around it, and placed it in a freezer. He auctioned off the remaining three tablespoons of water for $455.

Later, Jones auctioned off a one-time appearance by the cup, which was won by Nutballz, a company that makes food products free of wheat or refined sugar and who used the appearance as a benefit fund-raiser. The Elvis cup was in the house for all to bow down and worship.

Celebrity worship is detrimental to our own spirits, for only God is worthy of our worship. Celebrity worship is also detrimental to the object of our affections. Look at what happened to Elvis, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Look at what’s happening to Britney Spears.

When mere human beings made only in the likeness of God are set up as objects of worships — as little gods — it’s no wonder so many of them end up living, and dying, as classic tragedies.

And look at the lives we are setting up for the children of these little gods. We pay $6 million just to see their images. Surely there is the temptation for them to later view themselves as little gods.

The year I started college at ETSU, The Eagles released the album “Hotel California.” There was an incredible amount of urban legend surrounding that album. There were rumors that the title cut was about a Christian church that was abandoned in 1969 and taken over by an occultic group. There were even rumors that The Eagles were Satan worshippers and that the image of the Satanic High Priest Anton LeVey could be seen in one of the windows of the building on the cover.

My wife gave me The Eagles’ double-CD set for Valentine’s Day. In the liner notes, Glenn Frye had this to say about “Hotel California”:

“ … we did not start out to make any sort of concept or theme album. But when we wrote ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and started working on ‘Hotel California’ and ‘New Kid in Town’ … we knew we were heading down a long and twisted corridor and just stayed with it. Songs from the dark side — the Eagles take a look at the seamy underbelly of L.A. — the flip side of fame and failure, love and money.”

These lyrics point to the flip side of celebrity worship:

“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door/I had to find the passage back to the place I was before/‘Releax,’ said the night man, ‘We are programmed to receive. ‘You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!’”

Once you see yourself as a little god, once a culture has placed you in the residence of worship, it must be difficult — if not impossible — to check out of that hotel, to live a normal life, to see yourself once again as a child of God. As believers in the one true God, let’s open the door and set the idols free.

Let’s evict them from Hotel California.