Sunday, January 06, 2008

Praying for Celebrities

There was an interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel today about a group of people called the Hollywood Prayer Network that are committed to praying regularly for celebrities. The philosophy of the group is that if more Christians prayed for those in the limelight instead of judging them, then maybe they could make a more positive effect on their lives.

There has certainly been no shortage of celebrities leading troubled lives, but there seems to be an alarming number of young women in the spotlight who are leading lives out of control. Paris Hilton's stint in jail put her on nightly newscasts and Lindsay Lohan's in again/out again relationship with rehab centers has her on the cover of magazines every time I go to the grocery store.

Arguably most well-known among this group of girls behaving badly is Britney Spears. Once a pop music queen, Britney has been on the news more for her crazy antics in recent years than anything she's done in the music world. Sadly, it appears her life is spinning wildly out-of-control unless some drastic changes are made.

Also troubling was the recent news that Britney's younger sister, Jamie Lynn, had become pregnant at the age of 16. A star of Nickelodeon's teeny-bopper show, Zoey 101, her announcement sent shock waves through the media. Unfortunately, this turn of events is merely a reflection of what is going on in our society. Girls at younger and younger ages are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex, and those in Hollywood are certainly not the only ones doing it.

When the announcement of Jamie Lynn's pregnancy hit the airwaves, there was an outcry from many in the Christian community. Many were bothered that a role model from a kids channel had allowed this to happen to herself and to a guy she met in church, no less! I am the parent of a young girl and I, too, am concerned about who my daughter looks up to as her role models. But I appreciate the perspective given by Lisa Welchel, a women who is now a popular author but is known to most of us (at least from by generation) as Blair Warner from Facts of Life.

As a former child star herself, Welchel has gone to bat for Jamie Lynn and commended her for making a difficult choice that few in her position would have made -- to have the baby instead of having an abortion. Though not commending her for putting herself in this situation, Welchel had this to say:

"I'm so proud of her for stepping up and being courageous and taking responsibility for her choices, and I believe she's being a good role model — a good role model in that situation, to choose to have the baby, and … I am supportive of her in that situation."

I agree with, Lisa. Those of us that are evangelical Christians are overwhelmingly in opposition to abortion. Yet when a young girl finds herself in a predicament as the younger Spears girl has found herself, we can be among the first to cast stones. I think that we need commend her for keeping this child and for choosing not to make another bad choice on top of the one she had already made.

Which leads me back to the folks that are a part of The Hollywood Prayer Network. I think what they're doing is great. I am so quick to judge the actions in the public spotlight, yet neglect to pray for them. Many of these young stars were pushed into show business at a young age, thrust into stardom and weren't able to cope to the realities of life in light of all the demands placed upon them. I often forget that. Yes, they are responsible for their decisions and actions. But I wonder what kind of difference it would make if we Christians would be committed to praying for those in the news instead of reveling in our self-righteous smugness that often accompanies their downfalls.

Within American culture we seem to get this sick pleasure in seeing individuals rise to the top and then fall from the perch that we have put them on. One of the things that I like about what those in the Hollywood Prayer Network are doing is that a number of individuals involved in the organization are actually involved in the Hollywood community and personally know many of the individuals they pray for. For them it is not a matter of simply being star struck, but they see first hand the emptiness that fame and fortune can bring. I'm glad that there are committed followers of Jesus actively involved in the lives of those that shape our culture through music, television and the movies.

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