In recent months, we have seen an unusual number of meltdowns by popular Christian or Conservative figures. It is possible that public figures have been melting down at this rate behind the scenes for decades, but now we have social media to amplify their dark and destructive thoughts.
We need to consider what role we play in the mistakes these young men make. When we place the burden of leadership and being a spokesman for Christianity or political conservatism on people who are not ready for it, we play a role in their downfall. We put expectations on them that they are not able to handle.
There have been several recent examples of this.
The Christian world buzzed with the news of Kanye West’s conversion. It should have. The angels rejoice over one sinner who repents, and we should too. Then, our attention ought to shift to how we can help this new brother in Christ grow to full maturity. We should have prayed for this brother as he stepped out of the spotlight to spend time with his family and focus on what it looks like to live as a Christian.
Kanye toured with a pastor, whom many assured us would be discipling Kanye and teaching the truth. We have no reason to believe there was any defect in this pastor’s teaching to Kanye, but the rapper and fashion mogul continued to be in the public eye, even going through a painful divorce in front of the watching world.
Since then, he has made an increasing number of bizarre, antisemitic statements. When confronted about his words, he doubled down instead of taking them back. Then, he went to Mar-a-Lago and had dinner with former President Donald Trump and the controversial Nick Fuentes. After the tremendous blowback on this dinner, Kanye went on InfoWars with noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Here, he made statements so outlandish that even Jones pushed back on him.
A jury of his peers found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder. He shot and killed two people, but by law, he is not a murderer. We should respect the findings of the system. However, this does not mean that he did not act in an incredibly reckless and foolish manner. His mother drove him to a town where protests were taking place, and he walked the streets with an AR-15. This borderline insane decision led to the deaths of two people.
What Kyle Rittenhouse needed was time to go away and reckon with his decisions. He is a young man at a vulnerable time in his life, and he has been through an incredibly traumatic experience. A young man in that position stands in greater need of a good church and a counselor than he does a speaking engagement and a Twitter account.
Yet, what are Conservative groups doing with Rittenhouse? They are giving him speaking spots at large conferences, holding him up as a persecuted martyr to be celebrated rather than viewing him as a foolish young man who needs to mature. They amplified his tweets and cheered when he suggested a few weeks ago that he would run for Congress as soon as he was old enough.
The Apostles and Prophets did not mince words when they spoke about young men–particularly those who were young in the faith–holding prominent leadership positions. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul said those who are new converts should not be elders in the church lest they become conceited and fall into the snare of the devil. Paul knew that new Christians needed seasoning and maturity. Giving them positions that were beyond their level of maturity not only harmed the church but harmed those young men by puffing them up with pride.
Someone is going to read this and argue, “but Paul told Timothy not to let people look down on his youthfulness.” This is true. Yet, Paul saw Timothy’s maturity and put him in the position he did. He knew Timothy might become discouraged, but he did not think Timothy was still so young in the faith that he was not qualified for leadership.
Christians in general, and Christians with conservative political leanings in particular, want celebrities who believe in their cause so badly that we will attach ourselves to anyone who looks in our direction. We are accustomed to prominent celebrities being liberals who abhor religion. This makes us reach down for whatever D-list celebrity agrees with us.
Political conservatism does not need celebrities to promote it. Conservatism possesses a strong intellectual history. It champions personal liberty and responsibility, prudence, wisdom, localism, and human dignity. Young, brash men who say irresponsible things just to “own the libs” are at odds with this movement.
Celebrity culture is at odds with Christianity. The Christian Gospel goes forward and bears fruit, not when it is espoused by the talented and the beautiful, but when ordinary and faithful men and women commit their lives to Jesus. Celebrities need to hear the Gospel and believe, but the Christian church does not need its large platforms or influence to thrive.
The Christian church thrives on weakness and endurance. It bears fruit through faithful witness over the long haul. It is not thrilling or exciting by the world’s standards, but it changes lives and brings glory to God.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”