When it comes to celebrities and Christianity, I’m skeptical. I’m afraid I’ve grown to believe that, in large measure, notoriety and Christianity are like oil and water . . . they don’t naturally mix.
Back in the day, I met news of a celebrity’s Christian conversion with joyous enthusiasm. Like the news that former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver came to Christ. It spread like wildfire. We were anxious to have a notable confess Christ in public, as though that would affirm our own belief.
In a rush to affirm such a notable new Christian, Biola University hosted Cleaver’s speaking on campus. It wasn’t until much later when administrative leaders must have regretted their welcoming him when his spiritual journey ended in joining a cult.
The late ‘70’s also brought the news that folk poet Bob Dylan had become a Christian. His bluesy rift “Gotta Serve Somebody” still holds up today:
You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say
Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Now I don’t know if Dylan has a personal relationship with Jesus, but I am sure he expresses his faith quite differently than I do.
I’m thrilled with the latest news that Kanye West is a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord. His latest music certainly would indicate that, but I really don’t know. Frankly, I hope it’s true given his influence, but I’ll probably remain skeptical to some degree for some time.
Can oil and water mix?
Well, there’s no question it’s possible for a celebrity to come to Christ. Think how skeptical the early church was when they heard the great prosecutor Saul was converted on the Damascus road in Acts chapter nine. I’m sure it took time for Christians to fully accept him in their body of believers without looking over their shoulders.
Having said that, there’s one celebrity name that’s recently changed my mind about mixing notoriety and faith: Steve McQueen. I’ve been listening to Haven Today this week, and it’s quite clear: this movie star knew Jesus. And the expression of his faith seems to have been very close to mine.
The news of his conversion reached me about a year ago. And I confess, it’s made the way I view his old movies differently:
- The Great Escape
- The Thomas Crown Affair
He made a very bold declaration of faith prior to his diagnosis of cancer that eventually took his life.
It’s a great story. His path to faith and days on earth as a believer were unique. He lived his life all in the context of his belief in Jesus as savior. For him, just as is true on Haven Today, it was all about Jesus.
Take a listen! The programs are available online. It just could be your skeptical mind about celebrity and faith could be changed too.