Why we should PRAY for our favorite celebrities

I remember the day I read on Facebook that Chester Bennington, the lead vocalist of Linkin Park, had committed suicide. It was July 20, 2017, to be exact, so just over a year ago. This was the first celebrity death that made me feel sad, as if somebody I knew personally had died. So many of my peers deeply related with the music Chester created with Linkin Park, and so many of us shared the same struggles that led him to take his own life. Many Linkin Park songs ended on a positive note, so it was easy to believe that whatever problem Chester sang about was in his past, not the present.

We were wrong.

As a believer, there’s a sense of guilt that comes when a favorite celebrity dies of a preventable cause. Even if there was no way we could have known about this person’s problems, we still think if only….

I once saw a video a man had made in appreciation for his grandmother, who had recently passed away. I don’t remember the names of the grandson or the grandmother, nor do I remember where I had watched the video, but I remember one thing the grandson said: “Until the day she died, my grandmother prayed for Frank Sinatra’s salvation.”

I thought that was so endearing, the image of this sweet old lady sitting at her table early in the morning, reading the Word and praying for her loved ones, and as she reaches the end of her prayers, she says, “And Father, I ask that you please save Frank Sinatra. He is my favorite singer, and I want to hear Him sing your praises for eternity.” This woman didn’t just enjoy Sinatra’s music–she was concerned for him as a human being with a soul.

This kind of thinking is lost on our society. We worship the artist, not the Creator who made the artist and gave them their gifts. As we worship the artist, we become voracious consumers, asking them to give us more. More new music. More new movies. More social media posts to pore over with our friends. We want to know everything about them–but we wouldn’t care to actually know them, not as the real living, breathing, normal human beings that they are. We turn them into caricatures and icons, and in turn, many artists embrace the reality that they are an image, not an actual person. They become a brand to be sold and manipulated and exploited at the will of the powerful people around them, who fund their “art” and pull their strings behind-the-scenes. Threats are made. Money becomes a god. The thought of becoming an irrelevant “nobody” seems like a fate worse than death. The pressure to always put forth this carefully cultivated image takes its toll. Soon the artist, who has few, if any, friends they can confide in, turns to other things to cope with the overwhelming emotions that accompany this life they’ve chosen. This is not what they wanted when they started out. Many only wanted to simply make art. That good intention quickly became corrupted by fame–and a desire for more of it. The artist became a celebrity.

Then one day, when we least expect it, we open Facebook and find that the top article is about the death of our favorite celebrity. We didn’t see it coming. We write a post about how that person’s art affected our lives. We post on Twitter with a sheepish #RIP next to their name. We join a Facebook group to collectively mourn with other fans and share our favorite works and moments from that celebrity’s life. The news cycle takes full advantage of this death, knowing that channel surfers will tune in once they hear “and later, we discuss the tragic death of celebrity so-and-so and the legacy they left behind.” If the circumstances surrounding the death are somewhat ambiguous, we can trust that the media will milk this death for all its worth–at least for about a month or so. Then eventually we all move on, only to repeat the same process when the next celebrity dies.  

This is unacceptable.

As believers in Messiah, I believe we have the unique responsibility, or at least the unique opportunity and privilege, to intercede for the celebrities we care about. It is not enough to consume their art–we should care about their souls as well. Beneath the beautiful facade is a soul that’s longing to be set free. Perhaps there is a private struggle that has been hidden for years. Even if it’s out in the open, have we ever cared either way? Why do we only care about what these artists can give us?

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t wait until you read that article about the accident, the overdose, or the suicide that has taken this person’s life. This is not just about salvation–I want to see these people experience the abundant life that Messiah offers to those who live for Him. I want to see them live in freedom from anything that keeps them in bondage, whether it’s an addiction, an eating disorder, or a bad relationship. If you don’t want to see your favorite celebrity struggle with loneliness, addiction, and self-loathing, and if you want to see them spending a joyful eternity with the Lord, then pray for them. I challenge you to do it the next time you see that person’s name pop up on your newsfeed.

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9-10)

~Nikita 💛

Losing Loved Ones (Who Are Still Alive)

A few people in this photo are still with us. My sister is actually the girl standing behind me.

When my sister was in her senior year of high school, she had to take a class called “Death & Dying.” I don’t think I need to explain what the class is about, but when I took that same class at that same high school six years later, they had changed the name of the course to “Alpha & Omega.” The school did this renaming for two reasons:

1) “Death & Dying” was apparently too morbid.

2) They wanted to talk about beginnings as well as endings.

Still, death was very prominent in this course, and I remember reading an essay about mourning the various “deaths” we encounter throughout our lives. Some deaths are concrete–the death of a loved one, or confronting our own mortality. However, some deaths are more abstract–the death of our childhood, the death of a marriage.

Over the past 4 years, I did grieve the deaths of several family members and friends. These deaths are difficult to think about, because when I do I am reminded that I didn’t get to know some of my relatives very well before they died, and vice versa. Now I can’t visit any of these people and talk to them.

Those were not my only losses, though, because over the past 4 years I’ve mourned many friendships. Some of these friendships disintegrated, some were cut down at my own hand, and some just…evaporated. I mourned the loss of the youth group at my church. We went from having 25 members to having almost no one. And yes, I lost these friendships, too. Sure, sometimes a few keep in touch. I’ll give someone a life on Candy Crush Saga, or they’ll wish me a happy birthday when it’s that time of the year. But otherwise, we do not confide, we do not converse, we do not pray for one another, we do not call each other, we do not hang out. At all.

Everyone left for different reasons. Some left on bad terms. Some wanted to go to a different church. Some simply left without a trace. And some wanted to walk away from God.

Most of these people who left did not say goodbye to me. And you see, when somebody dies, that’s usually one of the first complaints of the person who grieves–“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye! I didn’t get to tell them that I love them! I didn’t get to make peace with them before they passed on!” But when the person is still alive and they exit your life, and you don’t get any closure–it just stings. Can I track some of these people down? For sure. I know where some of them live, I’m friends with many of them on Facebook, I even still have some of their phone numbers. What’s the point of it, though, if chances are they won’t be receptive? After all, they haven’t bothered reaching out to me, so why should I reach out to them?

That’s when I realize, though–maybe they’re thinking the same thing. Maybe they get sentimental for the good old days, too. Maybe they want to contact me, or contact someone else who left, but they’re afraid to because we’re all afraid of the same thing–

Rejection.

For those of us who still follow Christ, though, we have no excuse. If we truly are brothers and sisters, why can’t we get along? If my mom or my sister moved to a different house, I wouldn’t disown them. So why do we, as Christians, get into such an uproar when someone leaves our church to go to another?

It partly has to do with how they left, and why they left. What did they leave behind? Did they cause division? Do they speak badly of us now that they’ve left? Did they get into a fight with someone prior to their leaving?

I took some of it personally in the beginning. In my mind, I kept making the situation about me–why didn’t they say goodbye to me? What did I do wrong? We were working on the same ministry team–why didn’t they tell me they were going to jump ship? After awhile, though, I tried to understand their story, their side. Some of these people were abandoned themselves, and maybe they don’t know how to respectfully leave a person or a place. Some of these people had serious issues and needed help. Some of these people felt humiliated and didn’t want to make the situation any bigger.

Now, I can understand these things. I forgive those who have left and I still love them all. I still mourn from time to time, but as time passes by, I can relive the memories without crying. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

~Nikita