While a debate rages on about healthcare and investigations into both the last presidential administration and the current one, there has been one consistent news story on my feed this week: O.J. Simpson. A former NFL running back who still has records in his name, he gained more fame through his trial and ultimate acquittal in the death of his former wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. This week, however, attention is on his parole hearing for an unrelated crime that took place on Thursday (as of my writing of this, I still don’t know what took place at that hearing).
If I were to be completely honest, I’m tired of hearing about it. As I look through the feed of news stories, this one seems quite inconsequential in comparison to what is taking place across the globe. I just don’t think it is worthy of the amount of headlines and attention it has garnered. The irony of bringing attention to something that I think deserves less attention is not lost on me. However, I do think that in itself is noteworthy. The very fact that O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing has found itself consistently in the top five stories of major news outlets every day this week says something about our culture.
A Societal Priority
Our culture’s fascination with celebrity status is not a new concept. We are very much enthralled with the both the rise and fall of individuals and so there is no surprise to see books, magazines, and blogs flourish under the premise of presenting only information about those who have risen to societal fame. While that fascination in itself exposes much about people, the fascination with O.J. Simpson’s story unveils some very specific things about the human heart:
- Propensity to be Reverential: More than an activity, worship is part of our identity. The Lord created us to worship and what we worship tells others who we are. Those who achieve celebrity status are often elevated to a position of greater prominence than God himself. As a society, we tend to worship humanity over deity and thus we treat our celebrities as gods.
- Propensity to be Resentful: Secondly, while elevating those of celebrity status, we also tend to be resentful towards them. This resentment is born out of envy and jealousy.
- Propensity to be Rapacious: Instead of rapacious, you could insert the word ravenous because we have a ravenous attitude towards those we worship. The jealousy and envy come from a covetousness in which society desires to have the lifestyle, the riches, or the fame of those celebrities.
- Propensity to be Revengeful: Finally, we tend to desire revenge. The feelings of revenge generally come when we have been wronged, but that does not have to be the case. Many enjoy watching the demise of others, particularly the wealthy and the famous. If we can’t have it, we enjoy watching others lose it and be unable to have it also.
While not wanting to admit it, I suspect that there are many of us that could admit to harboring these sentiments at times, even if they are done secretly apart from others.
A Societal Necessity
Such behavior is representative of the fall. Each of the negative attitudes harbored above are the result of sin’s entrance into the world. The dire consequences of sin lead us to attitudes and behaviors that are contrary to God, and so we are rarely surprised when we see them lived out. However, recognizing the severity of this personal temperament should ideally cause us to question both why we are this way and how can we exchange them for a disposition more reflective of being made in God’s image.
In Colossians 3:1-2, Paul writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” Reading these verses we find two very important words: seek and set. First, we seek Christ and the things associated with them, and upon finding them we fixate upon them. Rather than finding contentment on the things of this world in which sin reigns, we find contentment when we set our minds upon the things above.
Why is it important to seek the things above where Christ is and set our minds upon them? Because of a very important principle found in Romans 12:2: To avoid being conformed by this world and instead to be transformed into the image of Christ.
Is it wrong to find interest in the story? By all means no. However, I find both great caution and concern when there is a greater obsession than of things of greater priority. It’s interesting that so many will claim they have no time to read, pray, or build a relationship with God and yet will spend their limited time examining the details of insignificant reports. Many would know more about O.J. Simpson’s current work (lack thereof) than they know about God’s current work (which hasn’t changed for thousands of years). In this way, we see how the societal obsession with O.J. Simpson’s story reveals a great need for our society. It is a need to dissociate from the world and sin, which can only be fulfilled by association with Christ.
Photo “Lot” courtesy of user Fio and Flickr.