Last month, Tiger Woods was all over the news. I don’t know if you had to talk to your kids about his situation, answering questions like “What’s an affair?” or “You can make money by playing golf?” About the former, depending on the age of your kids, some possibilities might include how it’s wrong to break your promises or to pretend that someone else who isn’t your husband or wife is. This also relates to some stories in the Bible that your child might read or hear, like the woman in John 8, David and Bathsheba, and really the whole story of Israel as told by prophets like Hosea. I’m actually not meaning to talk about it much in this post, but if there’s interest about talking to kids about adultery, you can comment and let others hear your thoughts or questions–we could definitely discuss it here.

The December 21 cover of Newsweek

What I did want to talk about relates to the celebrity-loving culture surrounding the Tiger Woods headlines. Neal Gabler wrote a really interesting cover story in Newsweek last month about it, subtitled “In defense of our Brangelina-loving, Jon and Kate-hating, Tiger-taunting tawdry tabloid culture.”

Gabler makes a couple of interesting points. One is that celebrity lives are a newer form of entertainment, competing with movies, books, and TV. As those older forms did, celebrity news provides a common experience that unifies our society. In other words, it gives us something we can all talk about at the office, school, etc. And when we as a society get more into niches and watch less of the same movies and listen to less of the same music, celebrity gives us some common ground. For a lot of men, especially, sports fills a similar role–I know that strangers and I have talked on the airplane for 30 minutes easy, brought together by a sports page in the seat pocket.

How to make friends on the airplane

How to make friends on the airplane

His other big point is that celebrity stories are popular and much discussed when, basically, they’re good stories. He explains the difference between being famous (like Queen Elizabeth) and being a celebrity (like Princess Di) is that the first is just a name but the second is a narrative, a story. And it’s the story that gets us talking.

What makes these “good” stories? Well, one thing Gabler points to is suspense. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out. It’s even better than movies, because movies are made up and there’s closure. With Tiger Woods, we don’t know what’s going to happen to him, so we tune in for the next episode. “Celebrity narratives,” writes Gabler, “have no final chapter.”

A famous person

So why am I talking about this? Well, I think it has something to say about our lives in a Christian community. Because we don’t need Tiger Woods; we have a crazy-interesting narrative that gives us common ground: the story of Jesus, of God reaching out to people by becoming one of us and dying on a cross. This is the story we talk about every time we meet on Sundays, in songs, prayer, creeds, sermon, and communion.

An interesting story

But not only do we have a story about events in the first century Roman Empire and Middle East, we also have a story–maybe a story within the first story–that we’re living now. It’s the story of our own following of Jesus. And we don’t know how things will work out, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next episode–there is suspense.

One problem we have, though, is that, honestly, our Christian lives are often not that exciting or suspenseful. They can be boring, and the narrative of Tiger or our workplace or our football team seems a lot more exciting. There’s probably a bunch of causes for this, but one cause, I think, is simply that we avoid excitement in our Christian lives by avoiding risk and avoiding change.

Because it’s risk, with the possibility of changes, that makes things exciting, whether it be in finding a new job, moving, or going for it on 4th and 1. And in our lives following Jesus, too, it’s when we try something different, or put ourselves out there in such a way that something great could happen . . . or something bad.

And I think this is a symptom of “affluenza,” the disease of suburbia, which can be especially acute in risk-averse 2nd generation Asian-Americans. If we were poker players, we’d never bet big, too afraid to lose much to try to gain much. And I don’t think Jesus played poker, but if he did, I don’t think that’s how he would have played. (Take a look at Matthew 25:14-30.)

Another interesting story

Our kids pick up on this–they like dramatic stories too! They sometimes might not be that excited about Jesus, because, well, Jesus as he’s been presented to them is kind of boring. They don’t see him changing lives, they don’t see people who were strangers to him becoming his friends, they don’t hear about all the things that God does all over the world, and they don’t see how, when our backs are to the wall, Jesus comes through.

How do we expose them to Jesus as he is, this exciting, all-in-betting Savior of the world? Well, a lot of answers I’m sure but how’s three? First, we can tell them our own stories–how we ourselves are so different from what we were, because of Jesus. Second, maybe we ourselves can consciously be taking risks for Jesus that they see–telling people about Jesus, having financial uncertainty because of our giving or choices for ministry, praying and expecting God to do what we asked. Third, maybe we can expose them to other people who are also taking risks for Jesus–like taking a look at our missionaries’ reports or visiting local ministries we support.

What do you think?