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Author(s): Pete Ward
From Britney and Brangelina to Tiger Woods and Michael Jackson, Western society is obsessed with its American idols and gods of the red carpet. We worship their triumphs, jugde their sins and maintain vigil at their deaths. Can our fixation on and devotion to celebrity culture itself be considered a religion? If not, why do we use religious terminology to describe these stars and our actions towards them?
Gods Behaving Badly examines the blurred boundary between popular culture and religion - one that has given way to an often confounding fusion of the sacred and the profane. Flipping through pages of tabloid media and looking underneath the veil of Hollywood's glamour, Pete Ward exposes how, in its consumer life, Western society elevates celebrity to the theological and, in so doing, creates a new para-religion. Inevitably, whether despised or extolled, individual celebritities evoke public moral judgment, creating fertile ground for theological innovation.
Is celebrity culture trashy, or is it profound, reverent, even religious? According to Pete Ward, it's all of these. Celebrity culture has a agreeable, unruly grace: it confers unmerited favours and bestows blessings on its acolytes - and that means all of us. Ward's spirited analysis allows us to see celebrities as cohabitees in a lifespace once occupied solely by the gods.
Pete Ward is Senior Lecturer in Youth Ministry and Theological Education at King's College, London. He was formerly the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advisor for Youth Ministry.