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A conversation with Katelyn Beaty - S11.E3

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WORLD Radio - A conversation with Katelyn Beaty - S11.E3

Some Christian leaders use fame for good, but others cultivate it for their own benefit--and when they do, the gospel suffers


Photo courtesy of katelynbeaty.com

WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with writer and editor Katelyn Beaty. Her new book is Celebrities For Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are Hurting The Church.

KATELYN BEATY:  Fame is healthiest when it's more about the work than about the person. There's a kind of celebration of helpfulness, or excellence, or virtue..rather than I'm attaching to the person and my simulated connection to them. 

WS: Katelyn Beaty believes that some Christian leaders use their fame and influence in positive ways. But too often, she says, fame and celebrity are cultivated for their own sake, or for the sake of profits and the building of personal empires. We see this phenomenon most conspicuously with the prosperity Gospel preachers. ***

But, increasingly, these practices have crept into mainstream evangelical ministries. That’s why Katelyn Beaty believes we should explore the evangelical church’s relationship to celebrity. She explores how fame has reshaped the American church, explains why and how celebrity is woven into the fabric of the evangelical movement, and identifies how fame has misshapen the church.

That’s why Katelyn Beaty believes we should explore the evangelical church’s relationship to celebrity. She explores how fame has reshaped the American church, explains why and how celebrity is woven into the fabric of the evangelical movement, and identifies how fame has misshapen the church.

Katelyn Beaty is an editor at Baker Books, and has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She previously served as print managing editor at Christianity Today.

UNDERWRITING SPOT: Now We Live invites and equips Christians to propel faith into action. This free, worldview Bible study will spark rich discussions about some of life’s most foundational questions. These six videos from Summit Ministries offer life-on-life discipleship for churches, small groups, and families. Get free access today at summit.org/listeningin.

WS: Katelyn, welcome to the program. I very much enjoyed your book, 'Celebrities for Jesus', and I'd like to start off with just a baseline question: how do you define 'celebrity'?

KB: I define 'celebrity' as social power without proximity. So I tried to distinguish between celebrity and fame. Fame, there have always been famous people in every time and place usually, because of their name, their you know, their family name, military accomplishments, creative works, just, they have an imprint, a larger than life imprint. And I think that's fine. You know, sometimes fame comes to you without you seeking it, I tend to think that's probably the healthiest form of fame when you're not looking for it, and it just happens to come to you. Celebrity is something that is cultivated for its own sake, it tends to focus more on projecting an image, a curated image. It's definitely is a modern phenomenon that relies on the tools of mass media. When we're thinking about celebrity dynamics in the church, I think why celebrity power can be so tempting and also dangerous is that it so often isolates people from real relationship, real accountability. There seems to be a kind of distance between the celebrity figure and kind of the rest of us 'normal' people. And with that absence of proximity can come all sorts of temptations and abuses of power.

WS: Yeah, a couple of things that you say about celebrity that I want to ask you to say a little bit more about and or at least recap what you said in the book. One is that you say that, and you kind of just alluded to this, that celebrity creates an illusion of intimacy, not real intimacy, but an illusion of intimacy. And you also mentioned early in the book that the right kind of fame arises from a life well lived. In other words, earned accomplishments, you're not seeking the fame, you're seeking excellence in what you do, or you're seeking to live a good life, you know, according to, you know, whatever those lights might be - Scripture or whatever you think is good, and that sometimes fame does attach itself to people like that. So I've actually introduced a couple of ideas, this illusion of intimacy, and sort of recapping this definition of or contrast between famous celebrity. Say more about that, what what, what what else brings to mind whenever I introduce those topics to you?

KB: I think you're, you're absolutely right, that modern celebrity both in and outside the church offers the kind of simulated feeling of intimacy. When I listen to someone, when I listen to a sermon on a podcast and I am hearing somebody's voice in my ear or I'm watching their face on a screen or I go on to Instagram and influencers are showing me photos of their house or their kids or whatever. It's easy for me to get that it's easy for me to forget that in fact, I've never met these people, I've never had a sit down conversation with them. But there there is something attractive I think maybe especially in a time of loneliness, we're spending a lot of time on screens. 

In the church we have, we attach ourselves to heroes of the faith we kind of want to be let in on their personal lives. So it's really important to step back and remember, this feels like intimacy, but it's not it's not real. It's not actually based on real relationship. I think this this kind of goes to your note about the fact that each of us has a platform. We have a public presence where we're communicators or we feel like we have something to share or teach for the edification of other people. I tend to think that fame is healthiest when it's more about the work than about the person. You know, that there's a kind of celebration of helpfulness or excellence or virtue, rather than 'I'm attaching to the person and my simulated connection to them.' 

So to that point, the fact that there are pastors and Christian writers and ministry leaders who are famous, well, that doesn't really tell me that much about their motives or how they're carrying or stewarding that fame. I think it's when church leaders go into ministry looking for the spotlight, looking for the attention and the adoration and looking to grow their platform for its own sake, that our yellow flags might start going off our alarm bells might start going off and asking, is there enough spiritual maturity, groundedness, a desire for proximity and accountability as people are heading into the spotlight that they can handle it once they get there?

WS: Yeah, yeah, somebody wants, I once heard someone say that, you know, often,  gifted young people will rise, because of their, because of that giftedness. They, you know, they're great communicators, or they're, you know, whatever, whatever it might be, that they're good at, attracts attention. But if they're, if their character is not being developed at the same time that their competence is on on view before the world then that can, then that will cause could cause a collapse. The shorthand version of that competence cause you to causes you to rise character causes you to fall, if you're not careful. And given that, Katelyn, I want you to say a few words about how kind of the Christian industrial complex or the evangelical industrial complex is, is kind of uniquely suited to creating these kinds of celebrities. Not only not only are we not as Christians, avoiding the star making machinery, as you know, Joni Mitchell sang a long time ago, not only were we not, you know, avoiding the star making machinery, but we were actually working really, really hard to create the celebrity machines and keep plugging more and more people into it, it seems to me with, with book publishing, and podcasts and, you know, mega churches and the list goes on. Am I wrong in that? I mean, is is the evangelical church, in fact, not only not separate from the world, but actually worse than the world in this?

KB: Well, in this regard, we're certainly not better. We may be on par with the world. But that's not saying a lot. Yeah, it's it's important to look at the ways that, as you said, American evangelicalism not only is not resisting celebrity dynamics, but kind of feeds on it. I think there are a few factors for why that is, when we're thinking about American evangelicalism, we've tended to just simply adopt American notions of success really oriented around growth, and the faster the growth, the better. You know, if there is profitability, and we see that at the church level, we see that in publishing, we are just as prone to go after it as kind of secular businesses. I talk about the Christian book publishing industry and the fact that, you know, celebrity sells, and over time, it feels like platform and celebrity reach has started to crowd out other really important considerations about spiritual maturity, credibility, credentialing, even quality of writing and thought.

WS: Yeah

KB: So yeah, I think we've borrowed a lot. We're swimming in American waters. And we haven't done enough as a whole to kind of tease out what is American and what is truly kind of Christian in terms of historic Christian teaching in the person of Jesus. I also think that, you know, because we're Americans, and this touches on evangelical history as well, the last 150 years when you look at the prominence of figures like Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, I write about these very gifted, talented, charismatic men who brought millions of people to Christ through their preaching and teachings, could fill stadiums. And I say all of this as being very much appreciative of Graham's ministry in life. And also, there did tend to, it was easy for crusade attendees to walk away, not necessarily focused on kind of a local institution, but really on that individual experience, individual understanding of their relationship with God. And then the charismatic individual who had just presented the gospel, and we see, of course, the decline of institutional authority in many segments of modern life and kind of the rise of individual authority. And that's true in the church, no less than in every other sector of life.

WS: Yeah. Well, since you brought up Billy Graham, I'm gonna get you to talk a little bit about the Modesto Manifesto and the so called 'Billy Graham rule', because, you know, Billy Graham, there was a complicated relationship that he had with celebrity. He, you know, as you said, there was really great things that resulted from his ministry. He, you know, as an institution, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association did promote the local church, they often, you know, in fact, usually partnered with a local church when they did crusades. And yet, as you say, there's no denying that Billy Graham was a celebrity from the early days, when William Randolph Hearst said, "Puff Graham" to his editors, you know, all the way to the point where he named his own Evangelistic Association after himself.  But there was this document, the Modesto Manifesto, which he came up with pretty early in his career, and it talked about money, relationships with women - in some ways, Katelyn, I got the idea that you wrote about it with equally mixed emotions, right? Can you can you talk about the Modesto Manifesto, what it is and what you think about it?

KB: Yeah, well, as you just alluded to, when we talk about the Modesto Manifesto, which Graham and some of his closest ministry associates penned together, or committed themselves to very early on in the ministry. And we tend to just stop with the Billy Graham rule, because of course, it gets into gender politics and women in the workplace and people have very strong feelings about that rule. But we do tend to forget that there was a lot more in the document that really addressed the need for transparency, financial transparency; so one of the things that they committed to is that they weren't going to base Graham's salary on the kind of giving that happened at crusades. They weren't going to try to pressure people to give so that Graham could have a higher salary, it was set by a board. They committed to truth telling in terms of crusade numbers. 

Now crusade numbers are probably hard to, to nail down to begin with, but they weren't going to to exaggerate an audience size just to get more media attention. And then, yeah, as you said, they they never wanted the Crusades to undermine the work of local churches. They were always trying to point people to get plugged in at a local church. So I really appreciate those elements of the Modesto Manifesto when we think about I mean, given the work that you've done with Ministry Watch, and we think about the need for increased financial transparency and accountability and the number of Christian nonprofits who have filed church status so that they don't have to file their 990s to the government.

WS: Well, yeah. And now that includes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; they are one of those organizations that no longer files their form 990s, which is kind of ironic, given...

KB: Yes. But, you know, we we look at that and rightly ask, you know, is this about evading accountability and transparency? So,  most of us intuit that Christian ministers, and Christian nonprofits should be in their work, because of good work, not to line the pockets of their top leaders. And I just wonder if, yeah, the number of nonprofits who have changed their status to church as a kind of an alarming trend. And, gosh, if the leaders that BGEA could go back and look at the Modesto Manifesto, and be reminded of the fact that their founder really wanted to stress the importance of that transparency and truth telling, you know, I wonder if they would, hopefully, they would reconsider that that decision.

WS: Yeah. You know, Katelyn I want you to kind of react to this train of thought here. On the one hand, I would say, you know, if a big celebrity pastor ends up, you know, building a big platform and making a lot of money there's part of me, that doesn't care, that, you know, that character is destiny, and his character will ultimately, you know, cause him to either rise or fall. I mean, there are some pastors that have built big platforms, and have had long and faithful careers, and others that, you know, they that the attraction of money and power to that platform is, with a lack of character, has caused them to fall. Let God sort that out. Let time sort that out. Whatever. I think the thing that that I mean, first of all, let me just say, for the record, I don't really believe that, I think that we have a responsibility to, you know, to create accountability and transparency around those folks. But I say that just to also say this, though, to me, the bigger question is what it does to the gospel message itself.

You know, you talk about in your book, The medium is the message, the famous Marshall McLuhan line. I think many of our listeners will probably have read, you know, Neil Postman's, amusing ourselves to death. And, and they the idea that electronic media physically change, or literally change the message that, that this illusion of intimacy is just one of many illusions that electronic media create, right? I mean, not only does it create the illusion of intimacy with the person on, you know, with the celebrity preacher, but it also creates the illusion that you really understand the gospel, that you are that you have really submitted yourself to the authority of a church and community and so on and so forth. And so I say little about that whole phenomenon about the media and, and, you know, what, what it does to the gospel message and what it does to folks looking in that are not Christians, that are not in the church.

KB: Right. Yeah. I mean, Neil Postman has a pretty scathing critique of Graham and other televangelists. Of course, Graham is not the worst example of the televangelists world. But Postman talks about a kind of technological naivete. If you don't think that the medium is changing what you're sharing. I mean, given the fact that someone is turning on their TV, maybe they're watching The Price is Right, then they flip over to the nightly news and then they see Graham on TV. Well, TV is an entertainment medium, and it's a consumption medium. And so, if that is where you receive the gospel, you hear the gospel, that's going to affect what you think the gospel is about. I'm of the mind, I think, as most Christians are, that the gospel is really about an invitation and call to live in and among the people of the Body of Christ, and that you can't actually make sense of the gospel without being rooted in real Christian community. So you wonder, are people hearing that when they tune in to the televangelists? But also now, you know, people say I don't go to a local church, but I just I have found my favorite preacher and I just listen to his sermons every week. I guess that's better than nothing, but it's not really, I would say kind of the meaning of living out the gospel.

WS: Well, yeah, I mean, it's, I hear what you're saying that it's that I guess it's better than nothing, but I think that is at best, a guess. Right? I mean, other words, it may actually be worse than nothing, because I think someone might have inoculated themselves to the idea that they need to be involved in a local community.

KB: And of course, you know, the the further you get into a real Christian community in the local church, you realize, I might actually be asked to sacrifice something, I may be discipled and disciplined. This may not be the very fun sometimes, you know, I'm worshiping among people who annoy me or who I really disagree with. So that's the kind of death to self that comes when we live in deep Christian community that you're just not going to be called into if you found your favorite preacher and get to consume his messages week in and week out. What was the second part of your question? Entertainment, but also, we can of course, cuddle my fumbling. Oh, the witness piece. I am very concerned. So I'm very concerned about what celebrity pastors and preachers communicate to a watching world. 

And of course, we know that a world is watching because there are there have been tons of headlines in recent years about the celebrity pastors who have risen and fallen, and our neighbors see those stories and know those stories. And so there is an issue of kind of credibility in the public square. I think, especially on the melding of church ministry and personal wealth, and the display of lavish wealth. You know, I say in the book, it is not within my purview to determine what pastors should be paid. Right, I'm happy on one level to say, each church body needs to decide that for themselves. And at the same time, if there is a kind of flaunting of wealth, which then, of course connects to the prosperity gospel, you know, to be blessed by God to be anointed by God means you're going to become financially wealthy. That's obviously a corrupt form of the gospel. And I think our neighbors, see, it's just so plain, isn't it weird to see a pastor wearing $10,000 shoes, or, you know, a $15,000 watch. It's just, there's something not right about this. And I think most of our neighbors intuit that.

WS: Yeah. Well, let me let me sort of drill down on that idea, just a little bit Katelyn because he, you know, I think that it's easy for some of us in the evangelical world to be a little self righteous about this idea that we can say, well, you know, yeah, that what you're talking about Benny Hinn, you're talking about Kenneth Copeland, you're talking about, you know, the clearly prosperity gospel preachers. And then, you know, you we forget that, you know, Franklin Graham makes over a million dollars a year, that Dr. Charles Stanley, who is you know, like, nearly 90 years old, and doesn't hardly show up at the office anymore for work, you know, makes $800,000 a year. 

So here's the real spirit of my question. Let me kind of move past the particulars, even though I think those particulars are important. To what extent has this prosperity gospel thinking, that the world looks at, as you said a moment ago, Kaitlyn and obviously sees as weird and wrong, and that historically, even the, you know, the church has seen as wrong and has disciplined people, you know, church leaders; to what extent we just kind of said, we've just thrown up arms and said, you know, that cats out of the bag, that there's no real difference between, you know, Benny Hinn and Charles Stanley. At least if not, maybe maybe there is a difference in what they actually preach but not in the way they live and the the the model of their life to the world.

KB: I guess my question is, who can hold those people accountable? Because if your board has signed off on this salary, or some kind of body that's supposed to, you know, theoretically offer oversight has signed off on this from the outside, it's kind of hard to know who else can step in? I mean, there's the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. There are there are journalists who like you who are doing the work of digging into the form 990s and saying, Hey, this is public information and knowledge. And perhaps there would be enough of a public blowback, that some of these pastors or ministry leaders are thinking differently about their salary. But yeah, I mean, if you are theoretically supposed to hold the leader accountable, but you yourself are also benefiting from their continued presence in the spotlight, and from their amassing increased power and wealth, you're, you're going to be disincentivized to say anything, because you're actually benefited, benefiting from it as well.

WS: Well, that's what happened with Mark Driscoll. That's what happened with Ravi Zacharias. To a certain extent, right? I mean, the people that could hold them accountable were it was not in their financial or reputational best interest to do so. So they just mostly kept their mouth shut. Well, I mean, it probably would be no surprise to you, Katelyn, or to our listeners to know that I think that's the reason I think journalism is vital to this process. I think the government has demonstrated themselves inept and incapable of providing accountability. I mean, we had the Charles Grassley investigation of the Grassley Six about a decade ago, and nothing happened there. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. I think they do good work. But you know, you look at Gospel for Asia, you look at Ravi Zacharias, you look at James McDonald, and lots of others, Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, they were all members of the ECFA whenever the scandals broke in the media. So clearly, the ECFA didn't do anything to fix that. 

So I do think thaat journalism is a big part of the problem, which have been a big part of the solution to this problem. But that does kind of cause me to pivot, because you and I are both journalists. But to what extent are even we co opted to kind of, to kind of come back to that question, or that that issue that I started with? I mean, you and I have podcasts, you and I have books; how how do we make sure that we don't become what we hate so to speak?

KB: That's a great question. And of course, I echo your belief that journalists play really vital work in trying to push for accountability. I mean, I think about the Bill Hybels story, you know, it was broke, broken by Chicago Tribune and Christianity today, and all sorts of other media did their own stories. You know, CT broke the Ravi Zacharias story, and I'm just thinking, who else would have done that? Or who else could have done that besides these journalists? But yeah, I mean, you see a kind of personality-driven journalism, where people start following you kind of because I don't know because of your persona, rather than because of the work itself. 

And then of course, that can kind of get into how objective can you be if you're on Twitter, opining about all sorts of things, and then you're expected to report on that topic. So there's a professional boundary that I think needs to come into play. But there is a tension because, of course, we want people to read the work that we've done, I want people to read my book. You know, as most authors do, you want people to engage the work, you think you have something to offer that's helpful or beneficial. But you do feel like well, I kind of have to play this media personality game for people to even know about the book or the podcast and engage. So I think, you know, I think about just taking a time and energy inventory and making sure personally, that I'm not spending more time scrolling Twitter or on Instagram than in editorial work, which is my day to day job.

WS: Sure. I gotta say, though, I mean, Katelyn, I get that and trust me, I don't have an answer to the problem. But, but I, I, I gotta admit that I found that answer a little bit dissatisfying, right. In other words, oh, I only spent 49% of my time and energy on self promotion today, so I'm okay.  But if I spent 49.5% of my time and energy, that's wrong? I mean that somehow drawing a line and staying below that line doesn't quite seem to be the right answer.

KB: Well, of course we're dishonest with ourselves. We're always self rationalizing. You know, does it go back to that proximity thing? Does it go back to where you derive your value and worth? And are you staying connected and rooted in a community of people who, you know, they're, they appreciate that you're a journalist, but that's not why they care about you. It's not just, we love you, because we adore your work. It's, you know, we know you we know your faults and blind spots. And we're committed to staying connected to you for the long haul. I wonder if that kind of rootedness keeps us grounded and humble, especially when we welcome hard feedback, which is not fun for any of us. But are there people in our lives who can speak the hard truth? So I think that might be part of it, as well. And you may not find this answer to satisfy you may not find this answer satisfying, either. But being willing to say no to opportunities, because you think, oh, I need to say yes to all the speaking engagements and podcasts invitations and endorsement requests. And, you know, maybe you you put deliberate limits on saying yes to things because you recognize you're, you know, a mortal human just like everybody else who needs eight hours of sleep and needs to spend time with their family and needs to, wants to stay curious about the world. I think there's a myopic and solipsistic element to the curation of a personal brand where you think, wow, I've just spent a lot of time thinking about myself, and how others perceive me. So I'm really saying all of that, to remind myself, I don't have any of this perfected by any stretch.

WS: Right. Well, let me again, kind of, kind of drill down a little bit into, you know, this, the what you're doing now, you're, you're with Baker. you I've published a book with Baker, thank you very much for you, it actually came up before you were there. But that's the biggest advance I've ever gotten in my life were a book from Baker Publishing Group. So thank you very much. And  that advance that I got was based in part on, you know, the platforms that I built. My co author John Stonestreet also has an, even a larger platform than mine. And I'm pretty confident we wouldn't have gotten the advance we would have gotten the publishing deal if we didn't have some sort of a platform. I was talk, I was having lunch with Philip Yancey, who's written many Christian bestselling books, including What's So Amazing about Grace?, which was one of his first books, and he told me flat out he said, I don't think What's So Amazing about Grace? would be published today. I don't think if if if the Philip Yancey that presented that book to Christian publishers, the Philip Yancey of 30 years ago, 35 years ago presented that book to Christian publishers today, exact same book, same quality. He says, I don't think I could find it voted for it. And you know, I kind of think he's right. So now you're on the other side of that gate, you're the gatekeeper. What do you look for? How do you know that you're not contributing to the pathologies here?

KB: Well, in some ways, Baker Publishing Group is able to look at considerations beyond platform because we are in independent Christian book publisher. We I think when you have Christian divisions that are in a multinational conglomerate, where truly the bottom line is the main driver, at the end of the day that drives every decision. People inside those publishing groups find a lot of pressure to we just have to go after people with big platforms. So in some ways, Baker is freer to look at things like obviously, quality of writing, I mean, you just mentioned Phillip Yancy. Can this person string together a sentence and do I want to keep reading? Do I find the writing itself compelling and fresh and creative? Kind of a great topic and hook, does this speak to questions that people are asking right now? Will people, will this answer a question that people are asking? Is this speaking into contemporary life and events in a way that connects with people? Thinking about credentialing, especially when we're thinking about theological and pastoral resources, you know, I, I would hope that we would want to work with people who have received an M Div or some kind of seminary training and have been actually in serving in church ministry for a long time. Doesn't mean that we don't publish people who are young, but people with experience, people who are not just writing theoretically, but who can speak from experience. A level of character and wisdom. And I know that that is that's hard to assess in a proposal. But um, you know, I think you can, I think there are there are signs to look forward to see, you know, is this person really hoping to serve with this book? Or is this person hoping to continue to grow their platform and try to get a big advance? I think you can discern some of that in conversations with the author. And we haven't even talked about agents yet. But you know, and I have mixed mixed experiences with agents, of course. And that's not to say that agents are inherently, you know, money grabbing, but you do have to look at that that factor as well, because an agent, of course, is going to try to find the best deal, the best offer for their clients.

WS: Yeah. Well, I mean, I've had a couple. I have gotten an agent now. And I've had literary a couple of different literary agents in the past, so I totally understand your ambivalence about agents. But, but on the other hand, I've also, you know, submitted book proposals to, you know, secular publishers that are sort of outside the Christian world. And, and including had, I've had one book published with a secular publisher, in fact two books published, a novel and nonfiction book, I don't think I would have even been considered, I don't think they would have even looked at the manuscript or the proposal, if I didn't have an agent. So in some ways, you know, agents are part of the problem. But it's, yeah, once again, there's there's I, we're in a gray, I mean, it's just a gray area, it seems to me.

KB: Yeah, well, this is something that Karen Swallow Pryor has said many times, regarding platform. And of course, people who want to publish books now feel incredible pressure to build a platform and sustain a platform and to grow it. And she says, the work is the platform. The reason you build a platform is to get up on top of it and to share or project a message from it. That is the point of building a platform, the platform is not the point. And I would just say, you know, even for you know, I affirm the desire of all people to want to write and I understand that, that passion. But there are other ways to communicate and connect with people beyond book writing. And it's not a project to be taken on lightly, because it's a lot of work. And it's a it requires a particular skill set that not everybody has. And so I think I want to ask, too, for people who want to write books, why? What is, what's the motive at play? What are the motives at play there? Usually, you know of course, more than one motive, but it's just a lot of work. And I want to preserve the integrity of the work instead of suggesting, well, anybody with a big enough platform can write a book, because they can't.

And this, of course, gets into the use of ghost writers and I spell out some kind of boundaries in the book about what I think is an appropriate use of a ghost writer. But it is just the case that if you today have 100,000 followers on Tiktok even, you will be able to get a book contract and the publisher will say well, we'll just we'll help you write it, you know, and so one way or the other. Whereas someone who has incredible writing, like a Philip Yancey, whoever today's Philip Yancey is, if they don't know how to use social media in a savvy way, they're gonna have a really hard time getting published. And I just I think that's wrong. I think that it just communicates a kind of watering down of what book writing and publishing is supposed to be.

WS: Yeah. Well, Katelyn we could go on and on. You've introduced just in the last three or four minutes, ghostwriting, the notion of agents, each one of those could probably be a podcast episode in and of themselves. and we're  gonna have to bring this to a close but. So I just want to say in closing, thank you for this book, I found that I found it to be very nourishing and helpful in many ways. I especially liked your your definitions of celebrity, we didn't even talk about sort of near the end of the book, you say celebrity attracts, celebrity deceives, celebrity shields, and celebrity isolates. And I just found that kind of taxonomy to be really helpful. We don't have time to unpack it today, but thank you for that. And yeah, just in closing any final thoughts you have for folks about the book or what you hope that they get out of the book?

KB: I think some people might see the title and subtitle and maybe have read other things that I've written and think, Oh, this is gonna be a takedown. This is just gonna be a list of, you know, Christian Men Behaving Badly. And really, I mean, on one hand, I'm not really reporting anything new. I mean, everything that I'm kind of recounting is truly out there in terms of the the original reporting. I'm trying to say, let's go behind the headlines, beneath the headlines and say, what are the dynamics that have created these kinds of environments? And are we playing a role in them? You know, are we a part of this problem? And then we're really trying to end the book with calling us all back to a vision of ordinary faithfulness. It's something that is easy to lose in a kind of American church context of bigger and better, louder and glitzier. So I really wanted to just honor people who in my life, who I think model that ordinary faithfulness well, and ask all of us to, to kind of pursue that as the main thing, regardless of whether we have, you know, a public presence come to us or any sort of fame come to us because of good things that we've done, but staying rooted in that kind of ordinary vision of serving God and neighbor day in and day out.

WS: You’ve been listening in on my conversation with Katelyn Beaty. Her new book is Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting The Church.
A couple of quick notes before we go. First, if you are new to the program, check out the
Listening In archive. I’ve done more than 450 long-form interviews over the past nine years for WORLD News Group. They’ve included authors, filmmakers, musicians – interesting people of all kinds. Just go to the WORLD News Group website – that’s WNG.org – and use the search engine to explore.

Listening In comes to you from WORLD News Group, and this program is just one of the many podcasts and publications available. To find out more about our complete family of products visit WNG.org.

Tune in next week to hear my conversation with Robert Jeffress. Robert Jeffress has been one of most vigorous defenders of Donald Trump in the world of evangelicalism. I’ll ask him about his relationship with former President Trump, and we’ll also talk about his new book, 18 Minutes With Jesus, a book about The Sermon on the Mount.

The producer for today’s program is Paul Butler. Johnny Franklin is our technical producer. Production assistance from Lillian Hamman. I’m your host, Warren Smith. And you’ve been Listening In.

*** Editor’s note: WORLD has edited this episode and transcript since its first airing to eliminate a section that could be easily misconstrued without further context and reporting.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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