Dowd on (Role) Modeling

I came across this today while I was doing some back reading from this weekend’s newspaper. It struck me as really insightful:

After the baseball steroid scandal and the disappointing news that Tiger’s a cheetah, as the New York Post headline put it, it’s time to accept that athletes are not role models. They’re just models — for everything from sports drinks to running shoes to razor blades to credit cards to peanut butter to Buicks to Wheaties.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Lady and the Tiger – NYTimes.com.

I’ve really not followed the news/gossip about Tiger Woods because honestly I don’t really care. Not that I don’t care about the negative impact this kind of this has on his family and those connected to the scandal, I do, but another celebrity’s shocking fall from stardom is just not that shocking or interesting. I guess I am more bothered by the fact that so much of our news is based on stuff like this.

Yet, when I came across Maureen Dowd’s op-ed article in the Times this evening I was interested in what she had to say. Here she completely strips away the faux moralism we have placed on capitalism. Often “role models” in our culture are simply celebrities, people who live a glamorized life mostly hidden from the public or fabricated in a way to sell a certain kind of lifestyle and look. The only reason we know about most of these people is because they are advertising billboards for this or that brand. If bad news begins to surround them, or they become washed up, they drop completely off the radar. (I recall something like this happening to one of my favorite football players Barry Sanders.) Anyways, the discussion around role models being just models is a good one to have. Even within the church there are some many “celebrities” selling this or that brand, this or that mega-church, this or that latest and greatest book.

Hardly Normal wrote on his twitter the other day:

“unsubscribed to nearly all Christian blogs/news I used to follow bc 1) try to sell me something 2) talk about Sunday or a building more than people.” [i expanded some of his abbreviated text]

This is a sad but very true statement. Will we do anything about it? Do we even care? So I am asking, are we looking up to these consumer (role) models? Are we (The church) producing these kinds of models, or people who value the glitz and glamour and orient themselves around a moral capitalism rather than an actual morality rooted in something beyond themselves and their own brands? If our faith cannot call all of this into question, then we have a good idea what the pecking order really is. Here I am contending that the Christian narrative is powerful enough to undercut all of this, and shed light on what is true (I think Dowd has helped us here), but the Gospel has to be read a part from this kind of faux moral capitalism that we are seeped in. How we do that is certainly up for debate, but that we work together to do it should be an important part of our task.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

One thought on “Dowd on (Role) Modeling”

  1. Wess,

    Great post man…glad you linked to that article.

    Great thoughts on moral capitalism, and the celebrity status that we so glamorize in our culture. It is true that it is in much of our church culture as well–and it's easy to get caught up in that if we are no careful. I have pastors/theologians that I admire, and that sometimes borders on celebrity status. I have to remind myself as you state, that the "Christian narrative is powerful enough to undercut all of this."

    Thanks.

    Rhett

Comments are closed.