Monday, June 6, 2011

Cult of Personality

I’m not really all that interested in the arguments and politics of either side, but something a radio host recently declared interested me. He said that it wasn’t shocking to him that the President responded to a pop culture icon (Donald Trump), because the President himself is a pop culture icon. This statement made me think of one of my favorite songs: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour. It’s not a particularly complex or musically revolutionary song, but the lyrics have a way of pointing out something I find rather obvious about our culture. Take a look:

“Look into my eyes, what do you see?
Cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I’ve been everything you want to be
I’m the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy
I’m the cult of personality
Cult of personality
Cult of personality

Neon lights, a Nobel prize
The mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your T.V.
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you still you love me

I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality
Like Joseph Stalin and Gandi
I’m the cult of personality
Cult of personality
Cult of personality

Neon lights a Nobel prize
A leader speaks, that leader dies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set you free

You gave me fortune
You gave me fame
You me power in your god’s name
I’m every person you need me to be
I’m the cult of personality”

Before, during, and after the song itself quotes from Malcom X, John F. Kennedy, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are heard.

This song resonates with me, because I see this “Cult of Personality” everywhere. It is within our worship of celebrities, of historical figures, and our politicians. So, I wondered how far off this radio show host was about our President. Aren't most elections a battle of personalities? Another recent event in popular culture was the Royal Wedding. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to watch the wedding or to get up at 3am to be sure you catch everything, but I am saying that there seemed to be a flavor to the lead up and day of the wedding that tasted like what this song is pointing out. The same can be true about professional sports figures. Some get paid an extraordinary amount of money, not because they are particularly great, but because they have "star power." People worship them, in a way.

As Christians, this cult of personality should give us pause.

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