think on these things


Forbes Magazine released its “Celebrity 100” today, which is a list of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. How one makes the list is best described by the folks at Forbes:

“But generating headlines isn’t enough to solidify your standing in Hollywood. A fat paycheck won’t do it, either. Only a combination of earnings and sizzle will land a celebrity a coveted spot on our Celebrity 100 list of the most powerful names in the business.”

I first learned about this year’s list when I logged on to AOL yesterday. Along with the teaser for the story, AOL had a poll to accompany the list:

Which celebrity do you admire most?

Jessica Simpson
Nicole Richie
Paris Hilton
The Olsen Twins
Sean “Puffy” Combs

Of the almost 23,000 people who had voted when I saw the poll, the results were:

The Olsen Twins 39%
Jessica Simpson 28%
“Puffy” 22%
Paris Hilton 8%
Nicole Richie 4%

The whole thing bothers me on so many levels that I’m going to have to respond with a bulleted list, mostly so I don’t resort to real bullets.

  • How can they use the verb “admire” in reference to any of those people and do so without irony? The dictionary says the word means, “to regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval; to have a high opinion of; esteem or respect.” What’s to admire? Talent? Compassion? Sense of Social Justice?
  • Why these five? It’s like asking people to vote for their favorite ice cream flavors and then asking them to choose between Garlic, Monkey Puke, and Chicken Ripple.
  • Based on my calculations, there are a little over 900 people who say they admire Nicole Richie and about 1800 who say they admire Paris Hilton.
  • Be afraid, be very afraid.

(Brief pause while I run screaming from the room.)

Since I read the story yesterday, I’ve been trying to figure out how to respond – beyond screaming and ranting. I’m choosing to leave out the paragraphs where I do little more than swear and lament the trajectory of our crumbling democracy, as well as the words aimed at the idiots we allow to call themselves our leaders. Though the venting would feel good, and much of it would be true, I don’t see how it would be constructive. I want to be something more than alarmist, curmudgeonly, or resentful. I want to be something more than a cultural counter puncher.

I will choose, instead, to tell you who and what I regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval. John Brashier is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He and I have been friend s for a long time. Calvary is an historically white church that chose to stay in downtown Jackson after most of the white folks decided to leave. They work hard to minister to their city and their neighborhood. When Katrina hit, they spent more money than they had helping people whose lives had been devastated by the storm. They are continuing to do so, even as they struggle to figure out how to be faithful to their calling and pay the bills at the same time.

In about a week and a half, the youth groups from out churches Hanover, Marshfield, and a church in Duxbury are heading to Jackson on our summer mission trip. We are taking ninety kids and adults for a week to help with the continuing hurricane relief efforts, help do some needed repairs at the church, and plug into the ongoing ministries at Calvary, which include Vacation Bible School and a meals program. Thanks to the recent hikes in airfares, we too are working hard to be faithful and pay the bill for the trip, which probably costs less than Puffy’s latest piece of bling.

Mission Trip is my favorite week of the church year because we are called outside of ourselves, outside of our comfort zones, and into the lives of others. Whether we are hanging sheetrock, pouring Kool-Aid, picking up garbage, or sitting around at night picking guitars, we will have the chance to find a thin place where we can remember what is admirable about life, faith, and one another. As Paul wrote:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)

I wonder how much swearing he had to edit out of his letter before he got those words on paper.



  1. Great post Milton. Couldn’t agree more about your thoughts on the people AOL asked if you admire. It is sad that despite being in Europe – I know all of the people mentioned!

  2. Well it’s understandable why Jessica Simpson would be number two if not number one. Many men admire her but not for her talents.

    Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.

    Mission trips are the hardest for me to put together because I know I am going to have to lead by example and it is a scary thing. It is easy to talk about when you are at a camp where talk exceeds action but when you have to put faith into action it can be way humbling.

    Have an excellent trip!

  3. Milton,

    As usual you made me laugh out loud, nearly scalding my sinuses with hot coffee.

    Have a great time in Jackson – we’re leaving next Saturday for Gulfport and Biloxi for some mission work as well. We can enjoy the Mississippi summer weather together!

    Godspeed and safe journeys,


  4. Puffy must have made the list for beating the gun charges five years ago, or maybe for being ‘worth’ more than $400 million.

    And what’s wrong with gralic ice cream, anyway?

    See you on the beach July 2. Good luck and have fun.

  5. I understand. There are similar things that make me so angry about our culture. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    What you wrote about Calvary Baptist will make good reading for Amy’s cousins who bought stock in the mission trip. I’m copying it and mailing it to them ( the old-fashioned way).

    The vibes were good at the mission trip picnic.

    Peace, Sheila

  6. Cecil says – I’m new to blogging and randomly called up your post. Glad I did. Liked your post on Enron but think there occasionally may be a place for death penalty. Natural thing for me to think – I’m a Texan. Also liked your comments about stupidity of violence and war and the inneptness of our current leaders. Lastly, I think I think much differently than you about God. I look forward to your next offering. As others have said, “Peace”.

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