“How was the reunion?” I’ve been asked a dozen times.
My short answer? Great! And weird.
All high school reunions are bound to be weird, I suppose – seeing childhood friends previously frozen in memory with a full head of hair and acne now thinning on top and thickening in the middle. Weird.
But my twentieth reunion was weirder than most maybe. People who never talked to me in high school knew who I was. They were exceedingly friendly, complimentary, recalling the day they first heard my music. “I didn’t even know you could sing,” one said. “I didn’t either,” I said.
One guy stuck out his hand and asked if I remembered him. “I’m sure you don’t remember me at all.”
Of course I did. He was one of many guys I wanted to trade lives with in high school. “Gosh,” he said, “I’m so nervous. I don’t know what to say. It’s like talking to a movie star.”
I came to the reunion to be with friends but over and over again felt like I was with fans.
And maybe wrong.
James warned Christians living in Jerusalem against favoritism – against dividing the body of Christ into privileged and not, worthy of special treatment and ordinary. He scorned them for giving seats of honor to the wealthy and putting the destitute on the floor.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? -James 2:1-4
Generally speaking, we don’t divide the American Church into haves and have-nots any more. The days of buying a good seat in church are long gone. In a mostly middle-class nation the line between rich and poor is too fuzzy to cut along these days.
Fame is the new dividing line and many an American’s top aspiration.
In a recent study published in Cyberpsychology, researchers analyzed the primary values communicated by television shows aimed at children over the decades. In the 60’s, for example, the primary values instilled in young people by television were community and benevolence – kindness toward and connection with others. In the 70’s it was community and self-image. In the 80’s community and self-acceptance were primary values on television.
In the 90’s producers went back to emphasizing community and benevolence once again, but in the last decade we’ve turned a corner: Television shows aimed at pre-adolescent children now emphasize fame and achievment more than any other values.
Community and benevolence rank at the bottom of the list.
In another study, it was discovered that the number one aspiration of tweens in America and the UK today is to be famous. Not kind, smart, happy, trustworthy… Fame is now the highest aspiration.
We think that with fame comes importance, value, privilege, admiration and wealth. And we forget that it comes with lots of awkward conversation at high school reunions.
If James were writing today would he warn us against dividing the Body of Christ into famous and not? Would he caution us against treating a guy who was on the radio a decade ago or the author or mega church pastor differently than we treat the nurse, police man, mom or plumber?
I had a great time at my reunion. Lots of laughs with old friends who somehow look younger than I do.
But two things would have made the reunion even better for me: If I was treated no differently than anyone else in the room…and if I hadn’t seen a bunch of middle-aged moms “dancing” to Baby Got Back.