I was texting with a Greek Orthodox priest friend this summer about celebrity in ecclesiastical culture, after sending him a clip from a popular Orthodox nun on YouTube. After a number of comments on that, he said:
In American culture, the cult of celebrity is a dangerous field to enter. Especially in a digital age. Popularity carries a high cost. In our [Orthodox] tradition, achieving celebrity in the church is highly discouraged, especially for clerics and monastics. It’s seductive because it seems so effective.
I’ve seen it happen again and again with people I know. It changes you imperceptibly, your mindset. Pride, envy, competitiveness. But especially your ability to seek out and receive criticism — which is the only salvation for any who exercise public influence. Being ready for your own humiliations and setbacks, even grateful, is the only safe way to sustain high profile evangelism.
We exchanged more texts on that point, and then he wrote:…