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Fame


When I distribute copies of my novel, Survivors, people often remark on the fact that I allow them to take a copyfor whatever donation they choose to give. My response is often something like this: "People everywhere seek fame and fortune; I decided that if I could not have both, I would settle for one.": In other words, I gave up fortune in order to achieve some level of fame.

I have often been contacted by aspiring writers who want information on how to get a book published. I try to share with them a bit of my own path to fame, about how I have managed to sidestep the publishers, who are flooded with literally millions of manuscripts each year, many of them at least as good as what I could write. I tell them how I have managed to sell over a million copies of Survivors just by believing enough in the message that I have written to let people have it for nothing... or for as little as they would like to donate, which is usually somewhere around a dollar. The donations have always been enough to enable me to publish more copies, and the message has been powerful enough that it has inspired others to help me get it out.

But the sad thing is that I never hear back from these writers, or, if I do, their letters make it clear that they are looking for something else... a shortcut to fame that puts fortune first. And so it is unlikely that any of them have achieved either.

We have said much about the desire for riches, but not much about the desire for fame, so I will try to do that in this article.

There can be good reasons for seeking fame as well as bad reasons; so fame in itself is neither good nor bad. It does, however, represent a universal desire to do something significant with one's life.

Actors, popular musicians, politicians, and sports stars are general groups of people who seem to represent the strongest desire to become famous It is unlikely, for example, that anyone would put the amount of work that is needed into become an Olympic medal winner if there were not public recognition for their efforts (at each step on their way to that elusive medal) when they have succeeded.

The Guiness Book of Records contains a huge list of some unbelievably weird things that people have done to achieve fame outside of the usual pursuits... everything from eating a bicycle to growing the longest fingernails. Most of these achievements appear to be almost entirely directed toward achieving fame as an end in itself, because there is little fortune or power or even interest in the betterment of mankind connected with most of them.

Television has, in recent years, cashed in on this almost universal desire, by creating programs that call on people to do everything from airing their personal disputes and allowing their sex lives to be publicised and ridiculed to risking their lives on reality TV shows in order to achieve what Woody Allen called their fifteen minutes of fame.

For some it is more a matter of wanting to be seen, whereas for others it is a matter of wanting to be heard. There are usually bits of both.

My own feeling is that our knowledge of the vastness of the universe and our knowledge of the rapidly growing number of people on the planet gives us more and more of a feeling that we are just insignificant specks in a world where the word million is becoming less and less capable of describing our understanding of reality. Something in our human instincts rebels against being just another bee in the swarm. We want to rise above the masses, to stand out as being different in some way.

What is most important to me with regard to the whole phenomenon of fame is whether our means and motives are ethically legitimate. As a community, we Jesus Christians have achieved fame that far exceeds our numbers. From our earliest years, the media picked up that we had deliberately set out to use them. Unfortunately, even those who work in the media for a living often entertain contradictory beliefs with regard to fame. They daily exploit people's desire for fame at the same time that they cling to and propagate the feeling that there is something sick about people being 'publicity seekers'.

Certainly some of the people listed in The Guiness Book of Records are, in the minds of most of us, a bit weird, if not 'sick'. But it still intrigues us, for example, to hear about how a man could cut a bicycle up into enough bite-sized pieces to swallow them each and let them pass through his intestines. Their achievements entertain us and may even lead us to think more deeply about things like what we are saying in this article.

But is such a person any more sick than an athlete who endangers his or her health by taking steroids to achieve success in his or her sport? Is it just the money that can be made through it that labels people who dedicate their whole lives to putting a ball in a hole on a golf course as being less sick than someone who has learned to put twelve golf balls into their mouth at one time? It's something to think about.

For ourselves, the best reason for seeking fame should be to use it to educate and help others, especially when done in obedience to leadings from God. But there are some times when God asks us to actively steer away from fame.

Jesus instructed his followers to do some things secretly: praying, fasting, and helping the poor. For him, it was 'sick' for people to do these things for the sake of publicity, even if the publicity was nothing more than others in your church thinking well of you.

But then there were his instructions to go into all the world and preach the gospel, to let our light shine, like a 'city on a hill that cannot be hid', and to go out into the highways and byways and compel people to 'come'. All of this implies some kind of an appeal to the masses.

Bible prophecy aims at getting people to see that we are not meaningless specks in the universe, that there is a plan and that we can become a part of that plan. One of the strongest points being made in the prophecies of Daniel and The Revelation is that eternal fame is not going to be found through political activity; it is going to come, instead, from 'the Lamb that was slain'. This phrase is an allusion to the humble, loving life of Jesus, who is arguably the most famous person who has ever lived. Jesus achieved fame through the notoriety of being executed as a criminal. And he calls on us to take up our cross and follow him.

We believe that fame must become a channel through which we point people to God and to Jesus. The Lord's Prayer begins, "Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..." and it ends, "...thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." I long for the world to show God the respect and love that he deserves, and I desire that all of my efforts might ultimately bring glory (fame?) to Him.

We have, over the years, done many things which have excited the imagination of the media, from walking across the Nullarbor without food or water, to donating kidneys on a grand scale. But I believe that the publication of Survivors represents for most of us our single greatest achievment, simply because we get so many letters from people (A high percentage of them admit that they had previously been atheists.) saying that it has deeply changed their lives and increased their faith in God.

 

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