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On Andy Rooney and Fame

Andy Rooney is stepping down from 60 Minutes. In his sign-off piece, he offers reflections on his years as a writer (which he said he still is, and thus is not retiring, just leaving 60 Minutes). I remember watching him as a kid growing up. My folks watched the show regularly, and he ended pretty much every episode. (In fact, my Dad posted this on Facebook.) He was amusing in his crotchety ways, and often said things that others were too polite to say aloud. I found his reflection on fame in the piece most interesting. (The whole video is below.) From the Huffington Post article on the sign off:

Rooney said in his farewell piece that he has lived a lucky life, luckier than most. But befitting his trademark crotchety nature, he voiced one parting complaint: He doesn’t like being famous, nor does he like being bothered by fans.

“I spent my first 50 years trying to become well known as a writer, and the next 30 trying to avoid being famous,” he said. “I walk down the street now or go to a football game and people shout, `Hey, Andy!’ And I hate that.”

So if you see him in a restaurant, Rooney said as he signed off, “please, just let me eat my dinner.”

This is a fitting reminder to those of the current generation who waste their time seeking fame and fortune. (Have you seen reality TV “stars”?) Fame and recognition is only enjoyable if your life is empty. It is a drug that hides and masks the emptiness inside for a time. When Rooney finally gained the fame he had wanted, he realized that what he really wanted was peace. He wanted to be able to enjoy a dinner with his family without interruption. The fame that had seemed so important actually interfered with his ability to enjoy life; contrary to all of his expectations.

For the Christian, life should not be about fame, at least not in the eyes of the world. I actually get concerned about Christian leaders who get famous. This is part of the reason I didn’t jump on the Francis Chan “bandwagon” when he suddenly rushed to popularity. I was afraid that the fame meant that his message wasn’t Scriptural, but instead intended to make people feel good. Since then I’ve listened to him read Forgotten God on a book on tape (or CD in the car, in my case) and been impressed. I’m currently reading Crazy Love. The books are great, and accurately portray a Scriptural understanding of faith. However, the popularity of the books has done little, it seems, to change the way people actually lives. In the books Chan calls on believers to sell out, to stop adhering to an Americanized version of Christianity and place ourselves fully into a relationship with Christ that takes over and is overwhelming. This sounds good. It sounds like what the Bible calls us to, and we are quick to give our mental assent to the ideas. But when it comes time to really do it, we often don’t follow through.

It is easier to give in to the culture of being “good enough”, while still hanging on to our dreams of fame and prosperity. We haven’t realized the emptiness of fame (as Rooney has discovered) and the fleeting joy of money and possessions. We like to tell ourselves that with just one more raise or promotion we will be happy and have money to give joyfully. The truth is that our income is never the problem; the problem is our heart. If we really wanted to, we would find a way to refigure the budget to fit in time, money, and energy for the type of self-sacrifice to which God calls us. I’ve seen people sacrifice all sorts of things to get the house they want, the HDTV, the car of their dreams, the vacation they “deserve”, etc. Very few people will make that type of sacrifice to free up time, money, and energy to be available when God leads them to give.

I’m not saying I’ve arrived; I haven’t. I’m still in progress, and Joy and I talk about this all of the time. Of course money issues come up, and we have to figure out how to prioritize what is really important. In some cases, I know we’ve got this wrong. We’re finally nearing the end of paying off the debt for the mistakes we made early in our marriage when it comes to prioritizing our spending. As we free up money that is no longer paying down debt, I hope we don’t fall into the temptation to add other things to the budget just for our comfort without leaving plenty of space for God to control our funds.

I challenge my readers to do an inventory. Where have you allowed your desire for fame and prosperity to overtake an area where God wants control? (Hint: God wants control of every area, so think broadly!) Andy Rooney missed the boat, I think. He wanted peace, but wasn’t willing to pay the price. He says that he has tried to avoid being famous. How did he do this? By appearing on TV every week and publishing nationally syndicated newspaper pieces. I’m not sure I understand. He blamed us, his viewers, for inconveniencing him, when he should have done a self-inspection. If he really hated the fame, all he had to do was quit, and live his life out of the spotlight again. If he wanted the prosperity and income that came with the fame, blaming us for taking the joy out of his life is disingenuous. I hope that I am not like Rooney in this respect. Yes, it is nice to have the comforts of life, but if they come at the expense of fulfillment in life and reward with my Creator and Savior in eternity, the price is way too high.

Here is Rooney’s piece:

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