The Problem With Pedestals

by Michael J. Klassen

For over 20 years, Robert Young was one of the most respected men in America. Beginning in 1954, he played the role of Jim Anderson, an insurance salesman and father extraordinaire on the television program Father Knows Best. The Anderson family became the prototype for white, suburban American families with Robert Young as the measure of all good dads.

Nine years after his program concluded, Young made the jump to upper middle-class when he assumed the role of Dr. Marcus Welby on Marcus Welby MD. So believable was he that people sought him for medical advice off the set. His television program ran from 1969 to 1976. Over his 22 year run, Young garnered three Best Actor Emmys—two for Father’s Knows Best and one for Marcus Welby MD.

Who wouldn’t want to be Robert Young?

Well, to begin with, Robert Young. His ongoing bouts with depression and alcoholism, and frustrated by his inability to escape his “nice guy” persona and break into the movies, Young unsuccessfully tried to take his life in the early 1990s. He died in 1998.

I, for one, was astonished when I heard that Robert Young tried to commit suicide. He seemed so…put together.

Then five days ago, news surfaced about another personality who sought to take his life—this time successfully. Joseph Brooks is best known for writing the song “You Light Up My Life.” Beautifully sung by Debby Boone, the song debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and remained there for a record-setting 10 weeks, earning Boone a Grammy for Best New Artist. With sales of over four million copies in the U.S. alone, the song ultimately became the biggest hit of the 1970s. It also became a film by the same name, earning an Academy Award for best original song.

Brooks was scheduled to go to trial for sexually assaulting four different women whom he had “auditioned” for movie roles that didn’t exist. He was being tried for 91 counts and charged with rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges. Other women were also stepping forward with similar claims.

Again, I was astonished by the accusations and his choice to commit suicide because the “nice” song he had written seemed to belie a man who really had it together. Assuredly, his “sensitive” persona as the result of his credentials drew women to trust him.

But that’s the problem with pedestals.

In our human condition, we try so hard to elevate people to a status that no one can really attain. We expect our leaders to make fair decisions and live perfect lives.

But standing atop a pedestal is a risky proposition. There’s nowhere to go but down and losing your balance is nearly a certainty. The laws of physics demand that standing on any top-heavy structure will likely lead to the person’s downfall. The problem with pedestals is that they fall down.

And yet, still we’re surprised when people eventually fall.

Why We Gravitate Toward Pedestals

After God delivered Israel from the hands of the Egyptians…

After he parted the Red Sea so his people could cross on dry ground…

After he closed the waters on the Egyptian army…

After supplying manna and quail in the desert for food…

After providing water from the rock at Massah and Meribah…

After granting victory to their completely untrained troops over the Amalekite army…

Still, Israel sought to place something on a pedestal.

In Exodus 19-31, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to enter into a covenantal relationship with God on behalf of Israel. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, but deeper still, he established the blueprint for how Israel would be his people. With almighty God as their God, idols were unnecessary.

And while Moses communed with God atop the holy mountain, the people below fashioned a golden calf which they worshiped (see Exodus 32).

All of us gravitate toward idols. We want a god we can see and emulate. We expect perfection (the calf was made of gold!). And yet the gods we fashion ultimately fail us. You could say it’s the law of spiritual physics: every idol we place on a pedestal will eventually fall down.

Granted, our leaders should be held to a higher standard, but we shouldn’t be surprised when they live well below our expectations. And media personalities like Robert Young and Joseph Brooks? Well, they’re just as messed up as we are.

Which just goes to show that pedestals don’t make good platforms. They’re nice for holding statues or plants, but they’re lousy at holding people.

And in the end, they’re good reminders that the idols we emulate will never compare with the God who loves us and desire for us to live as his people.

All other gods will fail you.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Problem With Pedestals

  1. Georgie-ann

    Another “tragedy” in this same vein was the early TV Superman actor. I’m not recalling his name at the moment, but that was my “astounded” moment — trying to process two images so directly opposed to each other.

    I think we “love” images. We really WANT the illusions: of something “better,” more “perfect,” more “powerful,” more “beautiful,”… Somewhere deep inside us, “something” is surely yearning, expecting, believing in things that transcend the ordinary level of mundane dullness and imperfection that we sense as our daily personal reality. I’m thinking that this is a sign of “our God-shaped vacuum” speaking, looking,…

    It’s kind of a shame that Hollywood has been able to accommodate us so very well. And just look at all the consumer products designed to transform at least our own “appearance” into something “enhanced,” even conforming to this or that popularized “look” of the moment, often devoid of any interior meaning or correspondence. Eventually, with this focus, we become empty “decorated” shells, having placed all our attention on these illusory and decaying externals, our “bags with holes” in which it impossible to hold anything of value. And sadly, many find disappointment and disillusionment.

    Haggai 1:5.6

    5 “Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways and set your mind on what has come to you.

    6 ” ‘You have sown much, but you have reaped little; you eat, but you do not have enough; you drink, but you do not have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages has earned them to put them in a bag with holes in it.’ ”

    “Authenticity” was a concept that was psychologically popular for awhile in my day. In seeking personal authenticity, one would strive to have and know and develop the “real person” inside, rather than the surface appearances alone. I think it was a great focus, but I don’t know if it’s still floating around in any effective way. We’re such fickle beings — now turn to this, now that,…

    Only when we find the stability and reality of God in our lives, does this become our sure anchor. We can’t “see God” directly to hold on to an image of Him, and maybe this is good, given our innate tendencies to be projected on and glued to externals. But we can “see” Him reflected everywhere, when our spiritual eyes are opened. God is the “Superman friend” of our dreams, who will meet with us on the “inside” and confirm the beautiful longings that we inevitably carry within.

    Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.”

    Hebrews 6:19,20

    19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

    1 Corinthians 10:3,4

    3 “They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

    God longs to be with us as much we long to be with Him, whether we realize it or not. Forget the empty pedestals, and come on home.

    • Georgie-ann, the actor’s name was George Reeves. I’ve actually preached on him a few times. Interesting story, and the basis of the movie “Hollywoodland” (which was pretty boring). While we can blame Hollywood, they only give us what we crave.
      Thanks for your comments. You’re right on in my opinion.

      • elna

        George Reeves and/or Christopher Reeves?

      • Georgie-ann

        Thank you, Michael & associates, for giving us an opportunity!

        Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee, … In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth … ‘ ”

        In this spirit, we share what Christ has shared with us, to the best of our ability,…

        Matthew 10:27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. … ”

        For such as this, I consider this – (your conversational Cafe) – to be a Golden Opportunity,…and not to be missed!

        For a more intense description of our “obligations before the Lord” in “speaking out,” Ezekiel 33 will kind of “put some starch your shirt”,… but “not to worry,” … most of us are really trying to do the best we can!

        And God IS Love,…always!

        Believe and be saved!

      • Georgie-ann

        It’s more than a little bit “interesting” to me, that I feel that this is the time to “say what I have to say,” … or perhaps to forever have to “hold my peace (piece?)”… (duh!,…dunno!),… … …

        Interesting, because 10 or 15 years ago, I guess I was still “processing” all the input, info & “promises” and data, etc., of more than 45 years (at least) of actively pursued Christian “Truth,” “Life,” and spirituality,…

        But as I now “take a look around me” and see what some of the more or less “good intentions” of the faithful believers, — who have been trying to follow the many different “x,y,z” leaderships and teachings, — have actually produced, I have to be honest that not everything is working out quite as “predicted”/promised/presumed/assumed for and by everyone.

        This isn’t particularly distressing to me, because what remains solid and secure and unshakeable are all the most important things and qualities about God that should be understood, and will never change. Usually it is peoples’/(our) understanding that needs to grow, expand, adapt. It is our vision that needs to become more clear.

        Sometimes I even laugh a little at the absurdity of “man” arguing and accusing and railing against God. … … yadda yadda … … Guess what!, … … … GOD is the Judge! … … … and by comparison, “we” are the “foolish” for accusing the Judge and final arbiter!, … (not to say that God doesn’t understand, or isn’t moved by, our honest frustrations and difficulties!)

        Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.”

        So, enough on that, … … God WILL be separating the “wheat” from the “chaff,” … this is a promise that “you CAN take to the bank,” … … (for better or for worse), … … …

        Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

        I am very gratified that even some of what I have tried to share here, has been positively received!,…I’m trying to intentionally and deliberately bypass that infamously misleading “political correctness” syndrome of modern dissipated faux-intelligence,…as well as speak as fully on any issue as is possible for myself to do, without holding back or overly shrouding my intentions/meanings, in the motive of gaining “popularity” or being “people pleasing,”… … My first and primary desire would be to please God, in all honesty before Him,… And I indeed thank Him for the privilege,…

        Serious thoughts and parting words to the believers from a great Apostle:

        Acts 20:25-32 (from Paul’s departing words to the faithful:)

        25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

        32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

        And this is all anyone can do.

  2. So true and very well written I enjoyed this blog alot. So many times we all get caught up in people and things even our own children- sadly all bring disappointment but then most things do- when we try to make them gods in our lives often unaware that we have.
    He said in His word” Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart mind and soul; and Him alone have no other gods/ idols or worship false images. He alone deserves our honor and praise for He is the only one that will never fail us.

    • Georgie-ann

      Rose, … I love this one too:

      Proverbs 3:5-8

      5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
      And lean not on your own understanding;

      6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him,
      And He shall direct your paths.

      7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes;
      Fear the LORD and depart from evil.

      8 “It will be health to your flesh,
      And strength to your bones.”

  3. Rose, thank you so much for your kind words. Like you mention, the most important thing is loving God. However, our wandering hearts opt for cheap substitutes when they could have real food and real life. This is a constant battle.

  4. Georgie-ann

    A great friend of mine, Burt Rosenberg, with a very blessed traveling ministry, “Spreading Joyfulness,” has innumerable pithy sayings that are not only very illuminating, but often really zing right into “the heart of the matter.”

    By the way, he’ll have you “in (irresistible) stitches” if you’re ever blessed to have him come your way!

    Well, anyway, the way Burt explains the frustrating problems of our human relationships is that “we’re like two ticks with no dog!” Obviously, the “missing element” and source of nourishment in this “equation” is God. Exactly! Our characteristic “human condition” in a nutshell! It’s great to actually be able to laugh about it with Burt!

    (-: hahahahaha I’ll have to send him this post now!

    Hi, Burt! very very very long time no see! God Bless! Love, Georgie!

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