In Part One, I concluded that behaviour exhibited by some of One Direction’s followers went beyond mere appreciation of lyrics, harmony, melody and rhythm. These phenomena and others like it have several elements in common, including
- Attraction to the physical appearance of band members;
- Desiring relationship with the band members (however brief); and
- Desiring the good reputation of the band to be made known.
In each case, something glorious is desired above all other things for which sacrifices are made to achieve that thing, whether they sacrifice sleep, health, money, reputation or their moral conduct. The worship model of glory and sacrifice accurately describes this behaviour, as well as our relationships with many things in our lives.
Like much of popular music, One Direction’s lyrics elevate romantic love or lust as the way to maximum happiness and satisfaction. To take one example, in their song “What Makes You Beautiful”, the boys sing “I want you so desperately”. Yet, it is not hard to imagine this same kind of desperate-wanting thinking driving otherwise normal people to harass a radio receptionist out of jealousy over a possible date with one of the band members.
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright observes in Surprised by Hope:
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers, rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns.
Thus, the word ‘idol’ often used to describe pop stars seems appropriate, reflecting that the stars are recipients of some form of worship. The popular talent show like American Idol makes no attempt to hide this aspect of popular music.
Thankfully, not all band fans behave in the same extreme ways, and many other entertaining events can end up wreaking havoc. I would be wrong to suggest that extreme behavioural responses are limited to bands. At the same time, certain acts do develop the ability to pull huge crowds outside of the usual concert venues, fueled by media coverage, the accessibility provided by social media, and ultimately, the adoration of their fans.
The seemingly innate human tendency to make things, any things, into ultimate things, may indicate we were made to worship. Often – if not, always – the fleeting things we worship lead to disappointment and hurt, either for ourselves or others. Perhaps in these moments we should wonder whether our wonder is directed in the right direction.