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Cancer prevention and celebrity worship

By Scott Tibbs, May 27, 2013

On May 14, a famous actress wrote an editorial in the New York Times about her decision to have a preemptive double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. While I applaud this actress for sharing her story as a means of educating the public about this procedure and the genetic abnormality that put her at a higher risk for cancer - discussing one's medical issues in public is not an easy thing to do - I am disappointed (but completely unsurprised) that the news media has focused on her as a celebrity instead of the issue itself.

The issue itself is an important one for the media to cover, and educating the public about it can save lives. Women carrying the BRCA1 genetic abnormality are at a dramatically increased risk of breast cancer and it is good for the media to educate the public about it. The subject is not the problem - the focus is.

What this represents is our culture's idolatry of celebrity. The "news" stories have downplayed the medical issue and relevant details about it - such as what research is being done into cancer prevention and public policy that is addressing it - in favor of discussing the medical history and personal life of a popular actress. The news media has done a disservice to viewers and readers by doing this.

Of course, the reason that this important issue is being covered as a celebrity story instead of a medical story is because celebrities are the gods of modern American culture. It is a failure of the church that we are not warned against and taught about how idolatry involves much more than simply bowing down before a carved wood or stone image. As is the case with so many of our public sins, the blame for it can be laid directly at the feet of pastors and church officers who simply refuse to put God's no alongside His yes.