The May 8th CNN headline reads, “Coroner: Alcohol, drug killed Thomas Kinkade”. Among those on the blogosphere, some weren’t at all surprised by this cause of death. Others made light of it and suggested better combinations of drugs to induce more artistic creativity. Some suggested that if he had prayed more, he would have been able to overcome these demons.The prevailing commentary was about the hypocrisy of certain christians who profess holiness, but refuse to live holy lives. Like Whitney Houston or Pastor Zachery Tims, Kinkade was a professing christian whose life happened to be claimed by his addiction. Does their addiction define how they will be memorialized?
What these three people also had in common was their giftedness. Whitney Houston was one of the greatest voices of all time, Zachery Tims was a dynamic communicator and whether or not you liked his work, Thomas Kinkade was a very successful artist. All of them were placed on some type of pedestal because they were set apart from average folk. They probably were surrounded by handlers and yes-people who enabled them in their destructive habits. The problem with pedestals is that it’s hard to maintain your sense of balance on them. If you’re up on a pedestal, you’re more than likely going to fall off it. This begs the question, were their fans/followers/admirers partly to blame? Does infamy create a type of pressure that most of us will never understand? I don’t know what it’s like to have my life scrutinized or to always be expected to look and behave a certain way. A human being can only withstand that for so long before something starts to suffer. Kinkades artistic empire was still going strong, but it appears that his personal relationships had began to suffer. Just as he had been able to paint an image of light that wasn’t real, he may have been portraying an idyllic image of his own life that he couldn’t live up to.
It’s time for believers to stop placing these expectations on “high-profile” christians. We need to extend grace to them to live out their lives publically. This means not being so quick to judge them when they make mistakes (and fall off the pedestal we’ve put them on). By extension, it also means not idolizing them in the first place. More than their abilities, addictions or anything else we use to narrowly define them, we need to remember that these people were beloved by God. I believe that their commitment to Christ was real, and even though they may not have “finished well” on earth, it’s all forgotten in light of an eternity in Heaven. They were more than their personal struggles and it’s time we forget the “demons” that claimed them before we were ready to see them go.