Being a Christian is about your everyday walk with Jesus, not just what you say in public – and that is as true for celebrities with a faith as it is for us all, says Tim Bechervaise
Have you ever been called a “Bible basher”, “crazy Christian” or “Jesus freak”?
What about a “super-super-Christian”?
I’m guessing probably not. But Carey Mulligan has.
The bizarre incident took place during Mulligan’s recent interview with The Times.
The journalist Kevin Maher wrote:
“I mention too that [Mulligan’s] silence over her Christian childhood has meant that, in the absence of facts, observers imagine that she’s now become a vessel of super-super-Christianity when this might not be the case.
“I don’t think I would describe myself as super-super-Christian,” she says, perplexed. “But I was definitely brought up going to church and I still go to church, but it’s not, like, a hot topic. I’m very happy to say that I’m Christian and I go to church.”
Carey Mulligan isn’t the only one who is “perplexed”! What does this journalist mean when they call her a “super-super-Christian”? And who exactly is suggesting that, by not talking about her faith, she has become a “vessel” of it?
Before delving further into this mystery, it’s worth acknowledging what Mulligan’s answer revealed, because it’s quite surprising.
The faith of her husband, Marcus Mumford, is well documented. He grew up in the Vineyard movement (his parents, John and Ele, led the UK branch for more than 20 years), and references to faith often emerge in the songs of Mumford & Sons, the band he fronts. In 2017, he told delegates at Holy Trinity Brompton’s Leadership Conference: “I love Jesus and always will.”
The job of the Church is to help people become disciples of Jesus for life, not use them for an advertising campaign
Like Mumford, Mulligan also had some form of Christian upbringing. The pair first met, aged 12, a Christian summer camp, although it was a further 15 years before their relationship reignited and they got married. But aside from that, the actress has shared little about her faith publicly. It is encouraging to hear that someone of her stature has not lost the faith she was raised with and is not shy about discussing the happiness it brings her.
In many ways, Mulligan’s approach to faith seems very…well, normal. And that’s what makes the interviewer’s line of questioning all the more grating. Why can’t someone simply ‘be’ a Christian? When The Times interviewed her husband last year, Mumford was described by a different journalist as being raised in a “very Christian household”. Again, why not just a “Christian” one?
Perhaps herein lies the key reason why Mulligan, and others in the spotlight, talk little about their faith – because it is too often misunderstood or unfairly judged by a religiously illiterate media. Remember how the TV presenter Dan Walker was ridiculed by parts of the mainstream media, simply for articulating the perfectly normal Christian belief that God created the world?
Celebration and caution
But it’s not just the media that high profile Christians are wary of, it’s also people like you and me. We love it when famous people talk about Jesus – and that usually comes from a really good place. It encourages us in our faith, and we’re excited about how such individuals might choose to use their platform and influence to share their faith with the masses.
However, we can get carried away. It’s wrong to put unfair expectations on celebrities. A few years ago, I was speaking with Graham Daniels, general director of Christians in Sport, about the increasing number of professional footballers talking about their faith. He noted that there were also “very, very quiet high profile and top Premier League players from overseas who have faith, who do not talk about it in the media.”
It’s the normal Christian life, little on fanfare but big on everyday impact, that is really important
Daniels continued with a warning for leaders who may be tempted to rush footballers to the front of their churches: “The job of the Church is to help these young people become disciples of Jesus for life, not use them for an exciting advertising campaign for a year before they crash and burn.”
In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul urges his readers: “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders”. There’s something wonderfully captivating about these words. It’s the normal Christian life, little on fanfare but big on everyday impact, that is really important.
For Mulligan, and other famous people with a faith, perhaps the greatest difference they make is not through our screens but behind the scenes – on sets, in shops and on the streets where they live.
So let’s be encouraged by Carey Mulligan’s words – if only for the reminder that we don’t need to be a “super-super-Christian” (whatever that is) to make a difference as a follower of Jesus.