Manut Bol vs. Stephen Baldwin

22 Jun

I was thinking about influence. I hear about it a lot. Especially in regards to sports and television. “Imagine the influence they’ll have now,” people say. I kind of shudder because I know relatively few people who are transformed by a celebrities faith/cause/agenda. I know celebrities can create culture and can make their cause hip and young people will want to join but a whole life transformation isn’t what I usually see. Instead I think it is when there is a person on person relationships that people change and someone’s fame has nothing to do with it. With that said, there are famous people who want to use their influence for good. Recently, I ran into two examples of people formerly in the spotlight.

The first is Stephen Baldwin, an actor who can’t get a job in front of the camera and is in extreme debt.
The second is Manut Bol, a former basketball player who passed away at 47 and won’t be seen again anywhere near the basketball court.

Baldwin lost the spotlight when he became a born-again Christian and started turning down roles having to do with inappropriate sexual activity and excessive violence. His career quickly plummeted. Seriously, it plummeted so fast. To his credit I applaud his decision not to compromise is values to make a quick buck. I think the average North American Christian almost always puts money before Jesus.

Yet with his approval a campaign called Restore Stephen Baldwin was started. Here is a picture and unfortunately this is all too real:

The premise of the campaign is to compare Steven Baldwin to the biblical character Job. Job was a righteous man who lost everything and in the end everything was restored. Steven Baldwin lost everything (because of his righteous decisions) and now Christians should financially restore him.

There are so many things wrong with that premise.


Because those in Hollywood believe that God has failed him by not letting him be rich like they are.

Here are their exact words:

Q- Why does Stephen need personal wealth?
A- Stephen’s influence is in Hollywood. Hollywood worships money and without it you are seen as a loser and cannot be an effective influence to this group.

Q- How much money does he need?
A- From what I read in public court documents Stephen needs several million dollars to pay all of his creditors but he deserves hundreds of millions for his Job like faithfulness in the face of relentless loss and persecution.

Q- What percentage of a gift actually reaches Stephen?
A- 100% goes directly into his bank account through online gifting. The bank account was arranged by Daniel Southern. Daniel was Billy Graham’s Crusade Director for almost 20 years.

My thoughts are that Stephen Baldwin not being rich doesn’t make Jesus look bad. This website and whole concept does. Maybe Stephen Baldwin wasn’t meant to influence a large amount of people on camera. Maybe he wasn’t meant to have lived as large as he was living. Maybe he was meant to live a simple life and influence a small group of people and change their lives forever?

Sure we could sink several millions of Dollars into Baldwin to get him out of debt and make him rich so hollywood will stop laughing at him and his God. Or, we could use that money in a gospel kind of way that will accomplish what a smiling face on the TV screen could never do.

Manut Bol is another story. He didn’t seem to particularly care about fame. Because of his height he was kind of thrust into it. At 7’7″ he would make 7’0″ centers look short next to him in photo’s. Manut Bol played 10 NBA seasons and is the only recorded player to have more blocks than points. Manut was accused of not having that killer instinct. The truth is that those who knew him knew that he didn’t care that much about basketball. He cared about his people of the Sudan and their plight.

All of his resources went back home and he kept at it as long as he could. He even put on ice skates to entertain and allowed himself to be the worlds largest jockey. He was once criticized for doing gimmicky things to make money. His response was “I don’t work for money, I work to save people…I can always make more money, but you can’t bring back those that are gone.”

One person described Manut’s approach to riches and fame like this:
“So he was also willing to cash in on our strange American obsession with games and to capitalize on people’s delighted astonishment at his height. He laced up skates to play with a minor league hockey team and saddled a horse as the world’s tallest jockey.
Some regarded this as an undignified freak show, but to Bol it wasn’t any stranger than being paid millions to put a ball through a hoop (or, in his case, to prevent others from doing so). And if it raised money for his people and gave him a platform to speak about slavery or Darfur or human rights, then how could he say no just because he didn’t know how to ice skate or ride a horse? “Whatever I can do to help my people I will do,” he said.”

For Manut, skating on ice for a dollar was no less gimmicky than putting a ball through a hoop for a dollar.

I don’t think that Stephen Baldwin is evil and I don’t think Manut Bol is perfect. But I think that their approach to fame tells two different stories. I find one story to be about how a person can regain his fame and be elevated even though the name of Jesus all over it and the other to be full of life as a man would do anything for his people. For some reason the second story sounds more like Jesus’ story.


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