Idol Chatter

The iconic painter of Christian kitsch, Thomas Kinkade, has had his share of troubles in the last few years. The LA Times did an extensive expose on the painter of luminous cottages and other scenic designs in 2006, which contained claims of lewd behavior and financial mismanagement, to put it nicely. Just a few weeks ago, one of Kinkade’s companies declared bankruptcy and then the news broke that last weekend Kinkade spent a night in jail on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was pulled over by police in Carmel, California for a different traffic infraction, a problem with a license plate, but then was taken into custody after having difficulty with a sobriety test.
Kinkade is certainly not Chace Crawford or Lindsay Lohan. Yet the amount of attention Kinkade is receiving in the news for this last mishap rivals that of an A list celebrity. And sure, I have read plenty of snickers and snarks among my evangelical friends via their blogs, facebook pages, and tweets. The circumstances are perfect for some cheap shots.
On the other hand,maybe this is just an isolated incident. Maybe we don’t have all the information.But this latest glimpse of Kinkade’s dark side still bothers me a lot, not simply for the alleged crime, but for the way this incident fits in the broader view of Kinkade’s influence in the Christian arena.

The Christian media has remained more or less consistently silent – or at least diplomatic- over the last few years as Kinkade has been called into question regarding his character regarding his financial problems and his personal life. There’s been no outrage or calls for accountabilty – two things the evangelical community loves. In fact, it astonishes me that just a few months ago, Kinkade debuted a mural at the reopening of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and was heralded once again for his inspirational contribution to society.
I am trying very hard to understand the disconnect here in Christian pop culture. We need to be spiritually concerned about Ted Haggard’s comeback, Jennifer Knapp’s coming out, but not a man who continues to thrive off of the Christian marketplace while – allegedly -bilking others and behaving badly.
Something is wrong with this picture.

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