Friday, March 04, 2011

Justin Bieber - the next hero of the faith?

To be honest, I had no idea who he was until just recently. I still have to ask Jonathan how to pronounce his last name. I keep forgetting. I normally do not give two hoots about the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" (other than occasional morbid curiosity.)

However, I feel compelled to sit up and take notice when any given pop star suddenly is being promoted in the "faith scene." And when Christianity Today decides to publish an affirmation of the star's Christian faith, then I have to notice it because suddenly some popular singer is being held up as an example. You can argue against the necessity of examination, but that won't change the truth. If I stood up on the world stage and said I was a Christian then people should start to examine my faith and life to see if it added up -and rightly so. (Just like my readers here would have a good reason to examine my posts to see if I'm consistent.)

After finding that Christianity Today article on Bieber, I started hunting around. I discovered things like: Bieber has a new movie out called Never Say Never (not linked on purpose) telling the world more about his sixteen year old life. (Because there is, of course, so much of it.) I discovered that Paramount decided to push the movie as a "Faith-Based" film. I followed links and came across this article from USA Today in which they state that Paramount "screened the movie for faith leaders across the country and distributed spiritual discussion guides" to aid and assist pastors and youth group leaders as they present this film to their congregations and youth. In the article, Bieber's manager (and one of the film's producers) makes the following statement:

"People will walk away (from the movie) knowing faith is very important to him . . . as a Christian, he's someone to look up to."

He said it, not me.

It would seem that the main reason that Paramount wants Christians to view this film as a nice faith-based one is because of a new single out by Bieber entitled, "Pray" in which the lyrics state, "I close my eyes and pray/ I close my eyes and I can see a better day." I looked up the song on Youtube and that's about as spiritual as it gets. It doesn't say who Bieber is praying to or how he specifically prays. He just has a lot of hope that when he opens up his eyes in the morning, world peace will abound. (Good luck with that!)

So will Christians buy this "faith based" message and use it to promote faith to their youth?

The USA Today article on Bieber goes on to state:

David Tai, one of the pastors at the Christian Assembly of Suburban Chicago in Carol Stream, Ill., said after a recent screening that while the film's faith message is subtle, he might use the movie as an illustration to discuss "how authority and responsibility go hand in hand."

The article goes on to quote Diane Winston, "a scholar in media and religion at the University of Southern California" who says:

"Many (Christians) might not have known Justin Bieber was one of them," she said. "(This campaign) reminds them (the movie) is a wholesome product they can take a child to see."
So now we have something to address! Paramount is peddling this film to we Christians as a Faith-based film worthy of our time and attention and wants us to feel all cuddly cozy with Bieber. They've placed him on our doorstep and said, "Behold the child." We can either sit back and let it go, or we can examine the evidence and see if we feel that Bieber's faith is sincere and if he is, indeed, a good role model for our youth. I'm not one to say that a sixteen year old can't have a reasonable faith that should be commended and looked up to. I can think of quite a few teens that I have or do admire and respect for their way of standing up for truth and walking out their faith. I do think that they are rare and few and far between, mostly thanks to the culture which they are surrounded by. This culture convinces them that they do not have enough or are not enough to be worthy of a faith life they were called to. But age does not make it impossible to admire someone.

There is little, beyond Justin's music and lyrics, with which he can be examined by. If I just look at his lyrics, I find little by which I can discern the sincerity of his faith. I watched a handful of videos on Youtube and looked up the lyrics. I think the majority of his lyrics can be summed up as follows (my total paraphrase):

"I am the young man savior, come to relieve the loneliness of the prettiest girl I've ever seen. In a fit of teenage angst and passion, I can promise to be everything you could ever want or need. We will never be apart. And ohhh baby baby baby."

But wait, don't make me stop here! The most hilarious lyrics are taken from his hit "Baby":

When I was 13, I had my first love,
There was nobody that compared to my baby,
And nobody came between us or could ever come above
She had me goin' crazy,
Oh I was starstruck,
She woke me up daily,
Don't need no Starbucks.
She made my heart pound,
And skip a beat when I see her in the street and,
At school on the playground,
But I really wanna see her on the weekend,
She know she got me gazin',
Cuz she was so amazin',
And now my heart is breakin',
But I just keep on sayin'...

I can't stop laughing about the fact that he saw his first girlfriend on the school playground. And I'm supposed to take their, er, relationship seriously!!? (Although any relationship that does not require Starbucks is to be envied, indeed!) (* Technically a guest rapper sings this in the middle of Bieber's song. But it's Bieber's song and in the video he's hoppin' around right next to the one singing the verses so I give him full responsibility and musical credit for the lyrics.)

The music videos consistently portray Bieber as being a teenage boy, attracting teenage girls (who are always taller than he!) into his arms, smiling in a completely goofy manner. I can't say that I'm terribly impressed, nor am I drawn to his music.

However, conveniently, he recently gave an interview to Rolling Stones magazine which "clarified" his position on various "political" matters - including abortion. His interview has caused quite a stir in the media. I particularly enjoyed CNN's dissection of the meaning and interpretation of the interview. I deduce the following from my own reading of his Rolling Stone interview:

  • Bieber wasn't prepped.
  • Bieber wasn't appreciative of how much money he has earned off of the obsession of American teenagers.
  • Bieber has a faith - but he doesn't altogether know exactly what that means or how his faith is going to carry him through life.
  • Bieber is against the idea of abortion.

It is the final point that riles the media. CNN pundits decided that Bieber "is too young to be talking about the issue of abortion." How can a 16 year old be expected to understand the issue of abortion, they ask. "He is too young to be talking about it." That is what they said. And I found myself asking, "Aren't you WANTING 16 year olds to HAVE abortions? If you are encouraging 16 year olds to have abortions, then they MUST be required to have an opinion on it and certainly should be allowed to talk about it! CNN is typically the height of hypocrisy though and I don't know why I bother to listen to them (except that bit about morbid curiosity.) All that said, I thought Bieber's remarks on the issue of abortion were rather weak as it was. CNN is worried that he'll influence teens against the idea of an abortion so they are hoping he'll shut up and/or retract. I'm sorry his statement about abortion isn't quoted as a statement but as a question. I'm concerned that remarks like that are too weak to be presented to Christian teens who DO need a good role model and a strong statement about the value and sanctity of life.

Because Biebers "statements" are questions (because he really hasn't applied his faith to a good many life issues) and because his lyrics suggest that his head and heart are full of romance, I cannot see how we Christians should accept him as a role model of any sort for our youth. Surely, surely we can do better than this! Surely we would say, "Thanks. But no thanks." Looking to popular culture to provide us a solid, sure foundation by which we can direct our children towards scripture and the God of the Bible is going to get us into trouble. It already has. Justin Bieber as a "hero of the faith" is a compromise of a most dangerous magnitude. I see little to rely on in his brief life. I see little to show that he is very sincere in his faith. I see little to suggest that he is pursuing a deeper walk with God. I do see him delighting in new haircuts, having to cancel shows due to hyper crowd control issues and drawing 13 and 14 year old girls into his arms. None of this suggests to me that I should bring him into my home to point my children to the cross.

If you want to enjoy him as a bee-bopping teen with his heart literally on his sleeve, be my guest. If you can take his playground romances seriously, enjoy them just for that. But as a "person of faith" who has strong character and a heart that is clearly on fire for the Lord? I would yank that pedestal out from under him and deny him the right to stand on it. I do not have to accept him just because Paramount studios would suggest that I do so. They are not my guide. Scripture is. I do not hear or see Bieber actively upholding the scriptures as truth or proclaiming the message of the cross and so, I'm afraid, I must dismiss him as a "faith hero." And I would hope and pray that the Christian church at large would not "use" him to instruct their young just because he's "popular." Popularity has never been a good reason - or a good standard - on which to base a person's faith.


Ronnica said...

Well, technically, the playground lyrics are rapped by Ludacris...just sayin'.

Faith-based? Ummm, whatever. From the previews I've seen, I just assumed that Bieber was obsessed with himself, and getting others to join that cult.

A 16-year-old can't understand abortion? I think I'd agree with that! Then stop convincing teenage girls to have abortions without helping them understand the full consequences of their actions!

Annette @ Live, Learn, Love said...

Oh, how you enlighten me.

Sky said...

A ten year old girl in my neighborhood had me listen to "Baby" as it is one of her favorite songs....
I loved your review!

B said...

I'll give him credit for making a public statement about his faith, but I suspect that his understanding of it is about a mile wide and an inch deep. I also suspect that there's an image issue here. (On the whole, it looks good -- to his general fanbase -- for him to be so "wholesome.") I'll be more interested to see how his faith looks when he's 25. If we're lucky, however, he'll fade off the map before then.

Shannon said...

Eh. Justin Bieber. He annoys me, and I've never even heard him sing. Mainly he annoys me because my dds' female age-mates at church and homeschool group (yes! 5-8year olds) love him and talk about him ad nauseum (and even have the doll!) to the point that my girls "love" him and "swoon" over him. What's a mother to do?
I'm annoyed AND puzzled. For the record, my younger dd calls him Justin Beaver. :-)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I wrote that comment up there--it's marked "Shannon." I'm on a borrowed computer. Oops!

Anonymous said...

You're so right on, Carrie. I teach middle school and it's absolutely revolting how many of my students are falling all over themselves about him. What bugs me is his song about being at a party and trying to be with a girl who's also giving attentions to another guy. THIS is the kind of young man we want our impressionable young ladies looking towards as a godly young man? GAG ME WITH A PITCHFORK ALREADY!!

Stephanie Kay said...

Well. I've never heard of the guy so I have no opinion of him. BUT it does annoy me that people latch on to any teen celebrity as "wholesome" without investigating the truth of that statement. And then disown the teen when they reach adulthood and don't act so "wholesome." Have we learned nothing from Britney and her friends?

bekahcubed said...

I have a tendency to roll my eyes and begin dry-heaving whenever I hear that a celebrity of the day is a Christian.

Not that I think it's impossible for a celeb to be a Christian (just almost impossible)--but generally whenever someone "comes out" as a Christian, it's nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Say, for instance, Justin Bieber declaring that he's a Christian. :-|

Anonymous said...

I remember them saying the same thing about Britney Spears back in the day. We all saw how that turned out.

Actually, I saw the movie with my teen groupies and while I admit, I think he has a good foundation and the people around him are trying to keep him grounded and level-headed and there was prayer and praise (which was nice), I'd hardly call him a Hero of the Faith. He's a kid who, thus far, is being raised with some faith encouragement...but, he's just a kid. Just because I send my kids to Lutheran schools and we try to "train them in the way they should go" certainly doesn't make them Heroes of the Faith. But, hopefully, when they make mistakes (as I'm sure Justin will) they'll eventually come back to what they've been taught and what I hope they can believe on their own one day...not JUST because it's what they've learned. Poor Justin, as if it's not hard enough to live up to the expectations of being a "pop star" now he has to live up to expectations of those who think of him as the next hero of faith?? Too much...too young. And, by the way, he turned 17 this past week. Just sayin'. (Hey, I have TEEN GIRLS!!! lol)

Jennifer said...

Nice thoughts. I agree. That abortion thing bothers me to no end. Exactly as you said, isn't that the age group most are trying to force abortion on?

Unknown said...

Interesting! I hadn't seen this.

Because I have a 12-year-old girl, I am familiar with some lyrics of teen stars. It seems silly, but I think it's better for them to be hearing those types of lyrics as opposed to adult songs written about adult relationships, if that makes sense.

I didn't know that Bieber was supposed to be a Christian, but I do think it's important.

We saw Selena Gomez (a Disney darling who is supposed to be dating Justin B.) in concert. I had remembered that she had come out as a Christian and spoke about purity and I hoped that the 2 superstars weren't getting in over their heads. Maybe they aren't. We can only pray.

It's a scary time to be a teenager (or to have one!!), and I think that Christian or not there's a lot of pressure on kids.

Carrie said...

Bekahcubed - hahaha! Love the dry heaving. (I feel the same.)

Jennifer @ Snapshot - I don't know....reading that Rolling Stones interview makes me think that those two are in a little bit more over their heads.

And I don't think we, as parents, have to sit idly by and just see what music and influences our children drag through the door. I think we can teach discernment and when it comes to influential music (for music most certainly is!) then we have a responsibility to really pay attention and talk about the pros and cons, benefits and ask ourselves whether we are concentrating on things that are true, right, lovely, pure, noble, admirable, etc. (Phil. 4:8), weeding out the bad and holding on to what is good. (1 Thess. 5:21)

Anonymous said...

Monday, February 21, 2011
The Justin Bieber Bible Quiz


Canada's only national weekly current affairs magazine.

The persecution of Justin Bieber
Feb 28, 2011 by Colby Cosh
Defending Justin Bieber

BerlinerinPoet said...

I think our friendship has reached a whole new level when I found out you had a post on Justin Bieber. I was laughing so hard while reading this I was near tears!
And I know someone already beat me to it but I was just about to correct you and mention that it was Ludacris who met his first love on the playground. heehee!
I actually had no idea that Bieber was claiming any part of Christianity. I guess his is the more tame variety that doesn't quite become very public. :-)
....poor kid.

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