Sometimes We Just Need to Pray…

Not sure if you knew this or not but Justin Beiber has been in the news a lot lately. From his antics in Miami (DUI, resisting arrest, and invalid license) to his assault against a limo driver in Toronto and now news that he was abusive and smoking marijuana on a flight arriving in New Jersey for the Super Bowl. He has been anything but the role model that many have made him to be over the last few years.

It makes me sad, but not for the reason’s you might at first suspect.

I remember having a discussion several years ago with a parent who raved about the values that both Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber displayed in their life, most notably their desire to honor God and waiting to have sex. They professed it on camera and in books. The media grabbed a hold of this and, in the case of Miley, Disney flaunted her virginity and good values to parents.

Those values seem to be no longer as important as they once might have been…but it is not surprising.

My response at that time and now is the same. We need to be praying for those we try to place on a pedestal, like Justin Beiber. Especially if they are young celebrities that we’ve allowed our sons and daughters to emulate or, at the very least, watch and listen to. Why? Because these individuals have been given so much power. Tons of money at a young age. It doesn’t matter what your roots are, the older you get, the more money you make, the harder it is to stay true to the place you began. Showbiz has a way of pushing parents of these young children to the side and bringing in others to become their “family.” Eventually this new “family” becomes the authority and the machine that is needed to move a child star into adulthood. Among other things, they use their sexuality to help a growing fan base grow with them. It makes sense and we’ve seen this with people like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. It is no surprise that we are now seeing Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus doing the same thing but amplified to fit into the ever grown hyper sexualized culture we live in. Miley even admits as much here!

Christians have contributed to the celebrity focused culture.

Often times we try to find that one example that we can give to our children. Just one! When we find someone that fits the mold and says the same things we say, we think finally!

This is a terrible dynamic. It is bad for the people we venerate because they then feel the stress of keeping a certain reputation, which, as we are seeing, can take a devastating toll. It is bad for the Christian because we end up putting too much trust in that person and so our faith is shattered when it doesn’t go the way we all hoped for and anticipated. So what happens when we’ve taught our kids to compare their lives with a celebrity? I think we can all take a guess. Instead of them looking to something or someone that is life-giving, we’ve given them a model of life that is anything but fulfilling.

It seems that Justin’s mother would agree with some of my earlier sentiment about prayer. I applaud her response. Pattie Mallete, Justin Beiber’s mother, recently stated in The Sun, “the world of showbiz is a dark place, and struggling young celebs need our prayers and not our judgement.” She goes on, “I think so many people go into the entertainment industry with amazing Christian roots and they get influenced somehow. I ask that people keep me and Justin in their minds. I pray for him every day. If Justin’s struggling, don’t kick him when he’s down or condemn him – pray for him.”

I agree.

I am always careful to avoid pointing out individuals as examples for us to be like. I’ve always believed it is dangerous to create and follow the Christian celebrity or those celebs that seem to have it all together. Who are we teaching our youth to follow?

It would be better served in the future for us not to lift the celebrity above the source of true life, Jesus Christ. Over and over again we read about life in Christ. Yet, we so often put our hope in a model that is only 14, 15 or 16 years old, only to become devastated when they don’t live up to our expectations. How quickly we turn to name calling, condemning remarks, and speaking horrible things that we would have never said just a few months earlier.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Last week I came across the video below from Craig Ferguson. He talks about why he was not going to joke about another young pop star’s problems. Ferguson, an alcoholic, spoke from the heart about how he was feeling “uncomfortable about making fun of these people” – troubled stars such as Britany Spears. It is an older clip but it reminded me of the current situation with Justin Beiber. And I think I am going to do what I’ve always said I would do and what Justin’s mother says we should do for her son…pray!

Hannah Montana is Dead

Miley on SNLIn fact, Miley Cyrus declared that she murdered her on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. And from the looks of her recent antics on the VMAs, SNL, and just about everywhere in the social media sphere I would say that runs truer than ever before. Hannah Montana is dead and we are not going to get her back.

I’ve not spoken about Miley yet mostly because others have done a good job of breaking down what they are observing. If you want to read some good explanations of what we see happening with Miley I suggest reading a blog from a good friend, Walt Mueller. His post last month on Miley and her recent transformation can be found here. He also writes some on the VMAs here. Which includes an excerpt on the realities of the world that Disney has brought us through their legion of former Mickey Mouse Club members (Justin Timberlake, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera) and TV show break outs (Selena Gomez, Amanda Bynes, and Miley Cyrus).

What strikes me most about Miley is not just her transformation, but the overall trend among today’s young pop stars to one up one another sexually. I just learned this weekend of Rihanna’s newest video and song, ‘Pour It Up’, which promotes stripping and has her simulating sex acts throughout the video. It makes Britany Spears new video for her song ‘Work B***h’ tame compared to Rihanna’s video and Miley’s videos for her recent songs ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’. Now this is nothing new. However, the level at which they are upping their game is. It has moved from scantily clad to almost nothing. From a few sexy dance moves to having sex with the floor.

Sex, it seems, still sells. Only it looks like we need more of it to notice any difference.

Many of the videos we are able to watch on YouTube today we could have never dreamed of watching 15 years ago without calling it soft porn. In order to stand out in todays pop culture you have to sell your sexuality. And at a younger and younger age. Which means making your video pornographic. It’s no wonder why we are seeing pre-teens and teens engage in sex earlier and earlier.

I remember having a conversation with a parent a few years ago about Miley. She beamed at the fact that she was a believer in Jesus Christ and was waiting until marriage to have sex. She expressed how happy she was that their was a female that her pre-teen could look up to and model her life after. At first, I shared her excitement but then I started to think about the long history of artists like Miley that have done the same thing. Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, and Britany Spears at some point confided in their desire to wait. They sold their purity to break down the fear that parents might have and used their virginity and innocence to gain trust. But around the age of 18 that changed. They moved from an innocent role model to a sex symbol. However, I don’t remember a former child star going so far so quick as Miley.

When Miley said that Hannah Montana was dead on Saturday Night Live I felt those words hang in the air. Miley is right. Hannah Montana is dead. But it’s not just Hannah Montana that I mourn for in this current state of our culture. It’s what this statement symbolizes for me as a parent, for the teens I work with and the world we live in.

PlanBChildren and teens are exposed to more sexually provocative messages and sexually mature messages then ever before. Many long before they are ready. Our social media coordinator at Project Six19 was with his 3-year-old daughter recently at Walgreens when he saw a Plan B package for sell next to the candy. If you’re not familiar with Plan B it is emergency contraceptive. It was not found behind the counter or in the pharmacy but right there near the M&Ms. Not only do we have to talk with our kids younger and younger about their bodies but now we also have to talk to them about things like this…long before they are ready. Then place the fact that we have to teach our children that todays favorite childhood celebrities might be tomorrows sex symbols means one thing.

Yes, it does look like Hannah Montana is dead and all the innocence that came with her.

As I reflect on Miley’s comments, her actions and those of her counterparts, and the Plan B cartridge on the candy aisle, I don’t blame anyone in particular. We’ve all contributed to this. We buy Miley’s music, watch Rihanna’s videos and buy Plan B for our teenagers so that they can skip the reality of the consequences of the decisions they made without realizing that we may just be creating others. No, I don’t blame anyone but I think it is time we start recognizing what is happening and taking responsibility where we can.

First, we’ve got to take some responsibility for this demand for the sexualization of the young men and women who feel like they have to bust free of this prudish image by flaunting their birthday suit in front of millions. Miley, Britany and Rihanna are no less valuable then you or I. And it is not just women. Daniel Radcliffe who you might remember for playing the part of Harry Potter is also getting into the mix and moving from child actor to adult by posing nude in several of his recent endeavors. It seems like it is a calculated career move. One that none of them would make if it didn’t pay the bills.

However, we must remember one fact. They were each made in the image of God just like you and I. Our sexuality can be a beautiful and wonderful force if in the proper context. But it can also be a tool for manipulation.

Second, GK Chesterton once said, “when we go knocking on the door of a brothel what we are really looking for is God.” Our deepest longings for sex, food, things, or whatever it is that we crave is really just a longing for God. We see this throughout Scripture. It is the reason I rejoice in the redemption story that all of the Bible points to and our opportunity to step into it through our relationship with Christ. I think there is a lot of longing happening in the stories of each of these individuals. As well as those that participate in their success by watching, viewing, and sharing their videos, music and movies.

Finally, let’s recognize that there is something holy that we are seeking when sexuality is placed before us. So often we want to place rules and restrictions around sex and relationships as Christians but I don’t think they work unless it is an act of obedience. That is why we must use the power of sex as a catalyst for discussions on the one that created this great gift and point individuals towards God. Only then can they understand the beauty of their body, the gift of their sexuality and where it is to be shared.