Youth Culture Window
No doubt, you’re familiar with classical theologians such as Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Calvin. But have you heard of the newest ones – Bieber, Gaga, and Cyrus?
These “new theologians” are bringing a “new theology.”
A New Twist on an Old Truth
“Salvation by faith alone!” exclaimed Martin Luther during the Reformation. The French thinker John Calvin advanced the notion of God’s sovereignty. And England’s John Wesley not only pushed the concept of holiness, but changed the game with something called “outdoor preaching.”
These men stand in line with the ancients that date back through Aquinas, Jerome, and Origen all the way to James, John, Paul, and ultimately, Jesus. Their message is (literally) tried and true. For 2,000 years, millions of Christians around the world have based their lives on this teaching and scriptural interpretation.
But today’s teens have new voices on the Christian faith. Apparently, some of the most influential (and youngest) celebrities in America want to add “theologian” to their list of accolades. The problem is, in most cases, their new theology conflicts with the revelation of the Bible. Here are just a few examples of the “new theology” teenagers are hearing.
Because Justin Bieber hasn’t made enough money on album sales, endorsements, and talk show appearance fees, he’s released a book entitled First Step 2 Forever: My Story. In this autobiography – which tells his fans nothing they wouldn’t already know about him in the first place – Bieber talks about life’s most important topics, namely cool hair, YouTube, music…and God.
In a related interview with The Associated Press, the young sex symbol was asked about reconciling his faith with the temptations of Tinsel Town.
“Hollywood is... a scary place. There’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of bad things, but there’s also a lot of good things. I’m able to live my dream, I’m able to do a lot of good things. Basically, I don’t even consider religion. Like, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I'm here.”As you’ll see, Bieber is just one of the celebrities who takes a pass on “religion” but speaks of an attachment to the Christian faith.
Without a doubt, Lady Gaga is one of this year’s biggest stars; she just won 8 “moonmen” at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. The world has definitely gone goo goo over Gaga.
In this video interview with CNN’s Larry King, Lady Gaga is asked about her Catholic roots. In what turns out to be a fairly conflicting answer – she admits she “struggles” with her stance – Lady Gaga ultimately says, “Religion and the church are two completely separate things. I’m very religious. I was raised Catholic. I believe in Jesus. I believe in God.”
Then she claims that all religions – Christianity included – oppress other groups for being racially, religiously, or sexually different. Her conclusion? “And for that, I also think religion is bogus.”
It might be possible – and I’m just gonna go out on a limb here – that Lady Gaga has an axe to grind about the whole homosexual agenda. Just maybe. I only say that based on this interview with CNN, her recent and politically-charged rant in New England prior to the midterm elections, and the dedication of her record-setting win at MTV’s 2010 VMAs. In her acceptance speech, she broadcast her newest title, Born This Way, and even shared a refrain from the yet-to-be-released tune:
How beautiful in my way
Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track
Baby I was born this way
Lady Gaga has opinions on homosexuality. The Bible has truth on homosexuality. Those two conflict, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the woman behind “Bad Romance.”
I won’t say too much about Katy Perry, mainly because We just wrote an entire article about her and the beliefs she holds, but it’s worth mentioning again that she also has a fair amount of confusion when it comes to Christianity.
On page 47 of the August 19, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, Perry says, “God is very much still a part of my life. But the way the details are told in the Bible—that’s very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I say that. But that’s the truth.” Perry concludes her thoughts on religion with these ageless words: “I still believe that Jesus is the son of God.”
That’s convenient for Katy. Jesus still gets to be the Son of God…but what He said is up for debate because she doesn’t like the way it sounds.
The former Hannah Montana star is one of the biggest culture-defining personalities of the past 5 years. To say that she has influence in an understatement; millions of girls want to be her, several hunky male celebrities have dated her. Yep, she’s big.
She’s also claims to be a Christian.
Jonathan wrote in detail about Miley's days as a role model growing short. Many of you have seen evidence of this first hand. In this painfully “girly” YouTube video, Miley claims Christianity has her faith (about 6 minutes in…if you can make it that far). In an interview with Parade, Miley gets slightly more detailed on her religious position. “My faith is very important to me,” she says. “But I don’t necessarily define my faith by going to church every Sunday. Because now when I go to church, I feel like it’s a show. There are always cameras outside.”
That humble (and self-aware) stance can certainly be appreciated; no true Christ-follower will want to make a spectacle of his/her faith.
But Cyrus isn’t done describing what she believes. “I am very spiritual in my own way. Let me make it clear, though—I am a Christian. Jesus is who saved me. He’s what keeps me full and whole.” And in an interview with TV Guide in 2008, the (then) Disney star gave God credit for her life. “I don't know what I would do without a God that blesses me with the ability to do this,” she said.
What exactly do you mean by “this”?
Unfortunately for Miley, and her fans, the pop princess has dabbled in a little bit of heresy and a lot of hypocrisy.
Out with the New and In with the Old
Like I said, these are just a few examples of the trend. I’m reminded of Britney Spears, Lil Wayne, and The Pussycat Dolls “thanking God” for their MTV awards at the 2008 VMAs for the messages and images of “Piece of Me,” “Lollipop,” and “When I Grow Up,” respectively.
With so many celebrities having so many different opinions on God, it’s little wonder that the cultural icons were included in Peter Rodger’s documentary called Oh My God. In the film, Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine, says, “If you put Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Shakespeare, Aduna, Krishna at a dinner table together, I can’t see them having any argument.”
Really? How well do you know Jesus?
These remarks – and others like them – make me miss the day when musicians made music and actors made movies…and nothing else. Since we’ll never return to that day, we need to know how to handle the spiritual messages coming out of Hollywood.
Here are a few ideas to help you toss out the “new” message and bring back the “old.”
- Teach the Bible accurately and often. As parents and youth workers, we already have a level of trust built up with teens that we can use to correctly teach God’s Word. First, show teenagers how to recognize truth from lies; if a message doesn’t line up with the Bible, it’s false. Simple as that. Second, show them that “new theology” isn’t “new” at all. The misguided messages of faith, spirituality, and Christianity that young celebrities now cling to have actually been around since the Apostle Paul was alive! As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun,” (1:9). Sorry, Hollywood. Finally, teach kids that God’s Word cannot be separated from Him. We cannot say we love God, but then live a lifestyle that is inconsistent with the Bible’s message. That’s foolishness. Nor can we pick and choose what we will believe from God’s Word; it’s either all true, or it’s all unreliable.
- Remind teenagers what celebrities are good at…and what they’re not good at. I’m not trying to be mean, here, but the truth of the matter is, most celebrities stink at being biblical teachers. Musicians make music. Actors make movies. Dancers dance, and so on. When it comes to finding entertainment, sure, turn to a celebrity. But when it comes to understanding God’s Word, search out an expert, namely pastors and godly parents. We wouldn’t go to Justin Bieber for medical advice; why go to him for spiritual advice?
- Manage the spiritual elements and messages. I wrote this article mainly to highlight the fact that celebrities have opinions about God, the Bible, faith, and Christianity…which are often incorrect. Unfortunately, they have a platform upon which to broadcast their message that allows them to reach millions of teenagers. As the spiritual caregivers for our kids, we have to be aware of what’s being proclaimed as truth, so we know how to correct it. Anytime a spiritual message comes out of Hollywood, which is often, take a few minutes to discuss it with your teenager in light of the Bible. That will produce some powerful conversations and teaching moments for sure!
For every Kirk Cameron of the media world there are dozens of Lady Gagas. That’s a lot of mixed messages! 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul confronted a “new gospel.” Listen to what he said in Galatians 1:6-7: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Spare your teens this confusion by teaching them the one, and only, Gospel of Jesus Christ.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.