With all the craziness that has happened in the last fews months when it comes to popular culture, I’m sure many of us wish we didn’t know what “twerking” was. But, sadly, a 20-year-old former tween idol named Miley Cyrus gave us an eyeful at the VMAs last year. This catapulted the Hannah Montana star into superstardom, and she became the No. 1 ranked people search on Google. All due to twerking (a super sexualized dance), sitting on a wrecking ball naked, licking a sledgehammer, and hanging her tongue out like Gene Simmons.
Justin Bieber had a rough year last year, in addition to the newest crisis involving egging a neighbor’s house and an arrest for driving under the influence. Brothels, marijuana, strip clubs, battery, graffiti, bursts of expletives and peeing into a washbucket are among the reported activities for this once-sweet and respectful singer who sang songs like “Pray.”
What is happening to these stars that they are exhibiting such behaviors with no sign of remorse and leading other young and impressionable youth along with them?
“I'm not Buddhist, I'm not Hindu, I'm not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God.” —Katy Perry, Marie Claire, January issue
Although not in the news for breaking the law or unusual and weird behavior, this PK (pastor’s kid) certainly has taken a much different road than her Christian roots. Katy Perry began her music career at age 17 pursuing Christian music under the name Katy Hudson. But when the record label collapsed and she began to work hard at a career in pop music, her song “I Kissed a Girl” became an instant hit, garnering the support of gay and lesbian groups and much radio airplay.
As Katy Hudson, she sang heartfelt songs about God, like “Faith Won’t Fail.”
But now she has different views about faith. What happened between her Christian upbringing and now?
“I didn’t have a childhood,” says Katy in the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. She says her mother never read her any books except the Bible and that she wasn’t allowed to say “deviled eggs” or “Dirt Devil.”
But although Katy says her parents were very strict, Mary and Keith Hudson are Christian ministers who deeply care about people and desire for them to live in God’s freedom. According to their website, Mary’s “ministry of encouragement has brought many out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Keith Hudson shares his experience at one of his daughter’s concerts, which I had the opportunity to hear him share live during a church service I watched online.
“I was at a concert of Katy’s where there were 20,000 people," he said. "I’m watching this generation, and they were dancing and jumping around. It was almost like church! I stood there and watched how much they were admiring Katy. I thought, ‘They’re loving and worshipping the wrong thing.’ I couldn’t help but weep and weep and weep.”
Personally, I can see why Katy might have some negative feelings about the strictness of her parents and thus reject the Christian faith, coming from a religious family myself. It took many different processes that God used with me to bring me out of New Age, out of depression and brokenness, out of the resentment that I felt for my family during certain times of my life due to all the things they weren’t able to be when I was young.
It took many prophetic words, Bible college, many different mentors, an understanding of the Holy Spirit, solid Christian friends, lots of forgiveness, a program called LifeSkills and most of all love to help me get to where I am now. Your parents’ faith can’t be your faith; you have to have your own relationship with God. I had to get out of the lie that “being right” was more important than love. But I am grateful to say that, while I was not only lacking in faith, I was lacking in fathering, and God made Himself so real to me He became my true father, and I felt unconditional love from Him.
"I'm a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins," Bieber told the Associated Press in 2010. "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."
Justin Bieber’s Twitter page boasts more than 49 million fans, second only to Katy Perry, so it’s no wonder there’s a spiritual target on his back. An influential model for youth and especially young teenage girls, the “Bieber Fever” swept the nation in 2008, after his now-manager Scooter Braun accidentally found his video on YouTube in 2007.
Since then, Justin has toured the globe with hit after hit, and he was ranked No. 2 on the Forbes list of best paid celebrities under 30. However, this hasn’t come without a price.
As a result of the current setbacks he has experienced, including an arrest for driving under the influence, Justin’s mom, Pattie Mallette (also a Christian), has expressed her concerns, asking people to pray.
“I think so many people go into the entertainment industry with amazing Christian roots, and get influenced somehow,” she said to Britain’s The Sun.
“If Justin’s struggling, don’t kick him when he’s down or condemn him. Pray for him,” she says.
Pattie had Justin when she was just 17, and she struggled with drug and alcohol abuse herself. She chronicles her journey in her book Nowhere but Up. Unfortunately, her ex-husband and Justin’s father, Jeremy Bieber, appeared to be Justin’s “partner in crime” for the DUI and speeding arrest.
What kind of dad does that?
“It appears ... that the devil has got to her. Her actions on stage show me that she's lost her way.” —Judy, 64, a volunteer secretary at Franklin's People’s Church
America was shocked as they saw what would have otherwise been deemed soft porn on national TV for the Video Music Awards. After seeing the escapade, one woman on Facebook wrote, “That is something you just can’t un-see. Let me go bleach my retinas now.” People who were a part of Miley Cyrus’ Tennessee hometown were equally as disturbed.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Judy continued, “Miley is clearly giving the wrong message right now. One of the ladies in my Sunday school class taught Miley in church camp when she was elementary school age and she said to me ‘we need to pray for her.’ We’re just sad because we would not want our own kids to do some of the things she has done.”
Originally, Miley did not seem to be the type of person that would lose her head or act inappropriately. In fact, when she was younger, she wore a purity ring and attended church regularly. In 2008, Cyrus told Fox News that her faith keeps her grounded and affirmed her desire to follow Jesus. "Live like Christ and He'll live in you, and that's what I want to do,” she said.
Later, in a 2010 interview with Parade magazine, Miley shared that she wasn’t as concerned with church attendance but still strong about her faith.
“My faith is very important to me," she said. "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. 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. But everyone is entitled to what they believe and what keeps them full. Hopefully, I can influence people and help them follow the same path I am on, but it is not my job to tell people what they are doing wrong.”
But later, as the pop star tried to reinvent herself by changing from a “safe for the whole family” role model to a sexy partier, the tricks just got dirtier and dirtier.
“It's sad, very sad because she's apparently bought the message of the world ... sex and drugs and that's the wrong message,” says Judy from the Daily Mail article. Miley cites using “Molly”—a very dangerous drug—in her song “We Can't Stop.”
Perhaps the most unsettling part of Miley’s story is the fact that her audience was young 9- to 15-year-old girls, and the video for “We Can't Stop” has garnered 345 million views on YouTube. The video and lyrics only include drug content, but highly sexual content too, totally inappropriate material for her pervious audience.
Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, has his own sad feelings about the direction she has taken. When asked in the March 2011 issue of GQ if he would do it all differently, concerning getting into show biz, he said, “It [Hannah Montana] destroyed my family. I'd take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yea. I'd erase it all in a second if I could."
The article went on to say, “Just before moving out to Los Angeles, the whole family had been baptized together by their pastor at the People's Church in Franklin, Tennessee. 'It was Tish's idea,' [Billy Ray Cyrus] remembers. 'She said, "We're going to be under attack, and we have to be strong in our faith and we're all going to be baptized."
"'Somewhere along this journey, both mine and Miley's faith has been shaken,' he said. 'That saddens me the most.' He said there is 'no doubt' that his family is being ruined by Satan.
So, what the answer here? How can we pray? Of course, everyone is allowed to make their own choices. However, according to Jewish culture, people weren’t considered to be adults until they were 30 years of age or older, and they were mentored by the community up until that time. In these examples, we can see why.
However, I think there is more to consider beneath the surface. I can’t imagine what kind of pressure someone Miley's age must have been under.
In an article with the Huffington Post, Dr. Drew Pinsky, famed psychiatrist and host of Celebrity Rehab and Loveline, shares his thoughts about addiction and negative behavior being lived out in the life of a celebrity and if it is any different for them than a regular person.
Kors: Do you think being a celebrity causes addiction?
Pinsky: No. Absolutely not. And I have the data to prove it. Every weeknight for decades we've had celebrities on Loveline and given them surveys about their family, fame, upbringing, drug use. And the addiction rates are exactly what you'd see in society at large.
Kors: Because that's what they said about Michael Jackson, that being intensely famous from such an early age messed him up.
Pinsky: No, it wasn't his fame. It was the abuse in his upbringing. With Jackson specifically, you have to remember too, he had no regular social development because he was taken away from his peers. And from an early age, he had an incredible amount of both stress and power, which is an explosive mix. My data's very clear: Celebrity has no affect on psychopathology. Although once addiction is there, the trappings of celebrity can cause addiction to blossom. Famous addicts make all the money they need to feed their addiction. They have enablers who can get them the drugs and assistants who are making too much money off them and don't want to step in. So the addiction grows.
A Call to Pray
I know for me, my mom and stepmom were hugely instrumental in praying for me that God would heal my heart. So many things were restored in my life as a result of people’s prayers and God intervening on my behalf. But it started with prayer.
Katy Perry’s mom, Mary Hudson, has some insights she has found helpful in praying for her daughter that she shared in a recent Charisma magazine article:
"One morning I opened my Bible after going through a three-month period of depression, and the pages turned to Psalm 113:9: 'He makes the barren woman ... a joyful mother of [spiritual] children' (AMP). The words seemed to jump off the page at me.
"As I read that verse, I felt the Lord telling me that if I wanted my children to be spiritual, I had to change my attitude and rejoice in the Lord as never before. I had to thank Him in advance for what He was going to do in my family. Adjusting my attitude radically changed my perspective.
"When children are away from God, it’s natural for us as parents to want to tell them all the reasons they should change now! If your child is wayward, doing what comes naturally to you won’t capture his or her heart. You face a spiritual battle, and you must fight for your child with superior firepower—with prayer that’s bolstered by rejoicing, praising and declaring the Word of God, which is His war strategy for giving you and your child victory."
She shares how to pray into faith for the person you are praying for, even if they are not exhibiting the characteristics that are godly now. This is not to manipulate people or make them do what we want them to do—it is to help free people them from chains that can keep them bound by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s be praying that the influence of Justin Beiber’s heavenly Father has a much greater influence than his earthly dad and that God would put strong, godly men around Justin to support him, encourage him, love him and give him a good example. Let’s be praying that whatever roots of rejection or neglect that were planted early in his life be replaced by his heavenly Father’s love. Let us rebuke the generational strongholds of drug abuse and alcohol abuse.
Let’s be praying that Miley Cyrus wakes up from drugs and sexual promiscuity and erratic behavior and that she considers her heavenly reward more important than her earthly one. Let us be praying for her whole family, that they become united and strong under one faith in God and not swayed by the industry or public opinion.
Let’s be praying that Katy Perry continues to move toward the light and the name of Jesus, who is already written on her wrist. Let us pray that she comes to know the true God by the power of the Holy Spirit, who heals and restores and sets free.
Let us pray in faith. The Lord has already placed His hand on these precious lives. Let us speak what He desires into being.
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Charis Hillman Brown is the marketing and communications director at Marketplace Leaders Ministries, a ministry founded by her dad with a vision to equip men and women to fulfill their calling in and through the workplace. Charis is passionate about raising up the next generation of leaders in the workplace through writing and speaking to the twenty-something age group. She is author of TGIF for Next Generation and participates regularly on webcasts with her dad, who is an internationally recognized leader on faith and work.