A prayer campaign for Justin Bieber—complete with a church discussion guide—initially struck me as a reach. Justin Bieber? Isn’t a teen idol who’s already a jillionaire about the last person on earth who needs prayer? Get serious.
Then I saw an advance screening of the film, NEVER SAY NEVER, and reconsidered. Justin is not merely a teen idol but a musical prodigy. Right now, as an unformed teenager, he’s the creature of his talent, driven to unimaginable heights of popularity by musical gifts from God that he cannot yet fully appreciate.
All great gifts, including musical gifts, are also spiritual burdens because they confer the responsibility to be used for the glory of God. Most in Justin’s position simply notice that they are treated as gods and misbehave accordingly. I’m sure the temptation to do so must be overwhelming at times—what if seemingly every young girl in the America worshipped you?
If he were my son, I’d certainly be praying for him. And our family as well.
Amazingly, Justin has a mother who understands these issues. His mom wants Justin to find his true value in being a child of God rather than his status as a pop icon. That’s going to be a huge spiritual struggle, and one in which we all share to a degree as we try to center ourselves in God rather than worldly status.
Praying for Justin is a good thing in itself—who knows what he might accomplish for the Kingdom if he actually lived out his life as a solid Christian. It can also be a way of teaching and praying for our own children who must learn the same lessons. Our value lies in being creatures made in the image of God; not in what we can or cannot do. The gifts we have are not our own but come from a loving Creator to be used in the service of others. These are important themes that the prayer campaign for Justin can open up for discussion.
The film also presents with a light-hearted touch the devotion of Justin’s fans, legions of adolescent girls who share a universal ambition—to be Justin’s wife. They form their hands into the shape of a heart—his signature image. They don’t want to be his girlfriend, his squeeze, his sex toy, or…fill in the ever coarsening blank. No, they want to be his wife!
In a lovely way this demonstrates the desire of most young women for home and family. It shows the healthy, natural desire of teenage girls before our culture convinces them to get down and get dirty like their male counterparts. It’s a great opening to discuss gender differences and the proper respect women ought to have for themselves, as well as demand from their male teenage friends.
Why doesn’t the church ever produce great artists? some ask. Actually, the church does, nearly constantly, but achieving widespread success in the United States usually means becoming ever more secular. It will be a true miracle if Justin does not follow the usual path by soon adopting an image that’s more about sex than love.
So pray for the young man—this musical genius who has emerged from a Christian background. Use NEVER SAY NEVER as a springboard for discussions about finding our identity in God, using our gifts in God’s service, and the true nature of marital love.
For once, can’t we keep one of our artists as our own?
By Harold Fickett, Editor-in-Chief, Catholic Exchange