A couple of months ago my kids were glued to the television screen. They were watching the Kids Choice Awards on Nickelodeon. I have two daughters, 14 and 12 and they wanted to see the latest pop sensation, the Jonas Brothers. The show was an endless stream of awards generously given out as kids continuously belted out one long scream. When Miley Cyrus, known also as the alter ego Hannah Montana, came up to receive her reward. She thanked, in true Hollywood style, “my lord and savior Jesus Christ” .
My kids and wife were excited. They shouted, “Way to go!” Perhaps I am just the old man in the room, but my response was a bit more crusty and cynical. I wasn’t impressed.
Why? Because I want my kids to not measure their faith on whether or not a pop star affirms their faith on national t.v. I have seen too many teenage, bubble gum pop stars turn into “bad girls” over night.
I am not the only one noticing how teenage pop icons are turning into “bad girls” in Hollywood. South Park picked up on this theme during one of this season’s episodes. The South Park episode had Brittany Spears being hunted and killed by the townspeople. The townspeople, acting like sadistic zombies, made it clear toward the end of the episode that their intent was to build up the latest Hollywood pop star, only then to sacrifice them on the alter of media scrutiny and fame. The most chilling part of this episode, after they had killed Brittany Spears, was that their next target for sacrifice was foreshadowed: Miley Cyrus.
Of course our culture doesn’t telegraph their intent by saying explicitly, “We are building you up before we tear you down.” But that is exactly what they do.
South Park’s episode was eerily prophetic in light of the Vanity Fair incident a couple of months later. The Vanity Fair controversy surrounded Miley Cyrus having posed for what some considered very provocative photographs.
So what’s the point of my cynicism and concern toward Miley’s remarks during that silly awards show? Firstly, I am concerned not because I doubt the sincerity or genuineness of her faith. I have no reason to doubt or even judge her faith in Christ. And secondly, my response was cynical not because I have any reason to believe that she is going to fall from grace and destroy her testimony. In fact, I am very optimistic that she can succeed in living out her faith in Hollywood, mostly because she has the support of a functionally healthy and intact family.
1. Christianity can’t be embodied in one person – including Miley Cyrus. Adults make this mistake all the time. We put so much stock in latest “charismatic” pastor or leader, only then to become crushed when it becomes revealed that the paragon of virtue was a person who had feet of clay. My daughter’s faith can not be tied to whether or not Miley Cyrus lives out her faith or not. Their faith isn’t linked to the latest pop icon, but must be linked instead to Jesus.
2. Miley Cyrus, even as a Christian, is going to fail. It doesn’t mean that she is going to fail big, but she is a person, and she will fail. While most of our small failures won’t be fatal, as a public figure Miley’s failures are going to be even more magnified. My daughters know that people fail and disappoint them. They have lived with me as their father for over a decade. And even though I am their hero/father, I have failed and disappointed them numerous times. They have seen me fail. Their future spouse is going to fail them. Teachers are going to fail them. They need to be careful not to idolize Miley Cyrus but instead to understand and remember her humanity and her need for God’s grace and strength.
3. Miley Cyrus’ faith isn’t the only message she is communicating. I don’t want my daughters to think that just because she communicates her faith that everything she embodies is worth emulating. From the interviews I have seen with Miley Cyrus, I suspect that as Hollywood standards go her private life is fairly grounded. She seems to have the same fears, struggles and joys of a normal teenager. But too often the public persona that gets communicated is the biggest caution to my daughters. Her public persona isn’t reality. It is a fantasy world of fame, fun and glamor. I don’t want my girls to buy into that whole package. Value isn’t found in the clothes you wear, your hair or the stuff you have. This isn’t just a battle against Miley Cyrus. This is a battle against culture as a whole. Too often the image of Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana doesn’t square with reality. I need to help my daughters look behind the glitz and hype and know what is real and what has real value.
Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana taught us something that night. I am certain that she didn’t intend to do. My challenge though, as a father of two teenage girls, is to continue to use those ordinary moments as opportunities to create conversations that will shape and shepherd their hearts and lives.