Joe Jonas unplugged begs for good reporter and editor

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Purity rings, an Assembly of God church breakup, suit-wearing and pew-sitting. Mandatory attendance on Sunday mornings and fulfilling all expectations.

We’ve heard them before, the stories of famous teens-turned-young-adults who grew up as kids of clergy and felt choked by the existence to the point of rebellion: Tori Amos, Alice Cooper, Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson to name a few.

Still, the Jonas Brothers brand continues to command attention, with its mainstream fan base and overall wholesome image. And this was a new story and fresh perspective, right?

Not without reporting and good editing, I’m afraid.

Church kid turned Disney mega-star Joe Jonas lifted the lid on his brain and spilled its contents to New York Magazine in a lengthy first-person account of life as a Jonas brother and victim of Christian upbringing.

No format, no careful questions or guidance and definitely no editing. In other words, a tell-all.

In predictable form, the piece has been spliced into stories for news and entertainment outlets across the globe as a sensational peek into the counter-culture existence of a teenage boy who dabbled in sex and drugs along with the rock n’ roll. The version in the Music Times sports the racy headline, “Joe Jonas shares details about religion, sex and smoking weed with Miley Cyrus.”

To some extent, I was used to growing up in public. I was a pastor’s kid, so eyes were always on me, even then. I sat in the first pew of the church, and I had to wear a suit every Sunday, because my parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be. I preferred going to punk-rock shows in small venues in New Jersey, where we grew up, wearing my jean jacket and all my band pins. That’s how I fell in love with music, how I became obsessed with it. I’d stand there, watching the singer running around the stage, owning the crowd. I didn’t even notice whatever else was happening onstage. All I could see was the singer.

But I had certain obligations at that age. If I ever didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, or when I was trying to figure out what religion I wanted to be, or trying to understand spirituality, I would always have to deal with knowing that people were looking up to me. We eventually left our church, Assembly of God, when I was 14. A scandal had erupted involving stolen money, and it caused a big rift in the church. After that the concept of church really upset me for a long time. I mean, I believe in God, and that’s a personal relationship that I have, but I’m not religious in any way.

It’s clear from the content of the piece that Jonas is looking to continue on the path toward full self-disclosure.

This is the strategy that he began after the breakup of the three-brother band, traveling the morning media rounds and explaining to fans why the Jonas boys were calling time on their collaborative efforts to pursue diverse personal interests. He’s looking to shock and awe and carve a new artistic path free from the shackles of expectations — especially any that carry a Christian connotation.

The topic that dominated news coverage of us for a long time was the whole promise-ring thing. We couldn’t escape it. It started when I was really young—I must have been 10 or 11. There’s a program people do in some churches called True Love Waits, where you wait for marriage to have sex. Kevin and I decided to join—Nick tried it later. Fast-forward a few years, we’ve started playing music and we’re working with Disney and we have these rings.

But back then, we explained that we had made these promises to ourselves when we were younger. A few months later, it comes out that we’re in some cult and that we’re these little staged Mickey Mouse kids. People were coming up to us, saying, “Thank you so much, I’m waiting because you guys are, too!” And we just thought, No! That’s not what we’re about.

What if this story had been conceived and formed differently? What if instead of providing a platform to another young pop star who duped a fan base from people of faith who shared similar ideals, an enterprising reporter instead was allowed to ask Jonas questions about his faith formation and write a story that actually told a story? How about a discussion on why Jonas thought the True Love Waits program was worth his committal and how the industry itself led him astray with opportunities and exposure, as he details? How does Jonas practice the faith he says he retains without trace of religion?

There’s a story here, all right, but it isn’t the one Jonas is selling. What Godbeat pro might have the guts and the access to bring it to us, I wonder?

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About Tamie Ross

Tamie Ross is a wife, mom, writer and all-around crazy-about-life girl now battling autoimmune disease. Her 20-year journalism career included stints as religion editor for The Oklahoman, online editor for The Christian Chronicle and freelancer for clients ranging from The Associated Press to United Methodist News Service. She has won state and national awards for her personal columns and editorials.

  • Fr. Richard

    Excellent points, thank you.

  • EscondidoSurfer

    This is sad. Jonas gives up his commitment because he cannot handle temptations. Not a well thought out worldview. Not coming at it with character. Just going with the flow.

  • dabhidh

    There’s probably a good story here to be told about the problems with setting up pre-teen and teenage boys as moral examples in areas that they have only begun to experience struggle with, but I have to admit, whenever I read these stories about young people who put on a “purity ring” or made some other public commitment to abstinence and then later reneged in it, I can’t help but think I’m hearing, “I wasn’t prepared – I didn’t know that this was going to be difficult.” Apparently these kids think that if they put on the ring, their troubles will magically disappear, and this is probably more of an indictment of whoever’s teaching them than they themselves.

  • JamesG3

    “…another young pop star who duped a fan base from people of faith who shared similar ideals…”

    It would be nice if this story was written, and while I’m not sure Joe Jonas is the one to be interviewed, someone should be asked the tough questions, like why is it that “being true to oneself” is so important that these “unplugged” interviews are such a rite of passage for former Disney stars, but being “unplugged” and “true to yourself” never occurs to anyone as they are up and coming, before they dupe people who thought they were being honest on the front end.


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