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?