Pop Culture Jesus
Recently, I came across an interview with Selena Gomez. In the video, she very candidly talked about being a Christian, and I thought “wow, that’s encouraging.” And she’s not alone, haven’t you heard? Justin Bieber is cool with Jesus too.
There seems to be a trend toward pop stars coming out as Christians - which of course on the surface is great. But as I sat there listening to the Selena Gomez interview I couldn’t help but remember an iTunes banner I’d recently seen that communicated a very different message.
The banner was promoting her latest album, the cover of which is a black and white picture of her naked body strategically arranged to avoid "showing" anything. Truthfully, it was an inch away from belonging in a paper bag or the back row of the gas station magazine rack.
Her new record includes songs like “body heat,” with lyrics such as “let’s go all night, just you and me…all I need is your body heat” - the records’ artwork accurately reflects the themes therein.
And what about the Biebs? The lyrics of his latest album “Purpose” are a confusing mixture of less than subtle pop sexuality, and a seemingly honest declaration of a new-found purpose in God.
What’s going on here?
Jesus suddenly seems cool in pop culture, but the whole thing seems off. Let me be very clear, it is not my place to know or judge whether Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, or any other person for that matter is saved - that is God’s job. Following Jesus is not about moral perfection, or going around criticizing the behavior of others. I am all too aware of the mercy I need every single day.
And yet this bizarre mix of Jesus and pop culture doesn’t feel right.
What has gone wrong when the lives of those who claim to follow Jesus, are in blatant contradiction to what he taught? Sadly, I think Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber are products of today’s Christianity. Christianity has become so palatable, so watered down, that following Jesus has been reduced to tattoos and platitudes. It is one thing to struggle with sin, as we all do. But to flaunt it, promote it, put it on album covers - to me that suggests a deeper issue.
The truth is that Jesus loves sinners, myself included, but He is holy. The world’s lies are destroying people - and pop music bears a fair share of guilt. The world doesn’t need a weak, powerless Jesus that’s “cool” with everything and demands nothing. People need the real Jesus.
The danger in pop culture Christianity is that it lulls people into thinking that being “cool” with Jesus is the same as surrendering to Him, and I’m afraid that pop star endorsements are only perpetuating a growing epidemic of lukewarm cultural Christianity. What's worse, these stars become examples to millions of young people who now think following Jesus means little, and requires even less.
Perhaps Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are surrendered to Christ; it would just be comforting to have fewer reasons to wonder.