Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dear Miley

I'm under no delusions that Miley Cyrus will ever read this, but I'm going to go ahead and call it an open letter to her all the same. Maybe someone else who needs to hear it will, and maybe it will give them something to think about:

I think it was maybe two or three years ago when I first started hearing about Hannah Montana. Not being a tween myself and not having girls who were tweens yet, Hannah Montana just wasn't something that came across my radar. Then of course the girls heard about the show and watched it one day and that was that, they've liked Hannah ever since. Truth be told, I do too. The characters on the show (Hannah, Lily, Oliver, Jackson, Rico, Robbie Ray, etc.) are all fairly likeable characters and some are just plain funny in a very simple, innocent, fun way. Yes it's true, I watch Hannah Montana with the kids. I watch most of the shows they watch to make sure what they're watching is decent. I even know all the HSM songs, and Camp Rock songs, and do in fact think Sponge Bob and Fairly Odd Parents are two of the funniest cartoons going today. I know, it's an occupational hazard. Go Wildcats!

Now, that's my condensed version opinion about Hannah and the show and other kid-fare available today.

Miley Cyrus, on the other hand, is a completely different person than cutesy, likable, Hannah Montana. As adults we all know this, but as kids the lines are very blurred and that's where the real issue is. She's certainly not the only teen-pop-star who once did cutesy, innocent, fun, girly roles and then grew up and was no longer that cutesy little character. They all grow up, and they all do different things but the problem can be when your girls still want to follow their career, buy their music and see their movies even after they leave cutesy behind and start doing more adult type projects. Sometimes those adult type projects may not always be so wholesome and decent as the once cutesy girl was involved with. In the minds of the fans, it's still "Hannah Montana" (or whatever character they happened to play at the time when the girls first "met" them) but in reality that's not who or what they are at all. Sometimes, trying to explain that to a young girl who is a fan is like talking to a wall.

I thought about all this after I read Miley Cyrus' recent interview with Parade. I'd seen it mentioned on twitter and clicked through to read it, since my girls are indeed fans of Hannah Montana. What I read left me rather disappointed. Now to some, no matter what I say in the way of observation about her statements in this interview, it's going to come across as judgemental. The fact of the matter is however, she claims to be a Christian and the truth about what a Christian is, is not what she represented in this interview. Obviously she doesn't realize what a true Biblical Christian is, and that's a shame. No question about it, there are likely millions of people exactly like her who have these same kinds of ideas and think that makes them a Christian. I know she grew up just outside of Nashville and I have a friend who used to live there and would often say in jest "don't you know, everyone in Nashville is a Christian!" It's not just a southern, Bible-belt sort of thing, it's a good example of what is often called cultural Christianity all across North America. I've heard it called all sorts of things such as Easy Believism or Greasy Grace. Say you believe in God, say Jesus saves, admit you believe the Bible is true and boom - you're good to go. No real need for holy living, no need to worry about the example you set in front of others, no need at all for being a part of a local church (and being involved there and accountable), and certainly no need to ever stand firm on things like Jesus being the ONLY way to God. Afterall, that would certainly be divisive and may cause others to call YOU judgemental, and we don't want that. Especially if you're in a high profile position where having such convictions might cost you big-time roles, concerts, etc.

Without being able to sit down with Miley Cyrus and actually ask her point blank what she really knows about living like a Christian, a few of the things she said in this interview really stood out to me. I really don't want to be "judgemental" of her in the sense that I'm condemning her, but I want to be fair with her statements and see how they measure up to a genuine Christian worldview. Maybe by some uber-fluke (or divine orchestration?) she'll read this and have something to think about.

"My faith is very important to me,” she says. "But I don’t necessarily define my faith by going to church every Sunday."

I think most Christians have likely heard this countless times. Now in her case, I can understand how it might be perceived as a show, as she states in the interview. How the media might make everyday living and doing things like going to church, a monumental stress-factor. It might drive me nuts if every time we pulled up in the church parking lot, the media vultures were there to snap my every move onto film for the sleazy tabloids. Regardless of that, we are not called to be Spiritual Lone Rangers but instead we are to NOT forsake the gathering of the saints. Doing so will leave you seriously misguided and un-anchored, and unlearned. All it takes to prove this to be true, is to spend 5 minutes talking to a professing Christian that doesn't go to church on purpose, to see how little they really know about the Christian faith. They are that way because they have no genuine fellowship with other Christians, they never hear sound teaching from the bible through a sermon, they never participate in any kind of Bible study, and they've left themselves unaccountable to anyone but their own opinions. Essentially they starve themselves from real growth, and insist that they're just fine with where they are.

When asked if it was hard to be openly Christian in Hollywood Miley answers this way:

"People are always looking for you to do something that is non-Christian,” she answers. “But it’s like, ‘Dude, Christians don’t live in the dark.’ I have to participate in life. If I wear something revealing, they go, ‘Well, that’s not Christian.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go to hell because I’m wearing a pair of really short white shorts.’ Suddenly I’m a slut. That’s so old-school."

Old-school. I love that one. I hear it often, and it always makes me wonder, if living like a Christian is old-school, why call yourself one at all? Why even mention Christ's name, since He's definitely old-school. 2,000 years old school for that matter. Christianity itself is completely old-school, so why even bother? This is a really good example of someone who doesn't understand what Christian living is supposed to look like. The whole short-shorts thing is about modesty, and not giving anyone a reason to lust after you in their minds and hearts. So many people don't see it this way though. The shorts are cute, I like them, I like the way they look on me, I'm wearing them and if you have a problem with it, that's YOUR problem, not mine. That's the attitude right there, and I know it well since it used to be my attitude all the time about the way I dressed. The thing is, it's a completely anti-Christian attitude. Are we supposed to care about not giving other people a reason to stumble, as much as it's within our ability to do that? Yes, we are. Are we supposed to be 100% self-focused and self-serving? No, we are not. Jesus Himself could have taken the same attitude in the garden when He said "if there be any other way, take this cup from me". He could have said "I'm not going to that cross, I'm leaving and going elsewhere and if you don't like it that's YOUR problem, not mine." As we all know, that isn't what He did. He fully and completely and entirely gave up His own human desire and gave of Himself. Bottom line is simply this: do you dress to show off your body to others, or do you dress to please the Lord? That may not be a question a young pop star wants to answer, straight up. It requires taking Christianity seriously, and that's not always an easy thing to do.

When asked about her controversial stripper-style pole dance on the teen choice awards (which my kids did not see, thankfully) her reply was:

"My job first is to entertain and do what I love, and if you don’t like it, then change the channel. I’m not forcing you to watch me. I’m not forcing you to talk about me."

Bearing in mind she stated earlier in the interview "I am a Christian. Jesus is who saved me. He’s what keeps me full and whole." Clearly, Miley doesn't understand that her first job as a Christian is NOT to entertain and do what she loves. Her first job as a Christian is to use her talents to glorify God. I know that's not a popular statement but it's true all the same. God didn't give her a singing voice and a healthy body so she could sing and dance around a pole like a stripper. Jesus saved her so she can live for herself and do whatever she wants? Where can we find this in the Bible? Truth is, it's not there. This me-first attitude is not a Christian one at all, but sadly Miley Cyrus doesn't know that, she's just repeating what is so common in the world today. I used to say the same exact thing, since the world revolved totally around me and my likes and dislikes. Indeed, I was my own god and if you didn't like it, too bad, so sad for you.

Miley goes on to say:

"I’ve learned I can’t live for what people are going to say. People are so judgmental—especially parents."

There is some truth to the first part of this statement, to be sure. People ARE judgemental, whether for good or for bad. It's also true that no matter what you do, what you say, or how you say it there always seems to be someone, somewhere that finds something wrong with it. You can live a completely pristine life and someone's going to have an issue with how you're doing that. Regardless of what other people say, if you're a Christan your first desire and obligation should be to live like one as much as you're able, and despite what anyone has to say.

Now, about those judgemental parents...

Young people without kids will NEVER understand this, but I'm going to say it all the same: You have no idea what you're talking about. How can you?

Think of it this way: 2 men approach a building. One man stands outside while the other goes inside and up to the roof. The man outside sees what is viewable from the ground while the man on the roof has seen the inside of the building, the stairs, the roof door and the view from the top of the building. The man on the ground tells the man what he can see from his vantage point. The man on the roof tells the other man what he can see and what he saw on his way up. The man on the ground then turns to the man on the roof and shouts up to him "I can see all that too!" In reality, he can only see from his own vantage point, he cannot see the same things the man on the roof sees, or has seen. Logistics make it absolutely impossible.

Young people without kids often have this odd idea that they can see from the roof of the building when they haven't even climbed the stairs yet. Sometimes they also get very frustrated when an experienced older person tells them this, but the fact is it is just the truth. While it doesn't always mean your vantage point is better or smarter (not all parents are smart, as evidenced by the mother in Australia who recently took her young daughter to a Lady Gaga concert then freaked out over the sexual overtones of the show. Hello?) it does mean you've seen more, walked more, experienced more.

Parents are in fact judgemental, and should be. Parents (who spend their hard earned money to buy their kids dvds and cds of famous pop stars) have a duty and an obligation to weed out the garbage from the good for their kids. They have a duty to set good examples as best as they can and to give their kids the best advice they can so that those kids have a strong and solid foundation to go on when they grow up and become adults. Young people without kids, have absolutely no idea what that means in a practical sense. It's impossible for them to know it in a practical sense, since they don't have kids yet and haven't walked that road. The best I can hope for in saying that, is that at least they'll actually hear it and respect it for the reality of parenting that yet eludes them.

Miley Cyrus stated in this interview:

"Hopefully, I can influence people and help them follow the same path I am on"

Frankly, I hope that doesn't happen. Based entirely on her statements in this interview (which might be unfair, I'll grant that) it appears Miley doesn't really know what a Christian is, how one thinks, how one lives, or what should come first in their lives. I do hope she finds out, and honestly begins to live like one. At which point, it would be a great thing for others to see her as a good example.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe