Thinking Out Loud

January 26, 2014

Why Child Celebrity Begins at Church

If you’ve ever held a hymnbook in your hand, or sung in a church music production, you are at a distinct musical advantage compared to the other kids in your class. Doing drama productions, singing in a couple of middle school choir things, and playing in the school orchestra all certainly furthered my musical education, but going to a large and musically diverse church enriched that education greatly.

Sometimes more is caught than taught, and that was definitely true in my case. I played in the church orchestra and was pianist for the college and career youth group. The church was the first in Canada to broadcast on television, and regularly did major theatrical-style productions ranging from contemporary to operatic. I also learned about sound, lighting, make-up, camera-blocking, stage set-up, mixing paid musicians with volunteers, and learned about the relationship of all these superficials to the ultimate end: the communication of a message or story.

BelieberSo it’s no surprise that Justin Bieber and Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne and so many others all grew up in church.

Sadly, while they learned a lot about music, they didn’t fare so well when it came to being prepared to “handle the darts of the enemy.” (Ephesians 6:16)  However, I don’t want that remark to appear judgmental. Kids that grow up too fast in the music, TV or film industry face all manner of temptations. Many hit fame too young to have taken ownership of their faith, let alone grasped the dynamics of spiritual warfare. UK Classical singer Charlotte Church — raised Roman Catholic — said that young female artists were “coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold on to their careers” 1

So the same faith heritage that helps them make it to the head of the class of aspiring singers — perhaps even plants the seed of that desire somehow — isn’t fully developed enough to help withstand the pressures and the success. They got to hone their craft musically, but missed a lot of the warnings, admonitions and proverbial (literally) advice about life in the real world.

There’s another dynamic to all this also, and that is the what happens when the kids in question have already made a public confession of their faith, or have identified with a church. That was the case not that long ago with Miley Cyrus, but you look at her career in general — and one recent video in particular — the first thing you think about is not the Fruit of the Spirit. Their denominational affiliation becomes more of an embarrassment to the church or pastor than anything.

Next, there is the issue of what happens to the Christian kids who are simply fans; the teens who buy in mostly because of the common faith link they have with the actor or musician in question, only to have that belief in that pop star dashed when they crash, as they seem to almost always do. While I’m too old to be star-struck, I always had a personal admiration for how Cliff Richard carried is faith and his fame, but lately, elements of his personal life have forced me to temper that support.

Finally, all this is also a parenting issue. Many of today’s superstars that grew up in church went there because their parents took them. Avril was raised in a Christian school environment about an hour east of where I’m writing this. Justin’s mom has been interviewed on Christian talk shows and has a biography published with Baker Book Group; what does she think as she watches the arrest reports on television?

So in conclusion? I don’t have one. Each time a new kid on the block scores a number one hit song or a box office smash, we all simply cringe waiting for the inevitable train wreck to happen. There are exceptions, like when child star Angus. T. Jones in the TV hit Two and a Half Men went so far as to stand up to the TV industry and tell viewers to stop watching2, but those exceptions seem few and far between.

I guess we pray.

And if we have kids of our own, we make Justin’s arrest a teachable moment.

2This blog Nov 27/12


  1. Great post!

    Comment by lala1966 — January 26, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

  2. Blogger Paul Wilkinson points out a sad truth: the church trained many young music stars for professional success but failed to help them know how to cope with that success…

    Comment by Matt Marino — January 27, 2014 @ 12:46 am

  3. Reblogged this on the gospel side and commented:
    Blogger Paul Wilkinson points out a sad truth: the church trained many young music stars for professional success but failed to help them know how to cope with that success…

    Comment by Matt Marino — January 27, 2014 @ 12:46 am

  4. This is me thinking out loud…so this is not a fully developed thought…but as a fifty something father of four, business owner, employer and having served on the parent board of the high school for a number of years…it seems to me that we vest our teens with too much adult decision making power; to much latitude in their own disposition; too much validity for their inexperienced world view. The whole, “everybody is a winner and important” thing. Couple this with the ease of attaining stardom in this market made for entertaining young people with young people with less than outstanding skill sets, personalities, or real life experience. How many tv channels showcase supposed “talented” young people who give their all on altar of stardom with a skill or “talent” that is not real world marketable at best and a figment of some producers imagination at worst? Add the greed and marketing skills of older, more worldly people who apparently do not have the best interests of the young person in mind. Mix in a young, impressionable adudience and fan base without the discernment to call right from wrong. Toss in some absentee or too busy parents and a ton of money and it is no wonder that these kids get corrupted. Almost nobody is that strong.

    Any remedy that I could suggest, and that my kids survived with, would be sneered at as draconian.

    Comment by Darrell — January 27, 2014 @ 4:39 am

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