Thinking Out Loud

January 13, 2018

Growing up in Church: A Common Thread for Child Celebrities

If you’ve ever held a hymnbook in your hand, played on the youth group worship team, or sung in a church music production, you are at a distinct musical advantage compared to the other kids in your class. Doing school 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 tenfold.

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 superficial ingredients to the ultimate end: the communication of a message or story.

BelieberIn the competitive entertain market, such training would put someoune at a distinct advantage. So 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 always 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 really 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, in fact their careers led to a season of skipping church entirely.

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 originally with Miley Cyrus, but you look at her career in general — and some music videos in particular — the first thing you think about is not the Fruit of the Spirit. When people reach that point, 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 think 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 later on, 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 had a biography published with Baker Book Group; what did she think as she watched his 2012 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 career a teachable moment. Yes, he’s making a much stronger faith identification, but just like the tattoos that don’t come off, or the compromising pictures which will always be on the internet, some damage has been done. 

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be rock stars.

2This blog Nov 27/12

June 3, 2017

Weekend Link List

Out of the abundance of the heart, the vanity plate speaks. At least we know what matters most to this car owner.

It doesn’t happen often, you won the link list lottery and landed on a Saturday link list.

I’d like to challenge the people who specify that it’s the 1611 KJV they like so much to read me a page of it so I can watch them stumble over the text. I always carry a facsimile page in the glove box, just in case.

Then there’s those radicals and progressives who are destroying everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish.

February 1, 2014

Grammy Awards: Has American Society Reached a New Low?

Grammy AwardsIt is said that sometimes you’re better to get your news from magazines than from newspapers, because magazine writers don’t face the same deadlines, and have had more time for reflection. So here we are nearly one full week later after last Sunday night’s music awards, hopefully with the advantage that comes from not writing a knee-jerk response on Monday morning.

If you’ve missed previous coverage, Daniel Jepsen describes the telecast at Internet Monk:

Channel surfing Sunday night, I happened upon the Grammy awards.  I didn’t realize it was the Grammy awards at first, however.  All I saw was Madonna dressed up like a cheesy cowgirl. I flipped the channel immediately (my Madonna threshold being  about 3 seconds per decade), so did not realize till later that the song was part of a mass wedding.  Yes, you read this right.  The Grammys apparently decided, “You know what we need?  We need to act a bit more like a Korean Cult.  That’s what we need”.  So 33 couples (including the obligatory same-sex couples) got hitched by Queen Latifah while Madonna and Macklemore played troubadours…Isn’t having Madonna sing at your wedding kinda like having Dr. Kevorkian deliver your baby? If you get married at the Grammys, can you get divorced at the Country Music Awards?

American talk show host Glenn Beck is reported to have said this about a former Contemporary Christian music artist who performed at the show:

“The fire in the circle, her hanging onto the witch’s broom, and the guys with the gigantic horns on their head in the background… I mean, it is full-fledged witchcraft and demonic glorification, I think,” Glen Beck said of Katy Perry’s stint at the Grammys.

He continued, “It’s not going to end well. We’re worshiping a god that is glorifying division. It is glorifying just bad things, dark things, dark thoughts. It is glorifying envy and greed, stuff, materialism. It’s not a good path.”

Ed Stetzer wrote:

…the Grammys are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts. And, the Grammy moment is a good moment to remind ourselves of a few things. Views that were sidelined ten years ago…are not just accepted, they are celebrated.

As a Christian, I think the question you have to ask yourself is, “Would I be comfortable taking Christ with me to attend or watch (via television) such a spectacle?” I know that sounds very conservative, very old-school, but I don’t see how anyone who is “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit could not, at the very least, feel a nudging from the Spirit to at least change the channel until another segment began (which in this case might not have been the solution) or turn it off altogether. Or, if you were present in person, get up and walk out.

That’s what Natalie Grant did. As Charisma magazine reported:

“We left the Grammys early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head,” Grant wrote on her Facebook page Sunday night. “But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”

That Facebook post had over 103,000 likes, and a follow up has over 111,000. Grant had been nominated for two categories presented in the pre-show, and was not scheduled to perform during the telecast. She did not walk out during an actual performance, but left during a commercial break. In subsequent post on the same page she wrote:

…I NEVER said I left during any particular performance. I only said I left early.  I never pointed out any one particular performance, I only said I had many thoughts about the entire show, which were best left inside my head and that is where they will stay. So those who say I condemned one performance but then condoned others clearly did not read the post…

I am honored to be a part of the Christian music community. I’ve had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go in to mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus.

I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. (Philippians 2:12)

I was honored to be nominated for 2 Grammy awards last night. I’m so grateful that NARAS and The Grammys continue to recognize the contribution that gospel and Christian music make to the world. And I’m so thrilled for those who won in my categories. And I can say that with all sincerity.

My last thought:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus for it is the power of God who brings salvation to ALL who believe.”
Romans 1:16

For her, leaving was the right thing to do. What would your choice be?

The piece at Internet Monk was a reminder of an article I had debated about including here. Normally, items from Daily Encouragement find their way into my devotional blog, Christianity 201, but several days ago I was considering putting this here, and this morning’s iMonk piece served as reminder. You can also read this as it appeared originally with extra resources.

The entertainment industry has plunged to new lows in decadence as exemplified in an awards show this past weekend. However it seems that so many in our culture feed and approve of this material. Some excuse the content as being creative, an expression of “the visual arts”. One especially distressing example was a young entertainer brought up in church, her father a pastor, but her music and lifestyle defies all that is wholesome and godly. Another stunning example was a female entertainer and her young son; well-known for her blasphemous music, sacrilegious acts, and provocative lifestyle. I consider the phrase from 1 Timothy 4:2 that speaks, “of the conscience being seared as with a branding iron.”

The seared conscience is speaking of our moral conscience that can be rendered insensitive to right and wrong in the same way the hide of an animal scarred with a branding iron becomes numb to further pain. For human beings, having one’s conscience seared is a result of continual, unrepentant sinning. Eventually, sin dulls the sense of moral right or wrong, and the unrepentant sinner becomes numb to the warnings of the conscience that God has placed within each of us to guide us (Romans 2:15).

We are increasingly accustomed to poor examples, so much so, that in the last several years there has been debate as to whether character even matters. Fame, talent, good looks, or educational degrees can trump over one’s character. One’s flawed character is downplayed in favor of the ratings he or she can get and the money they generate just by their visibility. Just consider how many politicians and actors are readily identified by their outrageous behavior and yet they have a large following, at times because of their bad behavior rather than in spite of it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “dumbing down”, usually referring to education. I feel this concept applies to morality as well. The majority of young people are clueless regarding historic and Biblical morality concerning sexuality. The lack of sound teaching and positive example accompanied by the abundance of immoral smut, especially in the entertainment industry and access to the internet, has very effectively “dumbed down” their sensitivity and awareness of right and wrong.

“God gives each person strengths and abilities that will find their greatest usefulness only under His control.  Outside that control, however, they don’t accomplish what they could and often become tools of evil.  One way to make sure this does not happen is to tell God of your willingness to be under His control.  With His presence in your life, your natural strengths and abilities will be used to their greatest potential and for the greatest good” (Life Application Bible). Couple our abilities with godly character and we will accomplish much good for the kingdom of God.

Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, had ministered personally to the believers in Thessalonica, having founded the church.  They spent a relatively short time there, perhaps several months, before persecution drove them out (see Acts 17:1-10). Several months later he wrote two letters to them (1&2 Thessalonians). But during that short time of personal interface the Thessalonians had witnessed godly character in Paul and his ministry associates.

Like Paul, powerful leaders accompanied by good character can and should properly declare, “Follow my example.” In another text Paul elaborates on this with the essential necessity of consistent Christ-like character; “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Today, we must resist the false contention of this world that character doesn’t matter. Character does matter!  Let this be our goal. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

  • “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Philippians 3:17).
  • “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:7a).
  • “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8).

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