August 27, 2013 by cbbeard
I’m not hip anymore. Maybe I never was, but I used to at least keep up with the general happenings of pop culture so I could know what my youth group kids were encountering culturally. But as often happens when people get older, I became less interested in “the latest and greatest.” I haven’t turned on MTV in years. I do get a dose of pop music as I drive back and forth to the office, but that’s about the extent of it for me. So I didn’t even realize that the VMAs (Video Music Awards to the layperson) were happening this past weekend.
But when the words “NSYNC” and “reunion” showed up on my Facebook news feed, I was intrigued (don’t tell anybody, but I secretly enjoy Justin Timberlake’s stuff). So I flipped over to the VMA rerun just in time to catch JT and NSYNC’s reunion, and I headed off to bed. The next morning, however, when I logged onto the interwebs I found that Miley Cyrus had become the talk of the internet and the blogosphere.
I’m familiar with Miley; my girls were big Hannah Montana fans at one time and I took them to see “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and may have even got a little misty-eyed at the end (keep on moving, keep climbing, keep the faith, baby!). I was even familiar that Miley was no longer in a Hannah Montana stage, but had, well… “moved on.” And so I wasn’t really surprised to see the words “shocking, appalling, lewd” and the like being used to describe her VMA performance. But I had to see for myself.
I doubt I need to describe the performance. Chances are you have either seen the performance or have read about it. Chances are when you saw it or read about it you had a strong visceral reaction. I did too. As soon as I saw the video I thought to myself, “I absolutely HAVE to show this video to my kids!”
My son and daughters are 14, 12, and 10, respectively and I gathered them and my wife around my computer later that evening and we watched Miley’s VMA performance in its entirety, uncensored. During the video, there were gasps of flabbergast from my daughters and nonverbal responses from my son that clearly exposed how awkward he felt watching.
Afterwards, we sat in the living room, at first in silence as we processed what we had just seen. Then we talked. We talked about how the performance made us feel. We talked about what might have led Miley to perform like that. We talked about pain, emptiness, rebellion, selfishness, fame, fortune, lies, choices and slippery slopes.
My kid’s responses were all over the board. It started with comments like “what was she thinking” and “that’s just wrong” but as we talked more about what would motivate Miley to agree to perform in that way, a sense of sadness overcame the room. While none of us can look inside the mind of someone to see what motivates them, my kids wisely observed that whatever it was that led Miley to perform like that, it was something far away from God’s intentions for her life. When I asked what they would say if Miley walked into our living room, none of my kids could come up with the words, but we all agreed that we would want her to know that she is loved and that there is something better out there than what she is filling her life with…specifically Jesus and his plan for her.
This is why I made my kids watch that performance: Miley isn’t the only one in this world struggling with a path that is inconsistent with God’s plan, and the reality is that they will come in contact with people each and every day that may not show the same symptoms, but they certainly have the same sickness. And in the midst of a broken world with broken and hurting people they need to be prepared to engage those people just as Jesus would.
I’ve read some of the blogs and responses to Miley’s performance, most of them from a so-called “Christian” perspective. Many are not much more than recoil and a gag reflex put into words. Some appear to be loving, by not condemning Miley, but at the same time condemn her upbringing or those around her for allowing this to happen. Some posts are of the “If I was her father” variety, implying that the authors of those blogs have the key to raising “good” kids.
But I am reminded of the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus has a conversation with her and not only is she a Samaritan woman (untouchable by Jewish standards) but she was also a woman who had five husbands and was currently living with man that was not her husband And do you remember what Jesus’ reaction was? He didn’t recoil in horror or opine about how egregious her sin was. He didn’t try to shift the blame and say “it’s not your fault, you picked the wrong guys” or “if you just would have hung out with a different crowd, your life would be different.” He didn’t say “if your daddy had just raised you right, none of this would have happened.” He simply made sure she knew that he was for the woman, but against her sin. That changed the woman’s life, and many others came to believe in Jesus because of her testimony.
I made my kids watch that video because when we encounter brokenness and sin in people’s life, we shouldn’t recoil in horror or disgust; nor should we shift the blame or make excuses. Instead, we should be prepared to be like Jesus, showing people that he is for people but against their sin, and he came not to condemn them, but to give them the full life they so desperately search for. And how we respond to Miley’s performance might just be an indicator of how prepared we are to do so.
What do you think? How can we engage this broken world of shocking sin in a way that both brings God glory and brings the Gospel to those who need it? How can the church avoid the recoil and gag reflex that reveals our judgmental attitudes?