Monday, August 26, 2013

A Youth Pastor's Response to Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke

I confess: I do not watch the MTV Video Music Awards. I never have. I never will.

And this year's VMAs did not exactly entice me to tune in next year.

Yet when I woke up this morning and saw Miley Cyrus trending on Twitter and Facebook, I decided to click the link and find out what the buzz was all about...

...then I went to the nearest eye washing station, those located in high school chemistry labs, and attempted to wash the images from my memory.

I am not sure it worked.

I am also not surprised by the fiasco. I am more so grieved. Cyrus is merely another illustration of a teenage celebrity who has grown up and acquiesced to the demands of pop-culture so to increase profit and generate revenue for their evolving brand.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears have come a long way since their Mickey Mouse Club days.

Bieber has grown up to urinate in a custodian's mop bucket and elicit expletives to a poster of President Bill Clinton.

Miley Cyrus simply followed suit with her "twerking" at the VMAs, which Anderson Cooper called "an affront to stuffed animals everywhere" (The Riduculist 8/26/13)

Well said.

Again, I am looking for the nearest eye washing station.

While the "choreographed" twerking was certainly disturbing, the lyrics to the songs of both Cyrus and Thicke are even more telling of what's going on in the world around us. "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" are significant attestations to an increasingly autonomous and individualistic ideology celebrated by pop-culture that co-opts imaginations and behaviors of young people all around:

"It's our party we can do what we want/ It's our party we can say what we want/ It's our party we can love who we want/ We can kiss who we want/ We can sing what we want...So la da di da di / We like to party/ Dancing with Molly/ Doing whatever we want/ This is our house/ This is our rules" ("We Can't Stop")

When this becomes the real mindset of young people, they really don't know how to stop. The repercussions of this anarchist mentality are deeply tragic, twisting the self worth and human dignity of God's children everywhere. When young people (and anyone, for that matter) think they can and should "write their own rules," the result is never progression towards more authentic expressions of neighborly love. Instead, the individual replaces the other and we drift farther away for God's dreams for you, me, and the whole world.

After all, we belong to one another. Actually, our greatest hope and comfort in life and death is that we belong to God.*

So if there are any youth reading this post: you were created for more than what you saw illustrated at the VMAs. God made you for something far better and far more brilliant than what buzzes through your ear buds. You can do better. You deserve better. Strive to be better. Don't settle for anything lesser than the reality that you are the imago Dei and your body is a living temple of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, shame on you Robin Thicke for attempting to link chauvinism with liberation:

"Ok, now he was close, tried to domesticate you/ But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature/ Just let me liberate you/ Hey, hey, hey/ You don't need no papers/ Hey, hey, hey/ That man is not your maker" ("Blurred Lines")

Sure, while Miley is now an adult, her papers will tell you she could be your daughter. Even more, relegating women, especially young women, to the status of an animal in need of being liberated by some sort of sexual prowess demeans real liberation pursued and achieved by brave, courageous, and heroic women throughout distant and recent history.

Again, if there are young people reading this post, your liberator does not lure you with sweet talk and sex. Your Liberator, who is also your Maker and the God of love and grace, invites you into a vision of a world where we are defined not by our sexuality but by the love of the One who lived, died, and resurrected for the whole world. And this world is in the process of being made new and right again.

There is a whole lot more that could be said, but I will leave that to other bloggers, writers, preachers, and teachers. The VMAs are not going to change. The performers and choreographers will only strive harder to shock viewers- it makes them money.

But I pray we do not feed into their twisted plot. Instead, I pray we resurrect fresh conversations about a greater story, a more creative lyric, and a much more life-giving dance each of us has been invited into through the person and work of Jesus Christ. I pray we celebrate versus exploit the humanity in one another and the reality that we live under the reign of God, which cannot be stopped.

For that I am grateful.

I also am grateful for eye washing stations.


*Note: One of my favorite statements in the Heidelberg Catechism proclaims:

"Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death? A: That I am not my Own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death- to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ...Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."

**A great post from Bo Sanders of Homebrewed Christianity, It's Not Miley That I'm Worried About.

***A woman's perspective, by Kristen Howerton:

****An Open Letter to Miley from a Youth Pastor: