A Glimpse Into Miley

Our Sunday paper, The Sacramento Bee, always includes a little celeb magazine-insert called PARADE, providing celebrity interviews and photos. Yesterday’s PARADE featured an in depth interview with Miley Cyrus titled, Nobody’s Teen Queen. And she made that point quite clear. She’s gonna do what she wants to do. Or to quote her, “Dude, I choose!”

Miley also spoke her mind about her Christianity, going to church, and the revealing way she dresses. Her opinions in short:

“I’m spiritual in my own way.”

“I don’t necessarily define my faith by going to church every Sunday.”

And her risqué attire?

“Suddenly I’m a slut. That’s so old-school.”

Hmmmmm. More on that in a minute.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about Miley. For a long time I jumped to her defense. After all, she’s just a teenager, and I know I did some STUPID things when I was her age. But as time progressed, the innocent Hannah Montana has begun to fade and a more risqué Miley is beginning to emerge. The pinnacle was probable the Teen Choice Awards where she not only did her little pole dance, but she wore a dress that would have made J-Lo blush. I spoke my mind clearly about that the day after that event.

In this PARADE interview she addresses criticisms like these. I think you’ll find her reasoning disappointing.

First, let me be very clear. I can’t possibly begin to understand what it’s like to be the subject of this type of daily media frenzy. It would get pretty tiring being followed to school, the grocery store and even church. This kind of harrassment has to be some of the most difficult aspects about being a celeb. I can’t imagine getting out of a swimming pool only to have my picture appear in some magazine criticizing my weight or my bathing suit. That being said, this difficulty doesn’t excuse me, Miley or anyone from our responsibility as a role model.

Miley is being watched by millions upon millions of kids. Year after year Miley has been deemed the #1 hero among young kids, tweens and even teens. She’s the one to watch. MTV, the Oscars, the Teen Choice Awards all know this. That’s why they book her. She brings a HUGE fan base. Miley is idolized, imitated, looked up to and copied by kids of all ages.

Everyone knows, with great leadership, comes great responsibility. Here’s where Miley keeps falling short. She continues to make bad decisions, decisions that even her fans recognize as below par. Last year, her own fans voted her as “the worst celebrity influence” of the year, along with Britney and Kanye. (Wow, that’s pretty low!) And when she’s called on it, she usually quick to retort. Such is the case in yesterday’s PARADE:

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. I would do that pole dance a thousand times again, because it was right for the song and that performance. But, dude, if you think dancing on top of an ice-cream cart with a pole is bad, then go check what 90% of the high schoolers are really up to. It’s funny. I don’t know if a lot of parents remember what they were like as kids. But I’m like, ‘Dude, as if you were an angel!’”

I guess that’s her defense. The old, I’m not as bad as others. And don’t forget the gool ol’, Oh yeah, I bet you weren’t perfect either! (I particularly liked that one when I was 13)

Convincing defense. Try those in court.

When asked about church, Miley gave us a glimpse of her faith as well.

“My faith is very important to me,” she says. “But I don’t necessarily define my faith by going to church every Sunday. Because now when I go to church, I feel like it’s a show. There are always cameras outside. I am very spiritual in my own way. Let me make it clear, though—I am a Christian. Jesus is who saved me. He’s what keeps me full and whole. But everyone is entitled to what they believe and what keeps them full. Hopefully, I can influence people and help them follow the same path I am on, but it is not my job to tell people what they are doing wrong.”

Is it hard being openly Christian in Hollywood?

“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.”

Sigh.

I appreciate that she gives Glory to God in most her interviews; and I like that she’s not ashamed to talk about Jesus. But when I talked about this part of the interview with my own kids, we discussed two concerns:

1. No matter how difficult it is to get to church and connect with other Christians… never give up on it. The Bible is clear throughout that we need fellowship with other believers. Just last week we were studying this in Hebrews.

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

The Bible is filled with passages that talk about the need for fellowship with other believers.

2. Where is Miley getting her values from? She said she’d do the pole dance 1,000 times again because it was “right for the song.” Her reasoning is basically, At least it’s not as bad as some! Or perhaps modesty is just “old school.”

When my son, almost Miley’s age, first saw Miley in that dress at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, he said, “Oh my!” Maybe Billy Ray has never sat Miley down and talked to her about how visual guys are. Maybe Miley has never studied what the Bible says about lust. I feel bad for her if she’s ignorant about these truths. But someone needs to tell her what happens when she flashes her jugs to the world. It affects the boys around her when she dips on a pole like a stripper. Why do you think secular critics threw a fit when she did it? 

Furthermore… like it or not, Miley is a role model. Young girls are going to follow her lead. Prom dresses are becoming more low cut year after year. Modesty is disappearing. Miley could choose to go against the flow of Hollywood in this respect. But instead, she’s choosing to conform.

Perhaps that’s because Biblical truths are being deemed “old school.”

Hmmmmmm.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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24 Responses to A Glimpse Into Miley

  1. Kelly Sykes says:

    So disappointing…the poledancing really did it for me…way inappropriate and so “old school”… as in going the same way as all the other young hollywood celebs.

    I was so hoping that perhaps Miley might take the high road..her relationship with Billie Ray is always portrayed as strong and fairly healthy…Ever listened to Billy Ray’s album, The Other side…full of wonderful music about Jesus…Billy Ray even talks openly about his grandfather being a Pentecostal minister and growing up with gospel music and the Bible…Looks like perhaps Miley has gained the whole world while losing her soul to pole dancing and “barely there” shorts. Sad! :(

  2. Rev. David C. Lannan says:

    Very sad – our young people have few, if any, good role models in the entertainment world. Not that they should be idolizing them anyway… It is hard enough for our young people to be true Christians but I believe it is even harder if you become involved in music, TV or movies because you have so many people telling you who you need to be in order to sell more movies, more CDs, etc. Parents really need to pay attention to what their children are watching, listening to, reading and what video games they are playing. It would explain a lot about the way their children are acting.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I tried to have a conversation with my 10th grade girls a couple of weeks ago about the message of her songs and the impact she has in their lives… They gave me all the same answers Miley gave. Just shows how influenced they are, even though they won’t admit it. They say the same things about modesty being “old school” and what is wrong with wearing short shorts and looking good. Sometimes I just don’t know how to buck the system on this one, especially when their church going parents are not putting any limits on them.

  4. Rebecca… it is interesting to see how much the teenagers in our society draw their values and decision-making from our culture. We come to them with Biblical values and hope that they’ll make decisions using the Bible as their compass. Instead, their values are based on feelings and what they’ve been taught by media.

    That’s why youth workers and parents need to be pro-active about teaching the WORD, helping our kids understand the timeless truth of the Bible.

    As for the way they dress… it’s difficult. We as adults probably need to pick our battles. As a father of two daughters (12 and 14), I don’t make my girls wear turtlenecks and bonnets. :) But my wife Lori and I have had to have numerous talks about low tops (“you need to wear a “cami” under that”), etc. We’re not over-reacting, but at the same time, we aren’t afraid to say, “Sorry, you aren’t wearing that.” And we explain why.

    Parents need to be ready for these conversations.

  5. Jason Schwartzman says:

    Can we really hold celebrities who are “spiritual in their own way” to the same standards we hold our youth group to? I think we set the tone for the culture. We are as much to blame for all of this as the individuals who make the choices. If sex didn’t sell, there’d be no reason for Miley to dress like she does.

    We need to raise up a group of leaders who look different…who insist that women are not objects to be lusted after rather precious creations of God, whose worth is immeasurable! I don’t think we can convince Miley of that…I don’t know her. but I can convince Hannah, Danica and Grace and all the other active girls in my youth group. We might be going about this the wrong way.

  6. Charity says:

    Jonathan, you hit the nail on the head with this post about Miley. I’m saddened by her choice to “come-out” like Britney and all the rest of the teen idols. I’m also sickened by her use of CHristianity as a defining point of who she is. I’m not pointing fingers but Christian’s are called to be Christ-like (not perfect) but to try to emulate Christ. I’m a college student and everyday I’m faced with situations where another “Christian” student is doing ‘it’ and wonders why I don’t. I have to stand firm on what I believe Christ would do. The WWJD thing is cliche but it still works.
    That being said, I have so many little (10-13)girlfriends that look up to Miley and I try to point their attention in other places–not to bash Miley, but also to use some of her actions as learning experiences. I think it’s so important for them to know that they don’t have to have a “Miley” life but they can create their own definition of ‘cool’ without Miley influencing it. It’s disappointing when someone with Miley’s influence caves to the pressures of her environment.

  7. Joe Soria says:

    Great article Jonathan, however, may I suggest you start writing an article for Selena Gomez, Allysin Ashley ArmIt (and where are the guys in all this). We’ve all had enough experience with Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.
    It is a sad trend, whether you work for Disney or you are a student who has a celebrated talent and gift, where discipleship is put low on the totem poll of worthy pursuits.
    My concern is that there must be a detachment from reality that these celebrities evolve as they go from role to role and meet demand after demand. My prayer is that an Omniscient God is invited to transcend both worlds of the Miley Cyrus’s and the Hannah Montana’s of our culture.

  8. Kelly Sykes says:

    I think there are also an awful lot of parents who listen to the music of today themselves…and think nothing of the lyrics or don’t even know what the music is really saying. It’s hard enough for kids to buck the world of their peers, but when parents are actively listening to it and trying to “be cool” or whatever it makes it even harder. Not that we parents should live in the “dark ages” but that’s where discernment comes in.

    I am thankful for many of today’s contemporary Christian artists…the Christian music of today is fantastic…very upbeat with lyrics that everyone can listen to. My 12 year old loves it too…hope it continues into high school!

  9. AJ says:

    Although the “pole dancing” disappoints me, and I do see she’s made some bad decisions, I don’t agree with the response for going to church. The Bible doesn’t say “go to church”, for if it did, we’d not be in a building (since we are the church). Yes, the Bible does, as you stated and pointed out, discuss FELLOWSHIP as a necessity for growing Christians; but I have to agree with Miley on this. Her appearence at her church “building” may be more of a disruption and ‘show’ as she states.

    Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, just as much as sitting in a garage makes you a car. To the woman who states that she’s gained the world but has lost her soul… who are you to say such a thing? we do not and CAN NOT know the state of her soul or make such a claim. Please understand that we can not judge by our measures. Keep that in mind. And keep Miley, as well as other influencial stars, in our prayers.

  10. AJ says:

    I was typing so fast I forgot to mention one main point I had. It’s fellowship the Bible discusses and that we need t. Have with fellow Christians. And who’s to say she isn’t fellowshipping with other Christians. The place of fellowship doesn’t matter, only the company. We can’t generalize that if she’s not attending church means he doesn’t fellowship. Some of my best fellowship moments are just with Christian friends at lunch or dinner, or even playing pool.

  11. AJ… I hope you’re right. I hope Miley is getting some good Christian fellowship. As I stated in the blog, I feel bad that everywhere she goes she’s hounded by the press.

    Unfortunately I’ve heard it time and time again: “I don’t need church… I can believe in God my own way.” Usually, that means that they aren’t fellowshipping with other believers, and connecting with them to encourage each other in their faith (Hebrews 10:35, Acts 2:42). I hope Miley is the exception there.

    And yes AJ… I agree. It’s never our job to judge whether someone has lost their soul. That’s God’s realm… I’m not stepping in those shoes.

  12. Latisha says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I just want to say i’ve been reading your blog for about a year now. Good stuff. I am always interested in what your views are in relation to today’s youth culture. I can see that Satan really has a good grip on our youth through today’s media, it makes me scared for my children’s future. That’s why I pray for them everyday. Anyway, keep doing what you are doing. I am an aspiring writer and i desire to write stuff that will help people live fuller, happier lives through God’s love and grace. Check out my blog when you have time or you could make the time and check me out. Tell me what you think. I’d really appreciate it.

  13. Shawna says:

    Years ago, when Hannah Montana became popular, we were criticized as parents for not letting our daughters watch the Disney channel. Everyone thought Miley was cute and a great role model and her songs were clean. But after seeing how Britney was transformed after becoming famous on Disney, I had no faith in them. I would say to others that questioned me, “I talk to my girls about Hannah Montana and why we don’t watch her. As a family we are watching her over the next few years to see what choices she makes”. I wasn’t trying to judge her, but as a parent, I have no trust in Disney or Nickelodeon to impart anything good to my kids. Now that my daughter is 14, she sees for herself. I don’t have to say a word. But I am grateful for having wisdom. My girls listen to only Christian music. I don’t care how ‘cute, good, or clean’ the lyrics are. They don’t have the heart of God behind them and our responsibility as a parent, and my husband and I as Youth Pastors, is to help them guard their hearts. Period!!!
    She has a lot of pressure and needs a lot of prayer.

  14. adam says:

    I was really disappointed in that article also. I could not help but think of Charles Barkley’s famous quote- “I am not a role model.” I have a 14 year old and a 10 year old. the 14 year old has never been much of a fan and the 10 year old is over her. Unfortunately I think as Miley realizes her 15 minutes are about up, she may head in the wrong direction. Hopefully this is when her dad can step in and keep her from embarrassing herself to much. And if Jesus is truly her anchor then her faith may come into play more

  15. Jason Schwartzman says:

    It’s not Disney or Nickelodeon or TMZ or TLC or Contemporary Christian artist’s job to be role models of faith for our youth. It’s ours. It’s the church’s. If the church were doing its job, we would go to these people for entertainment…not for the latest trends. We’re pointing the finger the wrong way.

  16. Matt says:

    Thanks for the post Jonathan. This is the first time I’ve read your blog and it makes good reading. However, bearing in mind the power of lust maybe you could have chosen less provacative pictures. Other than that though it’s a helpful post with lots of challenging things to think about.

  17. Matt… I agree. Her outfits are provocative… and she (and apparently her father) has no problem with that. Ironically the dress with the open front is the one she wore at the Teen Choice Awards when she introduced Britney Spears as her hero. So I’m glad that you’re disturbed by the pictures. I’m disturbed too. That’s why I posted them. Parents and youth workers need to be aware.

  18. John Palmer says:

    Stopped letting my girl watch Hannah Montanna on Disney a while back. Mainly because of the behavior she would demonstrate after having watched the show. She was disrespectful and unresponsive to direction. Now she already has this kind of a willful personality but her watching that show just made it more acute. However I’m not sure I’m willing to hang Miley Cyrus out there for this. I’ll own the responsibility for allowing her to be exposed to it in the first place. Working out of that I hold the writers and producers of the program responsible for what their performer demonstrates and to that degree I hold who ever is the guardian of Miley responsible for what she promotes at a not yet adult age. The bottom line is these folks followed the money. They have exploited the young person and taught her how she needs to present herself and they have coached her in the responses she makes. Adults are to blame. Christian, God fearing Adults who want a nice paycheck. Miley probably thinks its about her music. But the reality is its about the money.

  19. Kelly Sykes says:

    Well, eeks…mea culpa…I am the woman who made the comment about gaining the world and losing her soul…Let me preface by saying, I am not a youth minister, I am a drug prevention educator who works with youth who found this website while trying to find out the meaning of some current slang terms. However, I am a mom with a 12 year old girl who with my husband is trying to raise her in a Godly manner.

    I did not communicate my thought process well,and for that I humbly apologize because I do see how that statement may have been interpreted. I didn’t literally mean to “judge” the status of her soul/salvation. I realize that is not my place, nor do I personally know anything about the status of her relationship with God or Jesus. I do see how that probably was interpreted.

    What I was trying to get across was how easy it is to get pulled into the behaviors that Miley is displaying when you live in that “world”…Being famous and making lots of money does gain you access to the “world”…travel, material things, cool clothes, attention, other famous people, etc…experiences that most “normal” people never have access to…but there can be a huge trade off..and certain expectations to behave in certain ways. And let’s face it…in our culture, sex and flaunting sexuality does sell.

    Once you are then “in” that world, it can become very difficult not to be “of” that world too…It’s then easy to fall into the trap of doing “what everyone else is doing” to make money or “at least I’m not doing what that person over there is doing”. Once you start behaving in those ways, I do believe it opens doors…doors for the enemy to use.

    Are we not to bring other’s to God through our fruits, the fruits of the Spirit and should not that fruit be good, not bad? I somehow don’t think that pole dancing and showing “your stuff” is the good fruit God is talking about…so behaving in those ways in that position where thousands of young girls want to be just like that, to me is really running the risk of not only losing yourself to those decisions but also influencing a whole bunch of little (and not so little)girls in the wrong direction.

    Again, it was a comment made without a full explanation in a figurative, not literal sense and I am sorry if I offended anyone.

    It just makes me very sad when I see young girls behave in these ways and that the rest of the world seems ok with it. And I think it can just be a dangerous road to go down.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clear things up a bit.

    And Jonathan, thanks for your blog…it helps me to keep current with youth culture!

  20. Kelly, thanks for the clarification. No worries. I figured that you didn’t mean it that way. Hopefully none of us are trying to step in those shoes.

    I appreciate your comments.

    Thanks!

  21. Jeremy Q says:

    I think whats “old school” is EVERYONE in Hollywood doing the same immodest things to influence our youth. I can’t wait for someone to make a stand for big morals/values & live it out their whole career. That might actually turn some heads.

  22. Ashley says:

    I am indeed saddened by this interview that Miley gave. One of the things that stuck out to me, having grown up in a Christian home and now being a youth worker, is her statements of certain things, i.e. manner of dressing, not being wrong. It concerns me that she was, according to her statements, never taught that modesty is a scriptural principal that we as Christians are to live by. It also encourages me to make certain, that my youth KNOW the rights and wrongs. Sadly, we live in a time when churches can no longer depend upon their youth to learn right from wrong in the homes. No judgement on Miley’s situation, speaking only from experience with the kids in my youth group. Most have good intentions, but without putting the leg work into it, they don’t realize that everyday their children are being fed to the wolf(a.k.a. Satan). He is fighting with all his might to snatch an entire generation. A generation I believe God has called out to be the “last days” leaders. He’s using every weapon in his arsenal to attack, including statements from children(“I am very spiritual in my own way.”Miley). No matter what my particular opinions are on what Miley is doing right or wrong, it is clear that she doesn’t have a clear view on what it means to live a Christ-like life. That falls on the shoulders of those, whoever they may be, that were responsible for teaching Miley. It breaks my heart to read some of the words that she spoke and I sincerely pray that God will bring someone into her life, before her chances to positively impact today’s youth are ruined, that can help her to see what God’s Word really says. The pressure she lives under is only a magnified version of what the kids in our very own youth groups face day in and day out. We need to turn to God in prayer for all the youth of today, the influencers and the influencees.

  23. Rach says:

    Miley, there’s a big difference between whether or not you wear a pair of white shorts, and showing a very disturbingly UnGodly image in a video, then simulating a kiss with another girl onstage.
    I realise people are trying to be positive about her, but it’s difficult to see things like this and not be very concerned for her spiritual health. I am concerned that she doesn’t realise the power of her words (‘I can’t be saved’) and her actions.
    The Bible says we are not to live as the world does, but that we are to be different. Yes, we still eat food and wear clothes, but the sexual issue is a BIG difference, and she’s starting to not look too different.

  24. Erin says:

    When I first found out who Miley was I was like this girl is differnet and she says she is a christian. Finally A christian in hollywood. If she says she is a christian she should be acting or dresssing the way she is. It makes me mad now that she acts this way.