He says he has a personal relationship with the Son of God and it’s just part of who he is.
“Basically, I don’t even consider religion,” the 16-year-old pop singer recently told the Associated Press. “Like, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I’m here.”
But is his faith real? Or is it part of a slick publicity package?
“Justin’s mother recently went on record about the faith of her famous son and their family,” writes Movie Guide coordinating editor Jeff Holder. “His mom, Pattie Mallette, had an encounter with God when she began attending a non-denominational Christian church. She was part of starting Jubilee Christian Fellowship and sang on the worship teams.
“She raised Justin to know God and he now professes a faith in Jesus. While there may be ‘stage mothers’ who are praying to God for their children to be a media success, Pattie and Justin never prayed for that. In fact, they tried to go slow as success began to come and have concluded that Justin’s singing career is God’s will and the plan for him,” writes Holder. “Patti says, ‘I want people to pray for him – and for me. I’m his “covering.” He’s my son and a minor. I’m held accountable by God and by the law to protect him, which includes covering him spiritually, because there are spiritual laws.'”
She told Baptist Press that she keeps him grounded through prayer, by surrounding him with good people, and by “constantly reminding him that he’s here for a reason.”
“Justin has a strong faith,” she told Holder, “but he’s young and hasn’t come completely into himself yet. He has free will like the rest of us and will ultimately make his own choices. But what I can do is continue to pray and surround him with strong Christian and moral influences.”
He blesses crowds at the conclusion of his concerts by exclaiming, “Jesus loves you!” He often prays for his fans and says he would like his fans to pray for him.
When he accepted the male artist award at the Teen Choice Awards on Sunday, he lost no time in giving Jesus a mention. “I wanna say that anything is possible if you set your mind to it,” he declared, grasping the award’s blue-and-yellow surfboard that towered over him by several inches. “You gotta keep God first and always remember to keep family first.”
Then, pointing toward the crowd filling Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre with a sweeping gesture, Bieber added, “Jesus loves every one of you!”
“It’s hardly unusual for celebrities to give God a shout-out at award shows,” observes Cathleen Falsani, writing for the Religious News Service. “But what young Bieber said is different. It wasn’t the rote “I want to thank Mylordandsaviorjesuschrist” that we’ve heard so many times from the awards podium, often uttered by artists collecting prizes for music or films that would be hard-stretched to conceive as honoring the Creator.
“Bieber, who is never shy about talking about his Christian faith, went beyond the approved script for Hollywood expressions of faith, invoking the “J-word” and taking it several steps further by telling whoever was listening that they are, in fact, loved by Jesus — and not the less specific ‘God.'”
It’s a message he’s offered before, telling Entertainment Tonight earlier this year: “If you put God first and remember to always stay humble and always be gracious, then anything can happen.”
“All the blessings I have come to me from God,” he told Rolling Stone in February, adding that he feels obliged to “plant little seeds” of faith with his fans. “I’m not going to tell them, `You need Jesus,’ but I will say at the end of my show, `God loves you.”‘
“The poignancy of Bieber’s comments about Jesus,” writes Falsani, “made after receiving his award from Sean Kingston, a close friend and touring partner who had been badly injured in a jet-ski accident, surely was not lost on Beliebers glued to their TV (and computer) screens. For weeks after Kingston’s accident in Miami, Bieber took to Twitter offering his prayers for his friend and asking fans to pray for him, too. When Kingston left the hospital in June after making a full recovery, Bieber tweeted, ‘God is so good. … I love you, bro.'”
“Justin Bieber, like many teenagers, says what’s on his mind,” said Diane Winston, an expert on media and religion at the University of Southern California. “After winning four awards, he felt Jesus’ love. He probably felt enough of Jesus’ love for everyone in the room, and he said so. … Last night’s audience saw that uncensored and spontaneous.”
“Still, Bieber’s invoking of Jesus is unusual for a celebrity,” notes Falsani. “Image is everything for celebrities, and most try to appeal to the widest audience possible. Most teen stars are more carefully produced and packaged than a pair of glass slippers, polished to perfection (at least on the outside).
“Apart from giving superficial nods to faith as a means of assuring their fans’ parents that they are inoffensive entertainment, it’s rare to hear a teen star talk about his or her spiritual beliefs with any depth and consistency.
“Perhaps having reached the highest stratosphere of ubercelebrity has made Bieber immune from worrying about alienating his audience. The lad has 11.6 million fans on Twitter — known collectively as ‘Beliebers.’ That’s larger then the population of more than a few countries.
“Or maybe Bieber represents not only a new breed of celebrity — allowing his fans unprecedented access to his life and thoughts via more than 10,000 tweets since 2009 — but a new generation of ‘believers.’
“The way Bieber speaks about his Christian faith is neither defensive nor offensive,” says Falsani. “He doesn’t sound like he’s trying to be right, pious or triumphant. Rather, the way he speaks about his beliefs feels like a genuine extension of the way he connects to his fans.
“Authentic. Humble. Loving.”