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The Prophet of Pop


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Today we rage on to the end of the Justin Bieber Never Say Never Bible Study!  If you haven’t been following, the Justin Bieber Bible Study was a booklet sent out to youth leaders to promote his latest film.  In part 1 we looked at the discussion guide as a whole, and in part 2 we put the introductory portions under our prophetic microscope.  Now we have arrived at the real heart of this text: The discussion questions themselves.

If you’ve read a teen Bible Study before then you can probably guess how this one is structured, but if you haven’t let me break it down really quickly:

1. Write a paragraph introduction on a really broad theme that connects to the subject, in this case the engaging plot arcs of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

2. Ask questions related to that theme such as “For what things should we pray?” and “Have you ever used “God’s will” as a cover up for your own plans or ideas?”

3. Pull a scripture quote completely out of context and apply it to the paragraph and questions.  Then, rather than letting the verse speak for itself, provide the obvious analysis.  Repeat as needed.

4. At the end, write a summary about what the reader has learned in the study.

The recommended discussions for Never Say Never are broken into four sections: Discerning God’s plan for your life, the power of prayer, the importance of Godly friendships, and Goal Setting: Hard work and perseverance.  Here are a few of the highlights:

“Wealth, honor, pleasure – these are goals that the world promotes.  But God wants us to focus on other things, even if he creates a path for us in the entertainment industry.”

“Let us commit to being loyal and never allow weeds to grow on the paths of our friendships.”

“Perhaps the most impactful aspect of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the intense effort Justin puts forth to accomplish his goal of sharing his talent and happy disposition with his ever growing fan base.”

One key to understanding these discussion guides is knowing that they are geared towards people of different denominational backgrounds.  As a result, the discussions have to be very broad.  There is no real discussion of theology and any potential points of contention have to be glossed over.  The end result is that the study becomes more focused on humanity than God or the Bible.  This is evidenced here even in the chosen themes, which include sections on friendships and goal setting.

If those problems are consistent in typical non-denominational Bible studies based on biblical themes, they are multiplied in a study based entirely on the concert film for a 16 year old superstar.  There simply isn’t much depth to the source material, and what is there gets lost in the conflicting messages of the document.  Life isn’t about wealth or looks, yet here is Justin in designer clothes with a perfect haircut.  Life is about setting goals, but is the goal really superstardom?

The issue is simple: If you believe that the gospel is about giving of yourself and not being rich, it is just really hard to hold up the story of a famous pop singer as an example for daily living.  In fact, it could give teenagers the downright wrong impression of what it means to be a Christian.  Prayer is important, discerning God’s will is important, having solid friendships is important, and goal setting is important – but pop music and its excesses are not important.  They are fun, frivolous, and sometimes inspiring – but important they are not.

Yes, this movie is worthy of discussion with teenagers in faith communities, but at the guidance of promotional material generated for the film?  Not quite.  Justin Bieber, while talented and successful, isn’t the ultimate example of faithful living.  To try and make his journey that significant is not only misleading – it is unfair to him.  In making his story relate-able to teenagers the writers have made Justin the center of the discussion, and the problems that presents far outweigh any of the good that could have been done here.

This movie having a Bible study still baffles me as much as it did two weeks ago, but I can at least say that at the end of this I actually think Justin Bieber is a good person and not to mention a very talented kid.  But, is his movie worth a Bible study?  Hardly.

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