Justin Bieber's unlikely hero: Job

Justin BieberWhile researching my last post about Justin Bieber, I came across these remarkable words in an interview with Justin and his film’s producer and director after the London premiere of the film. These are Justin’s words:

Who is my biggest role model? Does it have to be in this day and age? OK, Job. Seriously! Do you want to know why? Job from the Bible… So, he got tortured, he got his family killed, everything was taken away from him – his job, his cattle, everything – and he still remained faithful to God and still trusted God after everything was taken away. He didn’t know why it happened but he still put his faith in God and remembered that everything happens for a reason. So, that’s why. Read the Book of Job.

What other (then) 16-year-old young man would choose Job as a role model, and for that reason?

I can’t help wondering what this might reveal about Justin’s inner struggles. In his film Never Say Never he is shown on a visit back to his small home town in Canada and meeting up with his old friends. I wonder how painful it had been for Justin to be taken away from his home and friends, and from all he had known except for his mother, at the age of 14. Perhaps this was when he felt like Job after he lost everything.

But does he now feel like Job at the end of the book, when everything was restored? Having earned $53 million in the last year, according to Wikipedia, he clearly has material resources, which he didn’t have before. He also has a celebrity girlfriend. But have these things brought him happiness? Does he have a real home and real friends? Or does he still feel like Job in the midst of his travels?

Money and fame can’t bring him, or anyone else, happiness. But faith in God can. I hope and pray that Justin holds on to that faith through bad times and good, and continues to speak out openly about it.

Never Say Never, says Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber: Never Say NeverI would normally have said “never” to Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. It’s certainly not a film I would have gone to the cinema to see, not least because I would have hated being surrounded by screaming teenage girls. But on a long-haul flight last week (the trip is why posting has been slow recently) I had the chance to watch this documentary about the Jesus-tattooed teen idol. And I was pleasantly surprised – not by the music and dance, which is not my style, and not by the shots of and interviews with Justin’s teen fans, but by the positive Christian message I found in the film.

It seems this was not accidental. Huffington Post reported a few months ago on how Bieber was being deliberately marketed as a “Christian icon for the tween set”. The article notes how in the film

several scenes show Bieber praying before concerts, and [his mother] Mallette discusses how God brought stability to her life as a single teenage mother.

Well, if the film gives millions of young people worldwide a positive view of the Christian faith, that is something wonderful. But I see something more in the movie, a spiritual lesson about what we can accomplish by faith if we “Never Say Never”. In the words of the film’s tagline, as Christians we need to

Find Out What’s Possible If You Never Give Up.

The basic story is a simple one (spoiler alert if you really don’t know how it ends, so far). Small town kid shows talent on the drums and singing. His mother films him and puts the results on YouTube. (These 2007 videos are on his old YouTube channel – his recent releases are on a newer channel which has now had a staggering 1.7 BILLION views.) A talent manager stumbles across his videos and is impressed enough to sign him up. He sings his way round lots of small venues to get publicity for his first album. The album goes platinum and suddenly Justin is one of the hottest properties in the world. He has a dream to fill the 20,000 seat Madison Square Garden in New York for a concert. People tell him it is impossible. But his manager goes ahead with the booking – and, as reported by Wikipedia as well as in the film, he becomes

The youngest person to ever sell out the garden. … It took 22 minutes for Justin Bieber to sell out the Garden.

Justin refused to give up and achieved his supposedly impossible dream. The film encourages us all to do the same.

So how is this a Christian message? I understand how some people might say that this is secular motivational teaching with a Christian veneer. But then a lot of secular motivational teaching is Christian preaching purged of its overtly religious material. The Christian message here is a simple one: if God has given you a dream, even one which looks impossible, and has called you to make it a reality, then step out in faith, expect his help and blessing, and don’t give up until the dream comes true.

While I have not seen this made explicit, it seems to me that Justin and his mother see his career as some kind of mission from and for God, which they are pursuing by faith. I don’t know if they know the Seven Mountains Mandate teaching which I discussed in a recent post. But Justin has shown in practice how, with the right dream and a lot of hard work, and with what some might see as luck but others as God’s blessing, it is possible even for a young outsider to get right to the peak of the arts and entertainment mountain, to use the position as a powerful Christian witness, and to bring the kingdom of God to that peak.

In the film Justin says

There’s gonna be times where people tell you that you can’t live your dreams. This is what I tell them: Never say never.

If the dreams are from God, then: Amen!

Justin Bieber's Jesus tattoo: why in his armpit?

Justin Bieber's Jesus tattooTeen idol and professing Christian Justin Bieber has a new tattoo, it is reported, and the tattoo reads יֵשׁוּעַ, i.e. the name “Jesus” in Hebrew. At least it should read that if correctly spelled, which it is not in the text superimposed on the image I reproduce here.

This image is allegedly of part of Bieber’s body. But I had trouble finding the supposed “Jesus” tattoo. The mark to the right of Bieber’s navel is presumably the seagull tattoo mentioned in a Los Angeles Times article. But where is the new tattoo? Apparently it is what is just visible in the image underneath the armpit.

What message, I wonder, is 17-year-old Bieber trying to put across by having the name of Jesus written on one of the most hidden and smelliest parts of his body? In an interview last November he clearly stated:

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 perhaps he intends to honour Jesus by having his name tattooed on his armpit. But I can understand some thinking that in fact he intends to ridicule the name by his choice of where on his body he had the tattoo done.

Here in the UK he would not be allowed to get a tattoo, as he is under 18. The law sensibly protects minors from having their bodies disfigured in ways they might regret in adulthood. Unfortunately Bieber, a Canadian who is said to have had his latest tattoo done in Israel, has not benefited from this protection. But from this point of view it is perhaps for the best that the tattoo is in an easily hidden place.

This time it is not Joel Watts but his co-blogger Gez who is the author of the post at Unsettled Christianity where I found this news, The new Bieber Jesus tattoo. No doubt they have chosen this topic in an effort to lift their end of the month Alexa ratings enough to dethrone Jim West from his #1 Biblioblogger spot. So I offer this post to support their effort – and hoping it won’t do my own ranking any harm. Anyway I am following in a venerable tradition of bibliobloggers such as John Hobbins and David Ker posting about celebrity tattoos.

CORRECTION: The correct Hebrew spelling for the name “Jesus” is not יְשׁוּעַ as I wrote at first, but יֵשׁוּעַ, i.e. with the sign for a long “e” (tsere) rather than a short one (sheva) under the initial consonant. Both are pronounced “Yeshua”. Bieber’s tattoo artist presumably didn’t know which to use, as he seems to have omitted this vowel sign completely.