Why I Like Miley Cyrus, the Anti-Celebrity (Part II)

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If you missed part one, it’s here.

I’ve had a tough job defending my defense of Miley Cyrus against the VMA reaction. I’ve kept having to check myself and not get defensive.

Am I sure about this? Seems I don’t get to defend her easily.

Some people think she’s trying to gain approval pellets. And some people really don’t want her to have them.

I didn’t really get that reaction. She seems unconcerned to me. But more importantly, I still don’t get my own reaction. Maybe I’m too concerned with being a sinner to be one who casts the first stone. And I’m not trying to win martyr credits. I just know I’m as broken and in need of grace as anyone.

But something struck me in the face watching the aftermath: what she did really does matter.

More than we realize.

And I want to move on, but I’ve got to sort this out. I’m trying not to speculate about anyone, including Miley. Whether Team Cyrus was surprised by it or was laughing before the show at how fun it was going to be swimming in their piles of money, I don’t know. I did some speculating yesterday on why she’s asserting her freedom and whatnot (and incidentally, it turns out I was right–she felt restricted).

But today I’m recomposing and I want to talk about our “LIKE” buttons with regard to celebrity culture, and to understand why I responded to a familiar, over-sexualized performance at the MTV Video Music Awards with shock and dismay, when I know that tradition basically dictates “scintillating,” “eye-popping,” and “controversial.”

The reason I felt provoked does matter. I’m a dad. And if it didn’t affect you as a parent that’s fine, but I believe this is important and I need to sort this out. And I believe others need me to sort this out. For myself.

First, plenty of people lack concern for God. It wasn’t that. I don’t hold performers to standards they don’t hold. Regardless of what she believes in secret about Christianity and Jesus, I’ve seen plenty people flaunt their disrespect for social mores and then praise God from the podium. Not judging.

And it wasn’t the fact that she could influence my daughters to start twerking. If my kids get that idea, as their parent I’d need to take some responsibility.

“Kids, that’s how someone acts who doesn’t understand love.”

But the ones shaming and blaming, they don’t understand love either. Love is patient, kind, and rejoices with the truth. It doesn’t condemn. Jesus himself said, “Neither do I condemn you.”

No, in my quiet place, I have to conclude: what I felt was the dual-shock of being grieved for her and proud of her.

See, I’m a PK and I’m basically a rotten kid. That’s my default. Whether I showed up this way or whether it was something I picked up, I don’t know. It’s my fault, but it sort of isn’t too. I’m human and screwed up. That’s pretty much what it means.

images-1And what I can say is, some of my desire to rebel came from the people who were so afraid I would. Maybe much of that desire. The love they offered had a lot of fear mixed in. And it wasn’t my parents or anyone specifically. It was a general idea within Evangelicalism that condemns, lives in a bubble, and is basically for much that Jesus was against.

I was proud of Miley because I saw her playing that up. It wasn’t alluring. That wasn’t the point. She was rubbing something in our faces. And that was the “grief” part.

I watched her sticking out her tongue and flaunting her lack of respect for the LIKEs, the approval pellets, and I thought, I remember feeling that way just before the big painful wake up…

And also, from another point of view, she was an artist performing, and she was nailing it. Say what you want about the vapid, untalented pop industry, but she knew exactly what she was doing. And nothing in her had anything to do with being “attractive.” She was presenting an image of “Hannah Montana gone bad.” And no one can deny that image was held up like nobody’s business–and set on fire.

Which she’s right, it isn’t anyone’s business.

But we have a strange messed-up relationship with celebrity in this country. And so many people ignore it and other countries hate us for it and we are constantly missing the whole point. We stop at being provoked. She knows she was provoking.

And this is why I was proud—embarrassing as it is—because a “good girl,” one of America’s sweethearts who could just as easily be a PK, used a page out of a more serious artist’s playbook and holds it up like a mirror to our love-hate with celebrity itself, the same celebrity that people tried to control me with:

We own you. We’re entitled to know everything about you and treat you like our own. You gave up your privacy when you wrote that hit song, performed in that movie, published that big book, were born into a pastor’s family. 

People want what they assume you have so badly, they stare and compare until they start acting like they are you. It’s called entitlement and we all do it. We forget they’re just human beings. People with flaws and scars. And we want them to be super-people to justify the fact that we aren’t the privileged ones. And we simultaneously try to tear them down so we can have something they have.

And if we can’t stop doing that, I think we’re all doomed.

America exports too much entertainment for us not to get this. We must change how we treat people with the curse called “celebrity.”

We are not entitled to “Likes.” We shouldn’t even be giving them or receiving them because the only ones that matter come from a higher source.

Miley’s not in trouble and she was born savvy about celebrity. You don’t live Hannah Montana and not learn this. The lines aren’t blurred for her, they’re crossed and switched and baited, and our tizzies tip the cash pot to the lowest common denominator.

The Bible tells a story. The disciples saw the Pharisees leading people astray and said, “Jesus! Do something.”

Jesus says, “Leave them alone. The blind will lead the blind into a pit.”

Exactly, Jesus! That’s the problem! And you’re just letting them do it!

But Jesus leaves it there.

Yes, it hurts to see our kids lash out. But see deeper. See the disregard. And see why they’re doing it in the first place.

“Only God can judge.”

Ask God how he feels. Is he “concerned” about Miley and all the people she’s leading astray? Or is he never concerned or worried or anxious because he knows their future, the future beyond the suffering and pain they need that will lead them back to him?

What should we do about wayward artists who try to show us where we’re missing the mark in being known for our love?

I think maybe we thank them? Or at least defend them.

Since God cares so much better than we do, should we do anything, or should we simply bear the implication?

We’ll soon move on and await the next offensive thing to come down the pike. But before we do, consider how you did on this one. Replay the game tape in your mind and consider how you responded.

Did you feel provoked? Revolted?

Feel that. Then figure out what it says and decide what you need to do to line up with what God wants from you. And remember he doesn’t need anything from you.

I could have used someone who understood the difference between caring and concern is the difference between love and fear.

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