The reason I became a journalist passionate about arts and entertainment writing is because of Rolling Stone’s 2008 cover story. It’s called “Britney Spears: Inside an American Tragedy,” and it completely changed my life. The explicit details about her coming of age in a liberal, materialistic culture, and publicly crashing and burning as a result, was a heartbreaking story for me to read as a sophomore in college. I wanted to run to go find her and tell her it would all be all right, but knew that was impossible – she would probably tell me to go away, or, use some four letter word on me, as she did to many of her fans as depicted in the RS cover story. Her blatant anger and anxiety, captured in public temper tantrums in the article, proved to me that she just needed to be loved, and as I absorbed the thousands of words describing the pop princess’ brokenness on the iconic magazine’s pages, I began putting prayers for her in my prayer journal. People thought I was crazy when I brought it up as a topic of conversation at my high school Bible study group, but when church leaders say it’s important for us as Christians to ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His, I take them seriously – the tears I wiped from my eyes at the conclusion of the article to me meant that my heart was breaking for Britney Spears – so, I thought to myself, God must care for her too.
Yesterday, after I composed a piece on Katy Perry for Christianity Today (check out the blog post here: “Katy Perry: Does Everyone Really Like a Good Girl Gone Bad?), I realize how important it is we have hearts for celebrities’ struggles just as much as our friends’ next door. The importance of keeping culture’s influencers’ feet on the “path of the straight and narrow” is crucial to our well-being as a society – and, Katy Perry has strayed far from her Pentecostal Christian roots, most likely because of the extremely sheltered and oppressive existence it was (as you’ll read in my blog post, she wasn’t even allowed to eat Lucky Charms, because her parents believed ‘luck is of Lucifer’).
So, what happens when a sheltered Christian girl leaves the “path of the straight and narrow” to hit the L.A. club scene? Perry argues the rainbow road she’s found is full of “sparks” and “light” – as she describes in her #1 hit single “Firework” – and this is discouraging for Christians to hear. Basically, Perry has left the plain and boring, Biblically-mandated “path of the straight and narrow” behind for something bigger and better – a life that includes a whole lot of same-sex hookups, drunkenness, and male anatomy. Perry, and 22 million of her Twitter followers, would argue this is the only life worth living. But, where’s Jesus? Esther and Daniel get brief mentions in her songs “Who Am I Living For?” and “Wide Awake,” but, for the most part, Perry seems to have left her redeeming homeboy in the dust.
Perry’s overtly sexual image encapsulates the Millennial generation at large – free thinkers who value acceptance and individuality above all else. As I watched her Part of Me documentary unfold, I was moved by several YouTube clips of fans thanking Perry for how her music encouraged them through tough times and helped them embrace their individuality, freedom, creative expression, and individuality when no one else (including parents) would. However, when some of her screaming fans belted out a line about taking shots and kissing each other outside one of Perry’s tour venues, I wished I could tell them it’s not Katy Perry’s magic fairy dust they need – it’s Jesus.
More than anything else in the world, I wish that, instead of thinking of the “straight and narrow road” as a boring, brown, dusty desert road going nowhere, Jesus’ followers could define their walks of faith as paths lined with trees and flowers, with squirrels scampering across ever so often, with fireworks exploding overhead and adventures waiting around every corner. Perry alludes to this in her most recent music video (embedded below), but never straight up says it, so I will – all I want is for Perry to explode with the excitement that comes with teaming up with Jesus! Sure, sometimes I feel like a freak for saying stuff like this, but I believe what I believe is true for everyone – that enthusiasm, passion and fervor is what Jesus wants for all of us. I never knew living out the Gospel could be fun – but it is. And that truth is SO different from what I was taught inside the walls of my traditional, conservative church back home, and what I think so many of my fellow believers get wrong – that, faith is NOT boring. Yet, flowers didn’t start blooming around me until I crucified myself with Christ (i.e., got a tattoo and got baptized), which was a painful, but necessary and worthwhile experience (p.s., Katy Perry has a Jesus tattoo too…I wonder if she’s been baptized?). Given, salvation is not attained in these experiences themselves – it’s more about the internal dialogue going on as it’s happening.
So, as Brooke Fraser sings in Hillsong’s “Like Incense,” I believe God’s commandments and love are boundless, with no limits, and I wouldn’t want to do life any other way – I just wish Katy Perry would agree, and wake up to this truth so she could team up with Jesus more obviously – they’d make a dynamic duo.
Check out the article I wrote for Christianity Today on Katy Perry’s feature-length documentary, “Part of Me” – “Katy Perry: ‘everyone likes a good girl gone bad'”, and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, know I’m praying for these two celebrities, but there’s a lot more out there and I can’t do it alone – what celebrities are YOU praying for today, and why? They’ll thank you later. 🙂