Miley’s Folly . . . And Ours

28 Aug

The big story this week has been Miley Cyrus’ raunchy act on the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night. The former child star was involved in a sexually-charged performance that has been harshly criticized by people from all walks of life. This performance was not just disgusting to defenders of traditional family values, even Hollywood celebrities and Cyrus’ own friends were shocked and disappointed. She has very few defenders and many detractors. And she is loving every minute of it.

I believe Miley Cyrus has one goal. Her goal is not to be an artist. Her goal is not to corrupt young minds with a message of sexual immorality. Her goal is not to make a difference in her world or in her generation. Miley Cyrus has one goal: the promotion of Miley Cyrus. She accomplished that goal beyond her wildest dreams Sunday night.

But here’s the thing: when Miley Cyrus was doing Hannah Montana and all the other stuff on Disney, she almost certainly had the same goal she has today: the goal of self-promotion in the hopes of making big money and earning great fame.

As a Christian, I see it as a real problem in our American Christian culture that we hate the new Miley and we love the old Miley. In reality, we ought to love Miley as a person always but to accept her as a role model for our children should have been something we never allowed in the first place. Are we really comfortable saying it’s OK to be a self-centered, self-promoting fame-seeker as long as we don’t wear a racy costume to do it? Are we comfortable with holding up celebrity culture as something that is ever worth emulating? Are we cool with telling our kids to follow people who have a wholesome image knowing that this very image has been carefully crafted to win admiration and to build a fan base?

One of the best ways Christians can be counter-cultural is to reject the values of our celebrity culture. Though it may have some value, I don’t believe spending all our time shouting from the mountaintops about the evils of gyrating dancers is going to make much difference. But maybe if we ourselves were not self-promoters, if we were not in the grip of greed and if we were not focused on exalting self rather than Jesus, then maybe our children would have a role model worth following.

We need to stop pointing our children to athletes and entertainers as role models. Enjoy the talents of good singers and actors and ballplayers but don’t hold them up as examples to imitate. Many, if not most, celebrities live in ways that are totally focused on self-promotion. For a few celebrities (think the Kardashians) self-promotion is what made them a celebrity in the first place. This focus on self, this hunger for people to like us, this desire to be famous, it all runs counter to the way of Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we want to teach our children that it is fine if nobody ever knows their name and it is fine if nobody ever considers them a success. What we should want for our children is not fame or money or power or an important, impressive sounding career. What we should want for them is a heavenly “well done, good and faithful servant.” Are you content with your children making good money and staying out of trouble or do you mainly want them to grow up to love Jesus?
Are you content in your own life with loving and serving Jesus even if you aren’t impressive to anyone or outwardly successful?

What I saw Monday morning when I read about all this was not mainly sex. What I saw was pride. And pride is not only Miley’s folly, it is also ours.

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