How the mighty are fallen. Justin Bieber, one of the biggest selling musical artists of the last few years and the focus of almost hysterical devotion from his millions of “Beliebers” (that is the first and last time I will ever type that word!) Has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence and drag racing. This follows some increasingly erratic and, sometimes, obnoxious behaviour from the teen idol who has always been very public about his Christian faith. He has been incredibly irresponsible, stupid and arrogant. And I feel a bit sorry for him.
Bieber signed his first recording contract at just 13 years of age and has been one of the biggest stars in pop since he was 15. Since his early teens he has been groomed for success, pandered to, told he was amazing and a star by adults who should have known better.
They should have known better because this has all happened before, many times over many decades. Children (and that’s what Bieber was when he started out, a child) have been made ridiculously famous, hyped as a star, a prodigy and given every material thing they could possibly want. Then, with a sad and repetitive inevitability, it all comes crashing down. Too many drink, drugs, money, violence, crime or sex scandals to recount. Too many fallen idols, dreams crushed and young people viewed as washed up has-beens before they’re in their mid 20s. It’s tragic.
You would think that this would put young people off of wanting fame. You’d think that they would look at all those ripped up posters of former teen idols and think that, maybe, that would be a poor life choice. The problem is that many, many kids see becoming famous as an aspiration in itself, regardless of what they are famous for. You just need to see the hoards of people queueing up to audition for Britain’s Got Talent or X Factor, 16 year old singers tearfully telling millionaire pop stars (who are introduced to the audience with almost worshipful reverence) that this is their last chance to escape normal life, to realise that fame is desirable to many.
We are selling a view of life to our young people which says that bright lights, stardom and appearing on the front page of celebrity magazines is the most desirable target for them to aim at. There is a view that normal life is something to be escaped from, that there is no value in it, that it is suffocating and imprisoning in a way which only fame and fortune can help you escape from it. Ordinary is seen as boring at best and soul destroying at worst. That we will only have any worth if we obtain celebrity status, even if we are only famous for being famous. This is the “dream” that Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes and scores of others have bought into, lived, loved and been trampled all over by.
Fame and celebrity are drugs which chew people up and spit them out. If I’d been given riches beyond my wildest dreams and had hundreds of sycophants surrounding me when I was 16, I think I may have succumbed to further temptations when the initial high started to wear off. I may also have believed everything I was being told about how great I was and started acting like I was better than all those around me. Some people may be strong enough in their teens to cope with all of that, but many aren’t and it’s irresponsible, bordering on abuse, to put them in that position.
Ordinary, everyday life can still be extraordinary. Jesus told us “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 GNT). God has used so many ordinary people for extraordinary things; shepherds, carpenters, fishermen, slaves and many more. Jesus lets us live life in all its fullness. All of the efforts people put into filling the voids in their lives with materialistic things like celebrity, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, cars and other empty things are pointless and just leave us wanting more. They destroy us inside. It is only through Jesus that we can finally live life in the way we have been designed to live it. He sets us free, rather than binding us to destructive influences.
If we stopped reading the magazine’s and papers which sell celebrity as better than us, if we stopped watching the programmes which depict ordinary life as not worth living, if we reduced our demand for them then the supply would shrink. We may just start to break the self destructive cycle we are getting our kids into and start to show them that normal life is well worth living. It can be wonderful, exciting, unpredictable, fun and, with Jesus, full. An ordinary life worth living in an extraordinary way.