I would like to "weigh in" on the Miley Cyrus buzz because of its rather philosophical implications, and significance for parenting and youth ministry.
I have heard many, including dyed-in-the-wool secularists, say that her performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs was "unbelievable” and "shocking." Why, I ask, would you be so shocked? Miley, just last year, posted that she had essentially embraced an atheistic nihilism. In a tweet in March 2012, with vocabulary chillingly reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s, "Cosmos," she wrote,
‘You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, all the things that matter for evolution) weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in stars. So forget Jesus. Stars died so you can live.’ - Miley Cyrus
It seems safe to say that Miley is one of those young adults who grew up in church and professed a fuzzy family faith, which never became her own, and she now has a forsaken faith. This story is too frequently repeated with our young adults, brought up in church and ditching the faith they grew up around because it seems unscientific and unsupportable with facts and reason. I am burdened at how we lose our kids because we do not consider it important enough to teach them how to think about the Christian faith. We tell them only to believe it, and, like the atheists, set a false dichotomy between faith and evidence.
"Well, we can't really explain it, you just have to believe it." Do we think that the warm fuzzy feeling of a family faith is strong enough to sustain them when that faith is fractured in the daily experiences, hardships and temptations of the real world? Fractured faith is common, but it is not lethal and may be transformed into a forged, firm and fruitful faith, which is what we desire for our children to develop. I think a big part of the problem is that we do not take seriously enough, as adults, and as churches, that our children are on temporary loan to us and they will spend the majority of their life's journey, barring early death of course, as adults, just like us. Childhood is fleeting, a mere particle of the ephemeral “vapor” that life already is.
Our greatest accomplishment as parents, then, is to prepare our children to live without us, but too many tend to hold on, and some try to hold on forever, which is impossible. I think the imagery of Psalm 127 could be helpful. Yes, children are the Lord's heritage, but they come into our lives from Him as "arrows" in a warrior's quiver to do battle with the enemy and lead in society; to defend the city from dangerous adversaries, and to even calmly negotiate with them in the city gate. Arrows are not for holding on to, they are offensive weapons which extend our influence into areas we cannot reach ourselves. We do not live around them much these days, but Israel was around them all the time, so it made sense that they ended up in this psalm.
This ancient poem was a Psalm of Ascent, meaning that Israelites sang it on their way up to Jerusalem during the annual feasts. It was amongst their "Top Twenty" hits, so to speak. It was very relevant to them, because it answered to a very real problem; the threat of losing the Lord's influence in the world due to enemies all around. How can it possibly be prevented? Not by worrying about it, and sitting up eating the "bread of sorrows" but by raising godly offspring who, when they quickly become adults, will be the defenders of the Lord's ways, even in places of great authority.
I am burdened at the lack of apologetics in our churches. Our children do not have a strong and robust faith partly because they are treated like kids and largely baby-sat in our youth groups in an environment of feel-good emotionalism and comic routines, which will never sustain them when the harshness of life and hostility of atheism fractures their faith. Fractures can be healed, but they must never be ignored. We must also anticipate the things that might fracture our kids' faith, and do some fracture prevention by strengthening that faith through teaching them not just what Christians believe, but why we believe it and why it matters, and how it really does make the best sense of the real world, human existence and experience.
Miley, due to her manifesto in a simple tweet last March, reveals that hers is much more than just another case of a Disney kid gone bad, but one who is philosophically altering her world picture, probably because she was never taught to really think about the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Consequently, that faith has been forsaken, and never really owned by her. Her shenanigans on stage at the VMAs are nothing more than the warranted moral display of her materialistic worldview. Some may say she is doing it merely for shock value, not to convey a worldview; she can't be thinking that deeply. Young adults are not idiots all the time (and some are not most of the time). Their philosophical abstractions are developing. Something about materialism now makes sense to Miley, and she has embraced it, not only in her beliefs, but in her behavior as well.
*This Article Published 8/30/2013