Longing for the Real “Justin Bieber”

This week my daughter and I went to see the new Justin Bieber movie, “Never Say Never.” My daughter is 22. It was her 4th time to see it (…I know, right?). She thought that I would like it so she wanted to go see it together. I try to be a good dad, even of a 22-year-old, so I went. I put on my groovy 3D glasses, and…SHE WAS RIGHT! In fact, it was one of my favorite top five films in the past year. I’m not joking. It was very entertaining. And Justin Bieber, who just turned 17 yesterday (yes, I know these things now), is an incredibly talented entertainer. And boy is he entertaining. Beautiful voice. GREAT dance moves. Good looks. Seems to have a good heart and is eager to please his young fans in the right ways. He’s the real deal. And he’s surrounded by adults who know how to protect him for now, while making him a huge success with teenage girls. Might even take my wife to see it next week—as a good husband of course. Here’s a trailer here.

But the parts of this film that were so entertaining were also the parts that were so disturbing. Girls from 3 to 30 were crying their eyes out with broken hearts as they watched Justin Bieber sing and dance and flatter thousands of girls—each seemingly thinking he was meaning all of it only for them. And his songs do flatter as they promise his undying, devoted love forever. There is a YouTube clip widely seen that captures the broken heart of a three-year-old girl that you can watch here. Cute, but kinda sad too. She listened to his love songs and actually thought (dreamed) they were sung to her. Teenage girls in the film after his concerts looked straight into the camera, so brokenhearted, intensely crying, saying with all seriousness and sincerity, “I love him SO MUCH!” It’s actually embarrassing to watch. And that in itself is part of the entertainment of the film. Unfortunately.

What does this all really mean? I can only conclude that there is something about Justin Bieber not seen since the early days of The Beatles and Beatlemania. There’s just something about him even noticeable by me—the smooth, silky, perfect beauty of his voice, the stunning, almost beautiful attractiveness of his face (and hair!), the strikingly cool dance moves that he makes look so easy, the confident assurance of love and belonging and forever in his lyrics, the heart pounding energy and power in his music—the entire package of Justin Bieber hits at something deep within the hearts and longings and souls of these girls (and women). They want to belong to him. They want to be with him. They want to be loved like that by someone so beautiful and glorious and caring and great like that. They want his songs to be true of them—that he loves them and will be together with them… forever.

What none of these girls realize is that he has hit something inside of them that IS meant for Someone. It is a deep-seated, hidden, heart-aching longing for Jesus Christ—their Creator, their Stunningly Attractive Groom and Glorious Champion and Loving Redeemer who will reach out his hand to them and bring them to his side and sing beautiful love songs to them about forever, and mean it. Justin Bieber has tapped into that longing, and their hearts are broken, and they can’t help but cry and ache for him. Reason has been left at the door and the heart is spilling its aching pain out for a Savior. That heart-aching longing is not silly. Far from it. It is a longing that is real, for someone real, forever. And I have it too.

C.S. Lewis captures this well in his book, “Weight of Glory” (Chapter 1)

“Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. …If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

…The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to turn out so well for the 17-year-old Justin Bieber. No human soul can receive that kind of non-stop worship from so many people and not be destroyed by it—bit-by-bit, year-by-year. He seems to be handling it well right now. But he’s only 17. I hope, even pray, I’m wrong.

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