Monday morning, and all throughout the day, the internet was abuzz with talk of Miley Cyrus. The same was true around the water coolers, lunch tables and break rooms in this country.
People were expressing honest, sincere disgust at the despicable show that the lovable Ms. Montana gave the world on the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. Actions so repulsive, so sexually explicit and deviant that I can’t, and won’t bother revisiting them here. You’ve seen the video, or you wouldn’t be reading this article in the first place.
So last night, after the hoopla had settled from a boil to a simmer, the New Evangelicals all began their shark-tank-jumping pontification about “Poor Miley.”
They spoke of how hard her life has been, being thrust into the limelight at a young age, and the demands of child stardom. They spoke of her “crying out for help.” They likened her to their own children. They repeatedly said how they were praying for Miley and they were going to “Love her to Jesus.”
I was furious. I wanted to vomit. I was grinding my teeth with anger.
Now, this is nothing new for me lately. The past five years have been a nightmarish hell and even before that, in the years after my very painful divorce, I went from the happy-go-lucky, class-clown I had always been, to a somber, seldom-smiling man.
But last night my anger mixed with absolute disgust.
See...I live in the same area as the Cyrus family. Cyrus spotting was a local sport around here. I know what church they attended. (Not the church I formerly attended, but similar in size) I heard the talk about how nice a guy Ol’ Billy Ray is. I also heard how over- indulged sweet little Miley has always been. Not a bad kid, but she wasn’t used to hearing the word “No” very often, if ever.
You’d have to understand the culture around here to grasp the reaction in the Christian world to Miley’s lovely interpretive dance on Sunday night. Particularly in Franklin, which has become to the Christian media world what Nashville is to Country Music. It’s the hub. (so they think) It’s the Evangelical Vatican. The big publishing houses are here. The big Christian musicians have almost all moved here. The writers, the producers, the movie people. There is a lot of Christian Media money in the Franklin community...a LOT of it. And, as is true everywhere, money changes everything. Mega churches exist like flocks of seagulls around here. I don’t know the number, but I’m guessing that the percentage of residents attending church on Sunday mornings here is staggering. It’s not 100%, but I bet it’s closer than anywhere outside of the Amish community in Lancaster, PA. I have often joked with my friends, that if I was a criminal, I’d simply buy an old U-Haul truck and raid entire neighborhoods on Sunday mornings. Because all the residents are at church, and all the cops are directing traffic on the streets leading to the churches. It’s practically the badlands around here on Sundays until about 11AM.
And almost every church is in, or approaching mega-church status. (A megachurch has at least 2000 attendees) I don’t know where these people all come from. I wonder if there are alien pods stacked out back.
One of the reasons these mega churches become mega churches is because, not only do famous music and publishing folks attend those churches, but once word gets out that they go to ______ Church, then every aspiring singer / songwriter / author / musician / and stargazer in the area starts going there too. Why do you think “Praise and Worship” is so talent laden here? Because the cupboard is full to bursting with eager talent, just waiting to be discovered.
The trap that most of these folks fall into is being awestruck. You go pick up your kid from the “Wee Midgets” Sunday School class and there’s Billy Ray and Tish, picking up little Miley. They are nice and they say hello. Of course that means you’re friends, right? Right. This happens all the time. On top of this, we have two professional sports teams here, and this is the state capital. So throw famous athletes and powerful politicians into the stew. Top that off with the fact that, despite it’s fame, Nashville and the Franklin suburbs are relatively small towns. Everyone knows someone. The Chief of Police or the Mayor can’t anonymously attend church. He sticks out. The pastor...being a man like all others after all...name drops frequently. Suddenly these athletes, politicians and artists start coming regularly. Especially the artists, because artists are a funny lot. They constantly doubt their talents and they like / need hearing how great their art is, and how good they are because they are in church. That church. Of course, the pastor doesn’t mind name dropping because it draws others as well. Jesus said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” Pastors sometimes think that if it is good to “Lift up Jesus” how great is it to also lift up a few dozen celebrities? Subtly let folks know that you are so-and-so’s pastor. It draws in the little folk, and the other rich famous folk, who see your church as someplace safe because they notice how the other celebrities get some nice special treatment. Rich folks have personal everything. Personal assistants who do the menial tasks. Personal shoppers. Personal drivers. And here...they have personal pastors.
They get treated just a little better. The schedule of a mega church pastor is always jammed. Except when a celebrity needs a counseling session. Or wants to play golf. Or needs a home visit during a crisis. Mega churches have “Pastoral pastors”. Guys whose job it is to actually tend to sheep. Visit hospitals, visit sick members homes, attend funerals. But if it’s a celebrity, that hospital visit is handled personally by the senior pastor. Because only he knows how to deal with that superstar. Only he has cultivated that deep relationship. Well this is true, but it’s because only he was ever allowed to even come within 50 feet of said celebrity in the first place.
See, the celebrity is a law unto himself. He’s a church member, but not in the way the rest of the members are members. He has special access. He is isolated from the rest. He is to be left alone “To respect his privacy” despite the fact that this violates James chapter 2, and sets up a caste system within the church. But he attends, and his attendance brings two things. It brings his big tithe, and it brings in others which in turn brings in their tithe.
And no matter what anyone says, money changes everything.
Celebrities and powerful people get one more thing in church that regular members don’t get.
They get special dispensation.
When they battle the bottle, they get grace in huge doses. When they carry on and cheat on their wives, it is hushed up and not talked about. In fact, in 16 years here in middle TN I can’t recall a sermon on infidelity and adultery. It’s been danced around, but not a real, full length sermon. Or one on drunkenness. Or fornication. Particularly fornication. I’m going to appear prudish when I write this but here goes. I am divorced. The same rules apply to me as apply to never-married folks. NO sex outside of marriage. I would love to tell you I have been flawless in this matter in the 13 years since my divorce. I have not. But I’ve been darned close. And when I make my position known to men I talk to or women I have dated...I am treated like a Puritan. Like there is something wrong with me.
It’s because it is not mentioned in sermons or taught in doctrinal classes. The Neo-Evangelicals in this town have NO idea of moral absolutes. Save abortion of course, because that’s obvious.
My deepest belief is that the pastors refuse to preach hard sermons on real sin because it will drive away the money. They call this “grace” but I call it cowardice. Cowardice and whoredom. They sell their spiritual soul for big numbers on Sunday and cool names in their speed-dial.
That’s how we end up with Miley Cyrus doing her best rendition of Herod’s niece, dancing seductively in order to get her way. The only prop sweet darlin’ Miley didn’t use was a plastic head of John the Baptist, on a silver platter.
We get this from a home-grown, good Chrustian (thank you Flannery O’Connor) girl from a good Chrustian family because nobody was preaching about excess. Nobody was teaching about morals and absolutes, and about pleasing God with your life. Nobody was talking straight to the Cyrus family. How do I know this? Because after their daughter’s unspeakably sinful performance, Momma Tish literally danced in the aisle with glee and Papa Billy Ray tweeted how “Thankful he was for God’s Blessing”. God’s Blessing?!
This sounds like a man who needed a few elders fingers in his chest about 5 years ago...and who needed some preaching about moral absolutes and right Christian living even beyond that. A man who can –in good conscience- publicly state that his daughter’s err...talent, is a “blessing from God” does not know God. Not the God of the Bible.
But of course, we wouldn’t want to upset the Cyrus’ and run them off. They might leave the church. Miley might turn awa...oh, wait.
So last night, blog articles started appearing from the usual weeping Christian voices, telling us all how bad we were for picking on Miley and tweeting mean things. They explained how tormented she surely is. How no matter what her performance speaks of, in her heart she is just a widdle girl who will curl up with a teddy bear and go to sleep tonight. Yeah...except I saw the bong tape and the sex tape and I read her quotes.
They tell us how her innocence was bartered for her fame. Really?? She was a megastar at age 12 AND...whereas most other teen stars are ripped from their families at young ages, Miley’s father was her co star! Her family were all parts of the show.
Miley was never a victim. except where she was victimized by the weakling neo-Evangelicals in her hometown. The ones who never spoke up when they were making decisions that produced the woman she has become. They were saying things like “Poor Miley has really run off the rails.” Really? Maybe she was never on the rails in the first place. Because maybe nobody defined the rails for her or her family. Maybe they got so used to being isolated from other families in the church and given special treatment by everyone, that they just started assuming that every decision they made was the right one. Every career move was the correct one. And of course...they were told how much God was “blessing them” because they had a hit TV show. But they were not given any balance and so that...became this.
So yesterday the blogs started appearing, talking about how we should “Pray for Miley” and “Love on Miley” and I wanted to puke. And I was fighting mad.
First, Miley doesn’t need pity or special handling. She needs a good solid smack in the face by a spiritual leader. The problem is, she has been left alone for so long that she has developed her own idea of what God permits and it’s going to be almost impossible to get that toothpaste back in the tube.
Miley needs to be told she is wrong. She is embarrassing. She is NOT artistic. She is not blessed by God. She is betraying the faith she claims.
But I’m guessing nobody will tell her.
Second. Miley needs your prayers...I guess. But not because of Sunday night. Miley needs your prayers because it’s a tough world.
This one is really the one that gets me. Poor Miley needs prayer and love.
You know what...I know a dozen kids who need it more than she does and who deserve it far more too. I recognized some of the people posting on Facebook last night. Posting their guilty angst over how somehow they failed Miley by “judging” her. Most of these folks know me and know my plight these past five years. They know I have a daughter who was 10 when I lost everything and who has grown into a wonderful 15 year old young woman, with more courage, integrity, and Christian character than Miley Cyrus will ever whiff. Yet none of these people ever blog about how they should pray for my daughter. None of them ever repost a blog or a tweet about holding up Morgan or loving on her. She has had it very very hard. She still does. Yet she remains true to her faith. One reason is that her dad –me- has chosen to remain in her life and by her side even though that meant being homeless. My heart aches and sometimes I want to give up. There have been times when I have openly griped about my plight. Times when I question my own value as a man and a dad. And I have never ever been “prayed for” or had a blog written about me. Or read a post from someone who knew my situation and was broken with compassion for my daughter. I have, however, been rebuked by someone I loved and trusted and whom I looked to as a spiritual leader, for complaining too much about my homelessness once. As my world unraveled and my heart broke, I was called into the office and ripped a new one, because my suffering didn’t look “Christ-like” My very salvation was even questioned. Because in the midst of my world falling apart and sleeping in my car and my career vanishing...I grumbled. I doubted God. I bellowed. Yes I did. It was ugly too. But I never recanted my faith and I never sold my soul for fame or for fame for my daughter. The daughter who was completely ignored by people who knew she was hurting. Now if she had been a tween star with a TV show at the time, well that would have been different altogether. If I had been rich and a big giver, I would have seen compassion. Instead I got a kick in the pants.
In all that time I have never, not once, gotten a compliment for staying here, staying in her life, and raising a great and godly girl. Nobody noticed. But ol’ Billy Ray and his wife turned out a tramp without a moral compass and we all should feel sorry for her and feel like we failed them somehow.
I have a friend here whose daughter battles every single day to survive a brain tumor. Her husband even abandoned her, leaving her and her daughter and autistic son. I mention them regularly in social media, asking for prayers for this brave mom and her sweet daughter. I get a great response from my friends, and never a mention from the professional Christians in town.
I have a friend in Jacksonville whose son is in jail. He committed a serious crime but not murder or anything of the sort. But he was targeted by a power hungry AG trying to advance her career and he got 40 years. He was 19 at the time and had never been in trouble in his life. He messed up and admittedly deserved punishment. But not 40 years. I ask all the time for prayers and support for Hugh and his family. I get responses from my friends. but the church ignores them.
You want to “love on” someone? Love on Hugh Pickens and his mom Kelly and her husband and family.
You want to pray in earnest for a young girl who needs it? You pray for Bishop and her mom Allison. Or pray for my daughter, because my fight is far from over and she feels every blow I am still taking.
But Miley has betrayed her faith. Pray for her, of course. But you don’t owe her that. She doesn’t care if you are praying for her. She thinks she is right and her daddy thinks this is all the blessing of God.
If you want to pray, pray for whoever taught him that.