Don’t Listen to Justin Beiber

So this probably doesn’t surprise anyone but Justin Beiber is apparently trying to do some damage control for his image as an irresponsible party animal (it is taking every ounce of self-control I have within me not to add something really sassy to the end of that statement). In an interview he did with Complex magazine he even talks about his Evangelical Christian faith, and shares the following observation (which has gotten a fair amount of online traffic) “You don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell that doesn’t make you a Taco.”

We’ll Justin, never say never… (I tried to fight it- I really did!)


But, coming back from the solid two minutes I took to laugh at my own bad pun, in my opinion this is a sad indictment of the public educational system, because this is one of the weakest arguments I’ve ever come across- not to mention one of the crappiest metaphors of all time. When I think Taco Bell my next thought is never Church, it’s college hangovers. More to the point, that is the equivalent of saying A does not yield B and C does not yield D. The relationship between A and B is in no way affected by the relationship between C and D. That is like saying my mother and father got married when they were 22 and have been married for 31 years. My neighbors got married at 22 and have been married for 31 years. Fantastic. But it doesn’t prove a thing because my parents’ marriage is in no way affected by my neighbor’s marriage. If you got married at 22, and had been married for 31 years, that would just add another set of letters (E yielded F).  I would be an absolute fool to use this alphabet soup to assert that if you got married at 22, you would also be married for 31 years (and beyond hopefully). It’s just yet another ill-thought-out argument in the public arena. I don’t know why we pay attention to it.

Perhaps because, regardless of his unimpressive debating skills, the Biebs echos a sentiment I hear a lot from millennials in my generation, the idea that we are more “spiritual” than “religious” and don’t need church for anything. Loving God in a vague and abstract way whenever you personally feel like it is enough. So they say. But it shouldn’t be. Your heart longs for more than abstractions. In fact, if it’s anything like mine then your heart won’t be satisfied with anything less than the real deal, perfect love and true completeness.

Because people aren’t as against church/organized religion/religious institutions as they think they are. It’s simply a product of the indoctrination that we call public education. What people are against is the media portrayal of the church/organized religion/religious institutions, which always show Christians as hateful and stupid, and the Catholic Church as an outdated relic whose teachings are in opposition to “progress”. In general, as part of the “question everything” generation we are taught to question all authority (religious authority included) and then replace it with our own authority. Interestingly that’s one of the reasons, I would argue, that the teacher turnover rate is so high, because the next generation has been raised with this pride, that they already know everything/will figure it out on their own and no one is going to tell them what to do- especially some crap teacher. (Crap is the label given to any teacher who doesn’t give an adolescent their way, so take that with a grain of salt.)

And this anti-authority way of thinking breeds mistrust for the wrong institutions. Don’t trust the moral authorities, which they paint as the overbearing parents trying to get in the way of your life of self-indulgence, trust the authority of the state. You may think I’m exaggerating, but humans have to believe in something in order to give their life meaning, and if you don’t believe in a religious/moral authority this will create a vacuum. And society has a lot of suggestions with how to fill that vacuum: money, sex, power, control, fame, volunteerism, social status/popularity, health/an obsession with diet, entertainment, mass/social media, materialism, Starbucks, political activism/social change, and always looking toward “the future.” A future, they promise, that will eventually fulfill you. Even if you feel horrendously empty on the inside it’s not because you’re subscribing to the wrong dogma and pursuing the wrong things- it’s because you don’t have enough of it yet!!! So quit your soul searching and party! This is your choice baby, your life, your rules- this is freedom!!!!!!

Yes, I’m at it again, I’m discussing the things that encompass the new atheism, secularism with a religious fervor.  With spokespeople such as Justin Beiber.

These people do not love you. They are misguided themselves (and by that I mean they simply haven’t found the truth yet, I’d hate to think they’d lie to you intentionally to promote their own new atheist agenda) and they want you to follow them in order to validate them and their cause. Don’t. Following strictly human authority in isolation from a higher power is like following a herd of sheep off a cliff. What makes you think they know what they’re doing? What makes you think they have all the answers when in reality they are probably struggling with life’s big questions just as much as you are? Sheep need a shepherd. Shepherd’s love their sheep. Shepherd’s guide their sheep.

The Lord is my Shepherd. And though He lives in my heart, it is also crucially important that I meet Him in church because that’s His palace. Because while personal prayer is where God comes to dwell in my soul, the Church is a symbolic place where I go to dwell in the soul of God, to have an encounter with the mysterious nature of God. That is where He generously confers the graces I need, the goodness I can’t muster on my own. That’s where I find my answers. That’s where I learn to love, not just God but my neighbors as well (both the ones that also attend and the ones that don’t- just to clarify for the cynics out there). But most importantly, as a Catholic, it is the place where I receive the Eucharist and engage in the ceremony where God gives me the greatest gift this life has to offer: Himself.

And I would take that gift over absolutely anything else in the world.


2 thoughts on “Don’t Listen to Justin Beiber

  1. Good read, Ellen, though I don’t think there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to connect with a higher power. The feeling that you get in church is the same feeling everyone gets in his or her own way – hiking, yoga, music, etc. Respecting and understanding the different methods that people use to get that feeling is eye-opening itself. There won’t be a vacuum there just because someone isn’t religious. No atheist I know is lost, misguided, or immoral for being an atheist. That moral vacuum knows no religious affiliation.

    And I think it’s awesome that people don’t feel the need to defer to authority. Because after all, authority figures are just flawed people themselves. It’s okay for us to forge our own paths so long as we maintain our senses of wonder and humility. If you spent one morning a week walking up to random strangers and talking to them about their experiences, you’d probably end up with a better idea of how the world is and should be than if you sat in church and listened to the same person every day.

    If you know how little you know – if you never claim to have answers and never stop searching for them – you’ll probably get pretty close to being a good, well-rounded, self-aware person with or without God.


    1. Hi Emily! You’re like one of two people who actually calls me by my name on this blog.

      And thank you! Couldn’t resist an opportunity to have some fun with the Biebs.

      Anyway, I actually encounter this idea a lot when I speak with people who don’t identify with a specific religion. That I could just substitute God with a nice walk through nature etc. and that is precisely the attitude I wanted to address in this blog because, speaking of people being understanding of others, I find it unfair that people automatically assume that to me God is a feeling/inner peace/abstraction. To me God is the eternal being, which is a fancy way of saying that He is a like a person and our relationship is not only based on a deep friendship but mutual love as well. And the suggestion that God and having a soothing cup of tea are basically interchangeable because the feelings I get from both are the same not only underestimates my love of God, but underestimates God Himself. It would be the same as if, when my grandmother died last year, someone had said that I shouldn’t be sad because the same warm feelings I get from speaking to my grandmother I could get by having a puppy around the house. I do like puppies a lot and love my own dog to pieces, and I know that there are many in this world who like dogs more than humans, but no dog could ever replace my grandmother’s love, because they are two distinct kinds of love. And just as I argue that my grandma’s love is superior to a dog’s love by its very nature, so I argue that God’s love for each individual person far surpasses the sort of vague universal spirituality you mentioned. But we are free to disagree on this point.

      More to your point, I actually wasn’t referring to a moral vacuum. I was talking about a spiritual one. I was talking about the deep desire by every person I have ever met to be loved and cherished, to find meaning, to have a purpose, to have a dream/something that they want out of their life. And this I often see attacked by notions of worldly successes, the premise that these desires can be replaced or fulfilled by distractions such as the ones I outlined above, and I reject that notion. I think that humans are practical creatures and believe they only seek that which they will find and I believe, at least it is my fervent hope, that they will find all they seek in God because God is perfect love. I can have a nice cup of coffee and enjoy it, but then the feeling is over and I need another one, and the more coffee I drink the less magical the moment becomes because it shifts to being an expectation. But God’s love is not like that, it is old and familiar yet new and exciting at the same time, it is the only thing that I’ve ever found that fully satisfies because I have an extremely restless and questioning heart and zero tolerance for the shallow imitations that the world has to offer. And I actually really appreciate you taking the time to defend the atheists that you know because it lets me reassure you and perhaps the one other person brave enough to read this super long comment that I have no ill will towards atheists. The way the world debates it equates disagreement with hatred and moral superiority but this article is not so much a condemnation as it is an invitation for anyone to come and share the love I have found in my life thus far in the hopes that you will also one day share in the fulfillment of that love that I believe I will experience long after my life is over.

      Thanks for your comment.


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