Do Tebow and Bieber Make It Cool to Be Christian? January 11, 2012

Do Tebow and Bieber Make It Cool to Be Christian?

Jo Piazza at FOX News wonders: are prominent, outspoken Christians like Tim Tebow and Justin Bieber making Christianity more appealing to kids?

It’s no great leap to say that children and teens admire and emulate figures like Bieber, fellow musician Demi Lovato, and Tebow. In a culture that values piety as a signifier of moral character, outspoken Christianity both brands these figures as safe role models and cushions them from criticism:

“It’s not bad brand marketing,” explains Ann Neuman, the editor of The Revealer website at New York University’s Center for Religion and Media. “Bieber’s godliness makes him particularly safe and acceptable to tweens and their parents.”

Neuman also says the juxtaposition with God also sets these celebs up as martyr figures, which is even more appealing to their fans.

“It’s hard being a multi-million dollar sensation. You can have an off game, poor reviews and you’re constantly in the public’s critical eye. Having God in your corner means that he loves you even when you drop the ball or bomb a concert,” Neuman said. “It also means a devoted audience for your product of fellow believers and a ready parable for both success and failure.”

Do I think that hordes of football-playing and music-loving tweens are rushing to adopt evangelical Christianity? In a word, no (although we’d need some sociological studies to say so with certainty). I’m not concerned that Tebow is indoctrinating a generation of teen godbots. The influence of a pop icon, though significant, is only one of many strong influences in a teenager’s life.

No, what concerns me most is that these figures reinforce our cultural assumption that this kind of piety is the pinnacle of virtue. The teens in question are growing up seeing the media fawn over the superior moral character of Tebow, Bieber, and the rest, and regardless of whether they opt for that level of religiosity themselves, they will continue to assume that pious people are to be trusted and religion is above reproach.

Religion doesn’t deserve a free pass. It deserves to be questioned and evaluated like any other worldview, and it certainly doesn’t confer the assumption of integrity on its followers. That’s the message that teens need to hear.

So no, I don’t think the religious convictions of a Tebow, a Bieber or a Lovato will cause an uptick in baptisms. But I do think they could perpetuate a society in which evangelical Christian mores run unchallenged and unchecked. Therefore, it’s our job to be good examples for the other side, and to loudly and consistently challenge the idea that religion equals morality.

It’s also our job to giggle at the entire CBS Sports crew Tebowing.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • If Tebow has the all powerful creator in his corner and prays for favor by the all-powerful creator, then to make things fair, Tebow should play with one hand tied behind his back.  Sports is all about having the outcome determined by the ability of the players on the field.  Not about who has an inside track with some external entity that can influence the outcome of a game.    The refs should have called “too many men on the field” when Tebow through that pass in over-time.

  • Anonymous

    If my kids are to be believed then Bieber is the very opposite what you want to encourage them to do anything.  They think he is ridiculous and if they’ve heard of Tebow I could bet that they feel the same about him too.  Their being Christian is just another laughable thing about them.

  • I’m a Christian and with the writer on this one. Kids should be encouraged to inquire and explore the claims made by people. This does not mean watch Tebow like a hawk and see if he also sins, it means investigate who this Jesus is he keeps talking about and see how he measures up against the people others rave about.

  • Dan P Cunningham

    We were watching that game at my place and the whole house erupted in laughter when they all did that.  I’m glad that a major (sports) program like that, the whole lot of the hosts, is willing to poke a little fun at over-the-top posturing and what is now –maybe?– not the pinnacle of virtue but only showy piety carried to such an extreme that no average person can see it without laughing and/or cringing.

  • Demi Lovato? A model of Christian piety? The same Demi Lovato that was fired from her Disney channel show for drug use? Oh, that’s right, they love the fallen that pick up the pieces with Jebus.

  • I don’t think this is a new thing. People tend to forget that celebrities like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson were also hyped for their religiosity early in their careers. Once the evangelical “chosen one” falls from grace (Miley Cyrus is the most prominent recent example) the media will simply choose another to take his or her place.

  • Terabyte06

    It’s funny how similar their Tebowing is to face-palming…  🙂

  • T-Rex

    This whole evangelical thing is about to blow up in their faces. Extremists and fundies are finally being seen for what they really are, bigoted, delusional assholes. Thankyou GOP candidates for shedding more light on this rediculous and reprehensible behavior.

  • mike

    These pop purists are great.  People have already mentioned Spears and Simpson and Cyrus, now add Bieber who has allegations that he fathered a child at 16.  So christian children grow up looking up to these slightly older role models who inevitably turn out to be real people and continue to be successful, and that is a great lesson.  “Look at how that guy/girl doesn’t have to tow the christian line and nothing bad happens.”
    What did the purists think was going to happen?  Who trusts their moral image to a teenager who is continuously drenched in tasty temptations?  In my view, if I was a teenage rock star surrounded by sex charged fans, the immoral thing would be to not take a few of them home.

  • Gus Snarp

    So, leaving aside religion for a minute, and assuming I must be utterly biased by my anti-religious hatred for Tebow ;-), that’s the first time I’ve seen the pass that everyone’s been talking about, and I have to say, it’s just an ordinary pass that any quarterback in the league could have delivered. It’s the receiver who ought to be getting all the attention, not Tebow. But Tebow’s story makes him the guy everyone wants to talk about. Meanwhile, a receiver who caught the ball, evaded tackles, and won a footrace to the end zone goes unmentioned. Hell, I don’t even know his name.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    So, leaving aside religion for a minute
    How unAmerican!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Demaryius Thomas

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Too bad for Tebow that the New England Patriots have chariots of iron
    (Judges 1:19)

  • starskeptic

    making a show of piety is not being pious… 

  • Fargofan1

    I find it ironic that Christians are happy with Tebow’s “showy piety,” as another commenter called it. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6). Jesus himself criticized people who prayed in public and told his followers to pray privately.

  • Hayden Wolfe

    When I see people like Tebow on tv I never admire his piety.  I instead think how sad it is that someone is really so uneducated in their beliefs.  And then when I see newscasters and sportscasters referring to another “miracle” for Tebow it sickens me that otherwise normally intelligent people can be so blind in their beliefs to throw reason out completely.

    With all religious beliefs it is either lack of education that causes it or when it is with an otherwise educated person it must be fear of death.  I believe it was Isaac Asimov who said “if atheism could better alleviate the fear of death people would cast away their religion with scarcely a second thought.”

  • Hayden Wolfe

    But like most Christians, Tebow probably hasn’t actually read the Bible so we can’t hold him accountable for what Jesus might have said.  🙂

  • Charles Black

    Not to mention that Bieber is probably the most hated figure among males because of all the fangirls he gets.

  • Charles Black

    Don’t forget Ted Haggard, remember him?

  • Lord_Byron

    I always find it weird that the fundamentalist beiber has tattoos. obviously he doesn’t take that part of the bible serious. 

  • LOL

  • You make a good point, Megan, that this is probably not going to cause a whole lot of people to convert, but it reinforces the idea of religion being linked with morality.  The article mentions that this might be “a boomerang response to the seeming godlessness in Hollywood today”.  Whenever people try to contrast the morality of Christianity (or of another religion or of religion in general) with the immorality of the rest of society, I find it weird, given that (a) some of the things considered immoral in religion aren’t and (b) of course, people of all religions do good and bad things.

    I think it’s possible that seeing someone else (especially someone famous) express their faith may get someone interested in it or perhaps more interested in expressing it, if they’re already part of that faith, though whether that’s just a temporary interest or becomes  a strong belief would depend on lots of other factors.

    I was going to mention the thing about the tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), but Lord_Byron wrote it first.

    Others have already mentioned examples of other celebrities who talked about their religious beliefs.  Personally, reading the article reminded me of Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, who is Christian.  (I was a Backstreet Boys fan in middle school).

  • Anonymous

    Actually I was talking about the views my daughters hold.

  • Drakk

    No good and moral god would have inflicted Justin Bieber upon the world.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I barely can get the Tebow thing, because I am southamerican and I don’t watch American football. Here the “Tebow” would be brazilian soccer player Kaka, but it seems he hasn’t became such “christian star”. As for Bieber, I dont listen his music and started to develop some contempt for him since his last two concerts in Argentina made my way from University to home 30 minutes longer.

    If I had to choose a christian who makes my religion cooler, I’d go with Sören Kierkegaard.

  • Mairianna

    I agree.  Give it time.  Tebow and Bieber will  do something wholly unholy one day and the ‘tweens and sports christians will turn to someone else.  I predict for Bieber it will be the discovery that he has had pre-marital sex and Tebow will probably cheat on his wife or get caught cheating on taxes. 

    I am taking bets at (What Would Bieber And Tebow Do?)

  • TheEcoDude

    “It’s no great leap to say that children and teens admire and emulate figures like Bieber…”

    You are kidding, right? He’s about as admired and emulated as Barney the Dinosaur.

  • Clearly you don’t spend much time around preteen girls, LOL. ;o)

  • I don’t think he is making a formal “prayer” or petition to God. He’s just taking a knee and giving thanks. 

  • Seriously. Wow. Okay try this on for size. I have three degrees. Two in science and one in teaching. I’ve read both the pros and the cons of atheism and Christianity. I choose Christianity. I guess that blows your theory eh? I know a lot of people with Master’s and Doctoral degrees that are Christians whose faith is not blind at all. It’s a living faith. Maybe they’ve seen something that cannot be explained by any research or scientific study. Like someone being healed or some other true miracle that they have witnessed. I had a trusted friend who actually saw someone’s blindness get healed. How does your education explain that?

    Not everything can be explained through science…this coming from a science teacher. Explain love to me? What causes someone to truly love someone? Not the “I want to mate with you” pheromone thing, but the I’d take a bullet for you kind of love. How does science explain that? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see how everything inside of a box can be tested and proved when your perspective is form the box itself. You can see parts of it, but you will never see it all at one time, therefore you can never  map enough and see how everything works together.

    Hayden, you’re post does not give atheists a good name. Your prejudiced attitude comes out. Most atheists I know say that they are just as moral as religious believers. How is bashing and insulting someone moral? Everyone is coming through life with different experiences and have many different interpretations of events that they see. How can you sit there and bash someone for forming a belief that adequately explains their perception of different events. 

    I will not stereotype everyone who posts on this blog as prejudiced as you. I’ve come along some some wonderful people on this board, who though they have different beliefs than I do, are still very cordial to me and explain where they are coming from. The truth is, we all have to live together so we might as well make the best of it. Or we could point fingers and yell at how stupid the other person is and how backwards I am or how immoral you are. I’m thinking the 2nd idea isn’t real productive. But go ahead and get on with you hating self. The world doesn’t have enough hatred and insults yet (sarcasm intended).

  • Itsmebullock

    This verse is talking about the pharisees that were praying in public for show, and to gain attention.  Tebow is not doing this for show, he is true good-hearted Christian.  If you see his post-game interview he avoids talking about the best game of his career and instead talks about God and people he is helping. 

  • Itsmebullock

    The media is the one who gives him all the credit.  He gives none to himself and all to God and his teammates.  


    I expect they both have a lot of appeal to the world’s herd animals. 

  • k’Sheyna

    Not cool, just a bit silly.  As opposed to the usual evil, hateful, and very frightening.

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