It is potent and powerful. It’s the soup of youth culture that our developmentally vulnerable children and teens swim in every day. One “ingredient” that’s been in the mix for the last nine years is Miley Cyrus. Now 22-years-old, she was dropped in the soup by Disney back in 2006 when she took on the role of Hannah Montana.
When we talk about youth culture here at CPYU we always say that it serves as both a map and a mirror. Culture is both directive and reflective. So, when we talk about the seemingly ever-present and always-envelope-stretching Miley Cyrus, we would say that her values, attitudes, and behaviors map life for our kids. . . teaching them what to think, what to believe, and how to live in the world. But Cyrus is also an interesting case study because we’ve watched her grow up. Her life stages and how she’s been mapping life for our kids is fascinating (and frightening) because her values, attitudes, and behaviors have morphed over the years as a result of being a kid swimming in the youth culture soup herself.
So today, she’s in the news again. This time it’s a cover story in “Paper Magazine.” The article, “Free To Be Miley,” offers a powerful, in-your-face textual and visual peek into who she is and what she believes. (Note: I have purposely not linked to the article here as the photographs of Cyrus are blatantly pornographic in nature). The article rolls out like a map for life.
A search of our CPYU website will take you to a variety of blogs I’ve written over the years as we’ve been tracking the youth culture map and mirror known as Miley Cyrus. Among there are May 2010’s “Miley’s Metamorphosis. . . Surprised?” in which I link to an eye-opening article on “How To Make A Pop Star.” Then there’s “Miley Cyrus. . . Have You Been Listening?” from later that year. Since then I’ve blogged on “Miley, Lindsay, Truth, and Grace. . . ,” “Transformation Complete? . . . Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball and the Gospel,” and “Miley Cyrus. . . Another Teachable Moment.”
Today, I’ve read the latest from Miley Cyrus in “Paper Magazine,” and I’m sad. I’m sad for her. I’m also sad for the kids who thoughtlessly embrace her as a role model, teacher, and map. She is shaping youth culture, young hearts, and young minds. God has gifted us with so much more and so much better.
Let me pass on a summary of some selected bits from the article (actual quotes from the article in italics) . . .
- “It turns out Cyrus is deeply interested in accountability. At 22, she’s perhaps her generation’s most unlikely social activist, and also one of its most powerful. Now she’s harnessing that influence to counter what she sees as an unacceptable reality: young people being persecuted and cast out for their sexuality.” Yes, we can celebrate Cyrus’s concern and compassion for the marginalized. But she’s moved beyond compassion and care for the marginalized, to promotion and normalization of all kinds of sexual expression.
- Happy Hippie (her foundation) is designed as a corrective to what Cyrus understands as immoral politicking, the sort that pits outliers as pariahs and favors an archaic status quo. The foundation treats at-risk kids with art and animal therapies, two proven balms that have been instrumental in Cyrus’ own self-care. Although she was raised Christian, Cyrus maintains a particular contempt for fundamentalist lawmakers who rally against this sort of progressive, potentially life-saving change. ‘Those people [shouldn’t] get to make our laws,’ she says. Those people — the ones who believe that, say, Noah’s Ark was a real seafaring vessel. “That’s f___ing insane,” she says. “We’ve outgrown that fairy tale, like we’ve outgrown f___ing Santa and the tooth fairy.” Again, while we should applaud her compassion, it’s being driven by an ethic that is horribly destructive.
- “She calls her dad a ‘cool hippie psycho freak,’ which, in Cyrus’ world, is praise of the highest order. Her mom, Tish, a producer and actress, is ‘super cosmic’ and ‘a complete optimist, the f___ing cheerleader of the universe.’ There is deep affection in Cyrus’ voice, even when she refers to them again, later, as ‘conservative-ass motherf___ers.'”
- “She says she has come to consider her own sexuality — even her own gender identification — fluid. ‘I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me,’ she says. ‘I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.’ She says she’s had romantic entanglements with women that were just as serious as the ones (Liam Hemsworth, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Nick Jonas) that ended up in Us Weekly. ‘I’ve had that,’ she admits. ‘But people never really looked at it, and I never brought it into the spotlight.'”
- “She recalls confessing to her mother, at age 14, that she had romantic feelings toward women. ‘I remember telling her I admire women in a different way. And she asked me what that meant. And I said, I love them. I love them like I love boys,’ she says. ‘And it was so hard for her to understand. She didn’t want me to be judged and she didn’t want me to go to hell. But she believes in me more than she believes in any god. I just asked for her to accept me. And she has.’ These days, Cyrus only wants to grant others the same clemency.”
- “As long as you’re not hurting anyone,” she says, “your choices are your choices.”
Miley Cyrus is both a product of the spirit of the times, and a promoter of the spirit of the times.
It’s easy to grieve over Miley’s values, attitudes, and behaviors. For me, my faith, my children, and my grandchildren are filters through which I see Miley Cyrus, and I am sobered. But being sobered should always lead to action. And so I want to encourage you to 1) Pray for Miley Cyrus (“God, make yourself real to this young lady. . .”), 2) Pray for the children you know and love (“Lord, reveal yourself, your will, and your way to our kids. Make them hungry to know the incarnate Word Jesus and your revelation of yourself in the Scriptures. May their hunger be insatiable!”), and 3) Know and unashamedly speak the Truth that transforms.
Yes, God is sovereign and in control of all things. He has not and will not abandon His Creation or His people. What a blessed assurance. That’s great news!
But what should make us grieve are the realities reflected in words written by Carl Henry over 25 years ago: “When all is said and tried, modern man’s alternatives are either a return to the truth of revelation, even to the Bible as the unpolluted reservoir of the will of God, or an ever deeper plunge into meaninglessness and loss of worth.”
“Lord, give us, our kids, and Miley Cyrus meaning and hope.”
(Here’s an article on “How To Make A Pop Star”)