What Do Beliebers Really Believe?

(Image courtesy of Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)
(Image courtesy of Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)

Justin Bieber’s faith is prevalent on his new album, “Purpose,” but do fans notice . . . or care?

As I walked down 48th street between 5th and 6th, I could see people — mostly girls in their middle and high school years — lined up curbside, huddled in sleeping bags. Many were wrapped in scarves and wearing gloves; there was a lot of pink. It was about 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, and you could hear Justin Bieber music pulsing out of someone’s portable stereo.

These people, a hundred or so of them, were in fact waiting to see Justin Bieber perform on The Today Show’s plaza the following morning.

So why was I there? Justin Bieber’s latest album, Purpose, features coming-of-age lyrics . . . some that explicitly dive into his own faith journey and dependence on God. Not exactly what you expect of a teen pop star who just last year was detained for egging his neighbor’s house, arrested for an alleged DUI, and then again for dangerous driving on his ATV.

Needless to say, lyrics like, “Ask you to forgive me for my sins, oh would you please?” are not what most of us expect from Bieber, so I wanted to find out what his fans think of his new music — and the faith inspiring it.

“He found himself and found God”

I stopped at the first huddle of people I saw, a woman and some middle- and high-school-aged girls. The girls all had fan tickets, which ensured priority viewing, but they were still spending the night to claim spots closest to the stage. They giggled as they took turns answering my questions about Bieber and Purpose.

The first girl, Valerie, said she was initially nervous about the album, not quite sure what Bieber would produce after his almost-two-year hiatus. She said she and Julia, her friend, “are both so excited and proud of it.” There’s a consensus that “Love Yourself” is a favorite. Jenna likes “Children;” Valerie likes “No Pressure;” Julia likes “Been You.”

Valerie said, “I think all the songs are really different than what he’s been putting out. So it’s been more mature and I just like his new style.”

I didn’t ask about their personal beliefs, partially because I didn’t want to seem like I was evangelizing to these children and partially out of a desire to keep the conversation casual, but that was why I was out there in the first place.

What might they think of the Bieber saying, at the end of “All In It,” “And with God, it’s like He’s perfect and He never disappoints. So I just get my recognition from Him, and give Him recognition.”

When I asked how the girls felt about the prevalence of Bieber’s faith in his new music, Valerie spoke on behalf of the girls: “We’re all Catholic. We all go to Catholic school. I know a lot of artists don’t like talking about that stuff, but I think it’s good that he’s expressing what he believes in.”

Julia added, “I think it does fit. I think after all the drama that happened with him in the last few years, he found himself and found God and is trying to incorporate that into his music.”

“I love Bieber,” Valerie said. “Eight hours to go.”

This group certainly doesn’t represent Bieber’s more secular audience, but I was still intrigued. These girls, with their religious backgrounds, are probably familiar with Christian music. But what I found interesting was that they viewed Bieber putting his faith in his music as an extension of authenticity, rather than, say, an attempt to evangelize or worship.

“This isn’t something that he’s wishy-washy on.”

I moved on and approached two women, Alexandra and Amanda, both in their early twenties and standing in the corner of a grated area shivering. Alexandra, who had arrived early in the day after traveling from her school in New Rochelle, likened the sound ofPurpose to shopping in Forever 21. “You’re having a good time, like, ‘Oh I like this shirt.’ That’s what the album makes me feel.” She likes bumping to the music. Amanda agrees, calling the EDM vibe catchy.

Amanda finds Purpose satisfying for its sound; Alexandra appreciates its message.

Purpose is “personal and about his love life and stuff like that,” Alexandra said. “You get to become closer with Bieber as a person because you get to understand all these feelings that he went through and how he was able to come through.”

She thinks it’s okay that Bieber talks about his faith. “It’s good for him. It’s good that he knows himself and knows that this isn’t something that he’s wishy-washy on.”

Amanda added, “That also kinda makes him vulnerable, to show what he’s really about, and I think that’s a really deep connection that he makes with the fans.”

It seems that Bieber has the support of his fans, though most receive the faith in his music with a relativistic acceptance. “It’s good for him.” Alexandra’s response may be representative of the general listener response. It seems less likely that  Purpose is causing its listeners to think deeply about the Christian faith.

 

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SOURCE: On Faith
Adrienne Scrima

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