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January 9th, 2013
10:52 AM ET

My Take: An open letter to Justin Bieber

Editor's Note: Cathleen Falsani is an award-winning religion journalist and author of four books including her latest, BELIEBER: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber. Find Cathleen on Twitter @godgrrl or on Facebook.

By Cathleen Falsani, Special to CNN

Chickity check yo self before you wreck yo self ~ Ice Cube

Dear Justin,

Please consider this a well-being check from someone who genuinely cares about you: Me.

Let me begin by saying that I am for you. I have studied you and your career since you stepped into the public spotlight as an adolescent. You are a gift to the world – to your family, your friends and your tens of millions of devoted fans.

Sweetheart, here’s the thing (and this is an “and,” not a “but”): I’m worried about you. It’s not that you smoke pot (or anything else). It’s what that choice and behavior means.

Like so many of your admirers, I have celebrated your successes, danced to your music, sung along with you in the car, prayed with you when you’ve publicly asked us to join you in lifting up the victims of cataclysm and despair, and prayed for you – for your protection and health, direction and inspiration.

I know you are keenly aware of the many gifts you’ve been given and who bestowed them on you. And I know you understand that to whom much is given, much is expected and required.

With a perspective and sense of responsibility far beyond your years, throughout your public life thus far you have articulated beautifully and clearly your gratitude for the extraordinary favor and experiences you have had and continue to have as the most famous teenager on the planet.

And you have given thanks publicly and consistently to your supporters, the team that manages your business, mentors, creative partners, and your God.

Belief Blog Rewind: The gospel according to Justin Bieber

You regularly encourage your fans – young and old – to follow your lead and recognize the blessings in their own lives, to “pay it forward,” give back, and try to change the world for the better.

Justin, as has been your intention, you have been a positive influence on countless children and young people around the globe. And I believe that you will continue to be a force of light and joy as long as you don’t choose to ignore the divine GPS located in your heart of hearts.

Few of us, who know you only through your public persona, can fathom the pressures of superstardom that you live with every day.

Last year you reached a milestone when you turned 18. You are living in a liminal state, standing at the threshold between childhood and adulthood, still more boy than man.

Times of transition and change are difficult for anyone, never mind someone whose every move in public is chronicled by relentless paparazzi and other members of the media. You must be gentle with yourself as you navigate these new waters, but you also must be diligent to guard your heart and mind more now than ever.

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Whether you’ve partaken of the “sacred herb” just once or burn more cabbage than Tommy Chong at a Furthur show is not the issue that most concerns me.

It’s the decision to light a spliff or one-hitter or cigarette or whatever it was in that Newport Beach hotel room last week where folks were snapping pictures with their smartphones that troubles me.

What you do and say echoes around the world. Your very young fans watch and listen to you carefully. When they see images of you with a butt or blunt in your hand or waiting for a friend to pour you a glass of vodka, the message they receive is inconsistent and confusing.

I can’t imagine that was your intention, if you gave much thought at all to what you were doing before you chose to do it, but that’s the reality.

Is it fair that you should need to consider millions of other people before you decide how to spend an evening with friends? Probably not. But that is the life you have chosen (or that, perhaps at least, in part, was chosen for you by others) and you have a responsibility to act accordingly.

You do have the choice to disregard your responsibilities. But you don’t have the choice to avoid the consequences of your actions.

Everybody makes mistakes, and all of us behave in ways that are not our highest and best selves. None of us is defined by our worst moments. That’s what grace – and I know you understand what grace is – is all about.

In the past, when you’ve made choices that maybe weren’t the best, you have owned them, apologized, made amends and self-corrected. As you lean farther into young adulthood, I pray that you will continue to do so.

You know better than anyone exactly what temptations and opportunities celebrity brings. And I know you know well the cautionary tales of far too many child celebrities who have reached the threshold in which you now stand and made terrible choices that have led to their destruction.

I don’t believe that’s how your story is meant to end. But it could be if you are reckless and lose sight of true north.

Remember who you are, Justin. Remember who you were created to be. A city on a hill. Salt and light.

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Don’t forget that you are loved precisely for who you are: Justin Drew Bieber, precious child of the Creator. Not because you are a pop idol. Not because you are a commodity. Not because you are a superstar.

You are loved because you are. Full stop. Nothing you could ever do would make God love you less. Nothing you could ever do would make God love you more.

Pick yourself up, knock the dust off, check that sacred GPS, and walk on.

May the God who loves you more than all of your millions of fans ever will continue to bless and protect you.

Grace and all the good things,

Cathleen

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cathleen Falsani.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Music • Uncategorized

soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. concerned mother of a 'belieber'

    Well written reminder of the responsibility 'celebrities' have to the youth they are 'worshiped' by. Well done! I seriously hope JB reads and takes to heart. As for the negativity...wow...manners, people.

    January 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Enki

      Wrong. Celebs have NO responsibility to YOUR child. You are the parent. You should be who your child looks up to.

      January 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • New Athiest

      Brace yourself;
      the public image a celebrity portrays may not be the real person.
      I hope you were sitting down for that.
      If you are still confused, ask any priest.

      January 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Get a grip on both yourself, AND your child.

      Celebrity worship?

      I beat you buy ALL the junk they sell.

      JB may be an idiot, but you and yours are fools.

      January 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Enki

    Seems the author is in more need of concerned help than the object of her affection.....

    January 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  3. William Demuth

    My guess is the author was staring at his poster whilst playing a game of capture the guppy while she wrote this.

    January 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  4. One word sums up this girl:

    Airhead

    January 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  5. William Demuth

    Having watched his ilk for some time now, it is quite lilely that he will die WELL before his time.

    Darwin is cruel and efficient.

    I like Darwin!

    January 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  6. margotstarbuck

    "You are loved because you are. Full stop."

    That's what I heard in this piece.

    January 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  7. THE BROWN NOTE

    HE'S THE NEXT COREY HAIM

    January 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  8. Geroge of the Urban Jungle

    How old is the author, 12? What an insipid blob of pubescent blither!

    January 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Seth Meyers

    Really? really. Really? really...really. Really?

    January 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Neerav Trivedi

      I read the first half and skimmed the rest........now I am scrounging around looking for that bottle of Tylenol that I put somewhere in my house.

      January 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  10. New Athiest

    I though Cathleen was being sarcastic.
    I didn't think anyone this out of touch with reality could get an award for her journalism.
    I was wrong.

    January 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Mohammad A Dar

    is CNN doing drug or what?

    January 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  12. myweightinwords

    Maybe instead of chastising a kid for being a kid, we ought to chastise those who put him on the pedestal in the first place.

    I'm no fan, in fact I don't think I've ever even heard a single one of his songs, but cut the kid some slack. He's 18, has more money than most 50 year olds and the pressure of having to always be "on" because the public can't keep their noses out of his business.

    He's 18 and lived a pretty religious life up to now. He's going to experiment. He's going to try things. He might even full on rebel. It's normal. It's called being a teenager.

    Rather than tell him to mind his image, maybe the author, and others, should examine why they idolize him. What is missing in your own life, in your own faith that you use this child to fill? The fact of the matter is that the only reason his every minute of everyday is chased down by the paparazzi and even his so called "friends" is that you buy it, you crave it, you demand it.

    If you didn't, that private moment might have remained private and the kid could stretch his legs and figure out his way into adulthood without you calling his judgment into question. He's 18. Let him be.

    January 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  13. sam

    "Nothing you could ever do would make God love you less"

    Unless of course Justin stops believing there's a god (if he even does now for more than convenience). Then he's going to hell, where they play his music full blast.

    January 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So becoming Muslim would't tick off old Jeebus?

      A benevolent Jeebus?

      Far more likely Jeebus will kill him in a car wreck, or OD his little life, and banish him to an eternity in hell.

      January 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  14. Rational Libertarian

    Why are people so deranged?

    January 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • sam

      Could be something in the water.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I drink plenty of water, both bottled and from a faucet, and I don't write letters to talentless morons asking them to not act like virtually every other person his age as it may send out a bad message to all the ten year olds who want to bang him.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  15. sam

    ::settles in with popcorn::

    January 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  16. tgf

    "self-righteous narrow-minded cross-sucking chickypoo" – i may have to put that on my business card.

    January 9, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  17. coriolana

    oh shut up and stop riding the kid's coattails for a byline! you don't care about anything but getting your 15 minutes.

    January 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  18. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    "You are a gift to the world "

    Do I need a receipt for the return?

    January 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Neerav Trivedi

      I wonder what the return policy is on him? LOL!

      January 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  19. Doris

    Why did they post a story about this nice young man without including some yummy photos of him???

    January 9, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  20. Johnny Blammo

    Justin Bieber. A self-righteous narrow-minded cross-sucking chickypoo felt it important to tell a forgettable celebrity how to live his life, and CNN printed it? Really?

    I think the Belief Blog jumped under the intellectual limbo stick to hit a new low.

    January 9, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • nobody in particular

      Johnny, your pants are hanging too low and your backside is showing, you need to keep it covered.

      January 9, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      I enjoy mooning nincompoops like you. It's a fringe benefit.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Akira

      Johnny: thanks for the laugh.

      Seriously, JB seems to be touted as the second coming of Jesus by this author, for goodness sake.
      What a load of happy horsesh!t.
      The kid's 18. Kid do this kind of stuff...and he's probably been doing it for a while....she might have a mystical experience if she relaxed enough to try it herself.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Which God?

      ummm, her idea of a mystical experienc would probably to bang JB for herself.

      January 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.