The gospel according to Justin Bieber
A new book explores the faith of pop star Justin Bieber.
September 26th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

The gospel according to Justin Bieber

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Justin Bieber is one of the world's most famous pop stars but is also decidedly more Jesusy than his day job might lead some to believe.

When the young Canadian-born singer burst onto the scene, he was discovered in part by singing Christian songs on YouTube. But that is just the beginning of Bieber's faith journey, spelled out in a new book on the young star.

Cathleen Falsani sarcastically self-proclaims she is the "pre-eminent Justin Bieber scholar in North America."

Falsani has penned "Belieber! Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber," a book exploring the faith life of the tween sensation.

An award-winning religion journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist on the God beat, Falsani came to writing about Bieber almost accidentally.

"I was aware of who he was as a cultural figure. I was aware that he existed, that he was young, cute as a button and Canadian and that his music wasn't something that I generally listened to," she said.

She stumbled across an interview Bieber did with Rolling Stone magazine in which he talked about God. "I was like, 'OK, this is interesting.  Let's see if this is any different than all of the other young 'Christian' pop stars or actors.' "

She was intrigued by the "tone and tenor" of what the young teen had to say about his faith, so she dug deeper. Her young adopted son Vasco was talking about Bieber at the time, and a friend told her she ought to write a book on "the gospel according to Justin Bieber."

What she found was a compelling story of a young man born to an 18-year-old single woman who lost and then found her faith and her way back to church.

Falsani details how Bieber's mother, Patricia Mallette, openly shared her struggles with drugs, alcohol and a suicide attempt before she gave birth to Justin.

Mallette's faith journey took her to Jubilee Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Stratford, Ontario. The church mirrors many charismatic churches in the United States with an emphasis on prayer and spiritual gifts.

"I would call it a charismatic or a Pentecostal church. The iteration of that looks a little different in Canada than it does (in the United States). It looks like any number of our evangelical nondenominational churches, but with a lot more arms raised. Very, very prayerful," Falsani described.

Mallette joined the praise band, which led the music on Sundays. "Being young ... they used to hang out, and she would bring Justin. That's when they noticed this kid's got unbelievable rhythm. And he's 2," according to Falsani.

From there, Bieber lived the life of a normal Canadian church kid, focusing on school and sports.

Bieber kept his musical talents quiet from friends until he was 13 years old and entered a singing competition. He placed third.

His extended family was not able to come and see his performance, so he and his mom began to upload videos onto YouTube so the rest of the family could see him singing. Some of his tunes were Christian worship songs and others secular pop tunes.

The videos hit in a big way.

Falsani explained that Justin's mom thought, "If God had a plan for Justin to be to a music artist, then surely it would be in the Christian industry, and God would send them a nice Christian manager. Suddenly, this 25-year-old Jewish kid from Connecticut called."

In 2007, Scott "Scooter" Brown discovered Bieber.

His career took off.  The family moved to the United States, and Bieber began palling around with music icons.

The haircut, the honey-dripped voice and the screaming tweens are the stuff pop legends are made of. Today, Bieber is a multimillionaire and an industry all to his own, but Falsani details in the book how he and his mother have maintained their faith.

Sprinkled heavily through "Belieber!" are tweets from Bieber and his mom talking about faith, quoting scripture and sharing a simple Christian narrative that God loves people.

Bieber explained his approach to Rolling Stone in February: "I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans. I'm not going to tell them, 'You need Jesus,' but I will say at the end of my show, 'God loves you.' "

He does not take complicated theological soapbox stands. In February, he drew a lot of attention for articulating his opposition to abortion in a Rolling Stone article, but he was quick to say it was his belief and he would not force it on anyone.

The book also uses quotes from social media sites to evidence the positive influence Bieber's faith has on his young fans. Falsani sprinkles in quotes from Bieber's core audience - tween and teenage girls - and plays to their hand with a glossy color photo spread featuring pictures of Bieber being Bieber.

Though she considers herself a fan in his shadow demographic (the moms at the concert who secretly dig and buy the music), as a mother herself, Falsani appreciates the positive role Bieber's faith has played in his young career.

"I do think this faith he has is very genuine and very much his and not his mom's or anyone else's. It's not a marketing tool," she said.

Bieber's work with charity is well-documented; he gives a portion of ticket sales to charity, among other approaches.  Falsani is taking a similar role with this book, too. Part of the proceeds from her book are going towards the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Music

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  7. Wendy Reynolds

    I love you Justin Bieber <3

    March 28, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  8. Wendy Reynolds

    I love the book and I also love Justin Bieber too. <3

    March 28, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  9. Nasheeka

    What ever Bieber is my favorite. The growing up pictures I found at http://www.babypics.com/justinbieber he looks so so cute in them.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm |



    October 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm |



      October 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  11. David

    Belieber! Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber
    Award-winning author explores the faith and life of the world’s most
    popular teenager

    September 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  12. daizon

    this is you fan

    September 30, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  13. Credenza

    @HotAirAce – I can read. If your reply was as naive as you suggest you still used a disgusting vocabulary in referring to Our Lady. Don't try to wriggle out of it with smart talk. Please stop showing off and have somere spect

    September 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I give your crazy fairy tale all the respect it deserves... And you less!

      September 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  14. jb

    go bieber

    September 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Mike Laughlin

    "...more Jesusy...." ??
    This Marrapodi guy needs to be removed as a CNN "belief blog co-editor." That comment is inappropriate on any level, any religion. Demonstrates that CNN has a policy of open season on Christianity, while feigning great deference and respect for any other beliefs, such as secularism, Islam, etc.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  16. Argle Bargle

    Justin Bieber isn't old enough to shave, let alone be telling anyone how they should live or believe.

    And would someone PLEASE change his diaper!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • WaltzingMtilda

      Maybe you should read it again...he's sharing HIS beliefs, not telling people how to live or what to believe.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  17. Frank

    Bieber explained his approach to Rolling Stone in February: "I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans. I'm not going to tell them, 'You need Jesus,' but I will say at the end of my show, 'God loves you.' "

    Funny.. Jesus said "I am the way,the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me." So Bieber not telling his fans they need Jesus is just leading them down the broadway to destruction.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  18. Big Difference

    How much fing concealer does this twink need to wear for a photo op?

    September 28, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    I do find it funny how some people say his 15 min of fame is up , well 3 years and 75 million dollars later his 15 min in clearly not over yet . Also I have read in this blog where someone said he should live on 40 K a year and give the rest to charity , all I can say to that his HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA , because obviously you would right ? Like it or not this kid and his team have managed to capture the hearts of millions of kids all over the planet , he has so far been a decent role model and touched many of there lives in some way , so I ask what is the big deal ? why would grown ass people wish such bad things on a child ? I am a father of 2 and could not imagine ever speaking of a child the way that some of you idiots have . Bottom line is this kid came from nothing and has made millions doing what he loves , is that so bad ? would we not want the same for our on children and if not why ? I want my child to be happy and I do not care if he is rich or poor black or white , christian or muslim , as long as he is doing what makes him happy and as long as he is safe than I am good . You people should spend more time figuring your own lives out before you go around thrashing a boy who has done nothing but work hard to chase his dreams and provide a better life for himself and his family .

    September 28, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • Credenza

      Now THAT is a truly great post. Congratulations on being the kind of dad that every kid would love to have. God Bless you and yor family.

      September 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  20. Kyle

    Look at all you christians telling me atheists are wrong! That is seriously funny. I assure you, I'm not wrong. As I posted earlier, your bible promises lots of things. It promises that you can have anything you ask for. It NEVER happens. Someone mentioned worth. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you are worth the same amount as an Atheist. Oh No! Not that!

    Yes. You too, are made up of the same matter. One day, you will take your last breath, and poof. You're gone. That's that. The difference is that you'll have spent your life living in fear of something that doesn't exist. The rest of us will actualyl enjoy our limited time here on Earth, not squandering it on a man-made deity. Do you know how many religions existed before christianity? And you actually believe YOUR precious bible is the answer to all things? Talk about utter stupidity.

    Credenza, you are by far the furthest gone out of this group. You know why people who spend 20+ years in the church end up bitter? Wasted time. That's why. When the few of us that manage to break out of that wretched existence, we hate everything it stood for. Worship Zeus for 20 years and let me know how you feel. I mean, you might as well be. You know, since christianity borrowed some of Greek mythology and put it directly into the bible. It is a FACT that christianity stole specifics from other religions. I'm not wasting any more time believing in filth. I am enjoying my life without fear of hell, which by the way, was not part of the old testament. It was a mistranslation from Hebrew to Greek, the original word was GRAVE. The new testament stole the idea of hell from Greek mythology.

    So here you are, arguing that the tooth fairy is real. Do some research. Maybe for once you can avoid looking like a tool.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"As I posted earlier, your bible promises lots of things. It promises that you can have anything you ask for. "

      I am not a person that knows every scripture and verse but where does it say that you will get anything you ask for or is "can have" the "will receive"?

      September 28, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • bilbopoop

      I ask that you please spend some time reading through the Bible before making outrageous claims and assumptions. A judge in court doesn't make a decision just from hearing one side of a case; that would be ridiculous. Instead he hears from both sides and makes a decision. I would respect your decision much more if you would sufficiently research the Bible itself and/or if you weren't so angry.

      September 28, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • @Kyle

      I once heard a Preacher say "Atheists have more faith then most Christians... they are so determined to prove Christians wrong for their own acceptance."

      What do you have to lose? If I die and find out there is a God that I served with a humble and loyal heart - I'll be in house for all of eternity... If I die and find out there isn't a God then I will be where everyone else goes - I'll just have lived a more morale life then you... If I die and find out my beliefs that God isn't real but he actually is real - I'd spend all of eternity in 'the lake of fire'.

      So Kyle - what's the worse that happens?

      September 28, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Free

      In that case what do you have to lose in worshipping Thor, Zeus, or any other god? You know, just in case you die and end up in their afterlife!

      September 28, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Frank

      You are wrong. A fool says in his heart there is no God. Just because many religions existed before christianity doesn't mean they are true. Judiaism existed before Christianity. The difference is that Judiasm doesn't see Jesus as the Messiah. They are still waiting. Some Jews have come to see Jesus as the Messiah and have put there trust in Him. Scriptures says that one day they will all see Him as the Messiah. You say,"When the few of us that manage to break out of that wretched existence, we hate everything it stood for." So your not a sinner anymore you sinless?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Free

      And just because Christian scripture calls nonbelievers names and claims that it is the one true religion amongst thousands doesn't make that true either. Lots of others have claimed to be "The Way." Objectively, how can anyone judge any of them as even being better than the others?

      September 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Mike Laughlin

      Kyle, if you're now happily "liberated" why are you so worked up about it? There is a trusim: You protest too loudly ....

      September 28, 2011 at 3:05 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.