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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

soundoff (509 Responses)
  1. mightyfudge

    Why on earth would anyone over the age of 12 give a crap what this false idol has to say?

    September 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Sara

      So, why is he a false idol? He has the right values!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Boooo27

      She's talking about "false idol" in the biblical sense. In the Bible, worshipping anything or one other than God makes that thing a false idol. I've seen first hand the worshipping of Bieber that goes on by adolescents. Therefore, to them ( in the biblical sense) Bieber is a false idol. Thanks and have a nice day.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Alex

      Just fyi, god doesnt exist.. so..

      September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • stejo

      booo...you're saying they pray to Bieber and believe in his divinity? If so, you hang in very weird circles...if not, they're just fans, so give it a rest.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  2. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    I will say that I am no fan of his music (little beyond those teeny bopper years), however this was a well written piece and he seems to have admirable character. There aren't many good role models these days, however I'm glad there's still a few. I don't understand why the atheists have to come on here and attack day in and day out. Funny thing is they'd probably praise some heavy metal atheist singer but criticize Bieber. Take the story for what it is; a singer who has a belief in God, which helps him try and lead his life in a positive way and be a positive role model for his fans.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Yeah, next we'll be hearing about how he follows the bible instructions for butchering and burning animals. It's all there in the big nasty book of Christianity.

      Christianity is a pretty sick religion, for sure. How about you, what did you slaughter on the weekend to please god? You don't want to make him angry, or being the vindic-tive sort, he'll fling a hurricane at you, and the collateral damage will include a lot of innocents as usual.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Scott

      Alfonzo..I completely agree with you. Why is everybody is so mad? Do they dare post any thing that speaks out against Islam? Didn't think so. They don't have the nads to do that. HAHA!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • IBelieve

      #robert the Bob. Jesus died on the cross for you and me...he was the last sacrifice.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Scott, you forgot the /s tag after your post.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Umm, your omnipotent skydude needed to have his son killed? Really? Why not do the saving job without all that blood-y nonsense?

      Oh, your "god" isn't omninpotent. Got it.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Bottom line: when I listen to music, I'm not looking to join the cult of the performer. Quit trying to make him out to be something he is not: he is not a missionary ( if he were, there would ahve been no Ferrari to crack up), and he is nothing more than a nice kid.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Kyle

      No one is mentioning islam because this article had nothing to do with islam. I like how you make the attempt to turn the focus on a religion you think is wrong. Your religion and islam alike are both violent, hateful religions. That's the funny thing about these religions. They both teach a lot of hate. Yet the sheep continuously speak of love and peace, etc. Well, except to let the rest of us know we'll be burning in hell. And both are quick to point out the other religions are WRONG WRONG WRONG.

      But if an atheist points out your religious myth is wrong, you're up in arms about it. So, why is it ok for you to say that the only way to heaven is through christ to us, but we can't tell you that you are incorrect? Hypocritical, don't you think? So, before you continue on your quest to save all of our souls, perhaps you should take a look inside yourself and ask why you're a hypocrite. You won't be able to answer that, so I'll answer it for you. You believe in something that teaches you to believe that you are better than everyone else. You justify this by saying your god created all humans equal. However you know this not to be the case. There are people born with handicaps and disabilities. We are not created, and we certainly are not all equal. Your very faith in itself is a double standard, just as the book that governs it contains double standards and contradictions.

      Look, if you believe your god is THE god, then ask this alleged god to show up on your doorstep. Or, maybe this god could be more subtle and ring the doorbell and not be there when you answer. You know, just a little something. I guarantee you that it will never happen. Even though this biblical god, this alleged omnipotent, omnipresent and almighty all-powerful creator had the ability to create a Universe billions of light years across in size with an untold number of stars, planets and black holes; this god can't ring your doorbell upon request. And of course, you will classically state, "Thou shalt not tempt the lord thy god." To which I reply, there are multiple instances in your bible of god providing evidence to people when asked. I find a great deal of humor in that this so-called god would be willing to rain fire down from the sky upon request to some guy out in the middle of the desert to prove it existed to a bunch of unbelievers. But in this day and age, you can't even get your doorbell rung by the almighty.

      Of course, you'll still say it's tempting this sky-hostess. Then I bring you these verses from your delightful bible:

      "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." –Matthew 21:22 (NIV)

      "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." –Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

      "Ask and it will be given to you.... For everyone who asks receives." –Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)

      "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." –Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

      Well then. The bible itself claims that what you ask for, you'll receive. We know many christians pray for their favorite sports teams. Naturally, those of us with any common sense would see this to be a frivolous requirement of the beefy master of the universe indeed. So, why don't we ask for something a little more subtle, something that would benefit someone else. How about finding a homeless man. That sounds like a good idea, right?

      Find yourself a homeless man, obviously starving, painfully so. Stand before him, look up to the sky, and say a little prayer. Ask god to fill his shopping cart or cardboard box full of food. Maybe THAT is a little much. I mean, that's a load and god's arms might be tired from all the other miracles we see every day like children being cured of cancer. So, let's ask the all-powerful king of kings to drop a can of spam from the sky. I'm not even talking about the flavored spam, like the bacon flavor. Just a plain old can of spam. We don't even need a can opener, because we'll bring our own.

      Let me guess, you don't have the faith to go out and do it. Or maybe you're just too busy. Your schedule won't permit such a time-consuming task. You have to go to OLD NAVY and purchase those new skinny jeans, right? The homeless guy won't even know you weren't planning on stopping by anyway. And your god knew you wouldn't bother to waste your time, so what's the point, right? OLD NAVY isn't getting in the way of your faith.

      Deep down, you know that you'll get nothing you ask for. You'll say, "It's not the will of god when I don't get what I ask for!" But you really need to do something for me before you make that contrived, typical and expected answer. Find me where in the bible it states that you will get what you ask for UNLESS it's the will of god. I'll give you a hint. You won't find it. Therefore, your bible is lying to you. Your faith is empty. And you feel better about yourself for praying to a god that doesn't exist for world peace and all the nice fluffy things your pastor tells you to.

      In the end, you're just a hypocrite.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  3. Anomic Office Drone

    So how long until this kid is on Celebrity Rehab? I'd say no more than 4 years.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Adel

    maybe this little girl should consider growing up before making a biography about herself lol
    ps: only the most stupid,worthless & ignorant people in the world would buy this book

    September 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • BustinJieber

      That's who this tripe is aimed at. Sadly some parents will have to shell out the $ to pay for it.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Scott

      Wow...so sad to see so much hate on Christians. People stand up for what the believe, and if they are Christian, then they get shot down instantly and called names and laughed at. Wonder what you would say if this were an entertainer that was an Islamic believer?

      I love Justin's music. And what he and his family stand for. Justin, you are inspiring to many people young and old. May God bless you and your family. Never stray from Him. ( And don't let all the angry people get ya down 🙂 )

      September 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Scott, after centuries of abuse of others by Christians (see Inquisitions and witch burning, just as a start), Christians deserve all the abuse they get for sustaining their sick delusion. Get used to it. Islam is merely a worse delusion.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  5. michael porter

    Hey kids! Justin Beiber is a credulous non-thinker. And you can be just like him!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • JF

      Justin who? Never heard of this goofy kid. He can kiss my a$$!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  6. Bo

    @kimsland: What, how is this another "lost soul." What does that mean to you? Do you even know what the the Biblical definitation of "a soul" is? (Hint: You will not need to read much of the Bible to get the answer. Webster has it wrong, and so do a lot of Christians.)

    September 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • CASEY ANTHONY

      You are just the expert aren't you?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Bo, big hint: The bible is a big load of steaming cr-ap.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  7. Bo

    @kimsland What motivates you to make statements like "...lost soul." Why, how, can his soul be lost? Can you give the Biblical definition of 'a soul'. (Hint, you don't need to read very much of the Bible for the answer. Webster has it wrong, according to the Bible, and so do a lot of Christians.)

    September 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  8. Al

    I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans

    That's what Mick Jagger said.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Robert the Bob

      Yeah but at least Mick J has some talent. No truly loving god would let Beiber be inflicted on us. The thought of him propagating his genes is sickening.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Rhonda

    Christian Bieber fans, pray for this guy. He will stumble in the blinding bright lights because he is human. Along the way he needs what we all need; compassion, accountability, encouragement.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  10. hesalive

    Jesus is lord now and forevermore! Keep walking with Him, Justin and mom!!! Great testimony!

    September 26, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • hesdead_verydead

      We have mental insti-tutes for people who walk with their imaginary friends.

      September 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  11. David

    Jesusy?

    Really?

    September 26, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  12. Doc Vestibule

    One can detect the obivous biblical allegory in his subtly nuanced lyrics.
    "Baby baby baby baby baby baby oh" is an obvious reference to Jesus' encounters with the Pharisees while "Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova" expounds the complexities of Mary Magdelene's relationship with Christ.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • BustinJieber

      This is the most insightful thing I've read all day.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      ROFL

      September 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  13. derp

    How funny, another ga y christian.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  14. AGuest9

    So, CNN. Why wasn't your BS piece "Do loved ones bid farewell from beyond the grave?" on the Belief Blog? It wasn't real news.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  15. William Demuth

    He would make a great priest.

    Let the little roadies beware!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  16. AGuest9

    So, is this really a plug for Bieber, his faith, or Falsani 's book?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  17. Colin

    Some teenage kid adopts the sky-fairy beliefs of his parents, like 99% of other teenage kids. Yawn.

    September 26, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • AGuest9

      Go easy, Colin. He's still dealing with the whole "do I like girls or boys?" question. Can't make too many major life decisions at one time.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Evan

      I'm a teenager, and I don't believe in a sky-fairy. I believe in God. Furthermore, I did not get this belief from my parents. Would that put me in the 1% category?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Evan, good point, you might be the exception. What religion are you and your parents?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • William Demuth

      Evan

      We will know once puberty has passed.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Evan
      Do you believe that if you had been raised in India by Hindu parents that you would worship the same God?

      September 26, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • David Johnson

      I think this blog should be for 18 and above.

      Cheers!

      September 26, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Evan

      Doc Vestibule,

      Do you think that if you had been born in India you would still be an Atheist?

      September 27, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Evan

      Doc Vestibule,

      Do you think that if you had been born in India to Hindu parents you would still be an Atheist?

      September 27, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  18. Reality

    Dear Justin,

    The lyrics for your new song:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    September 26, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  19. hippypoet

    beiber... the new jesus! LETS NAIL HIS @SS TO A CROSS!

    September 26, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  20. kimsland

    He's religious? Another lost soul.
    Keep your fairytale religion to yourself Bieber, we live in the year 2011 now.
    Oh and sorry to hear that you must think 2012 is the end of the world.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Sara

      You are obviously not aware of the fact that Christians don't believe that! That's something that came from the tribe of Maya!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • o.k.

      @Kimsland

      Why should he keep his faith to himself? You obviously won't keep your lack of it to yourself. I have absolutely no problem with you shouting your hatred for Christians here...1st amendment and all...but at least be honest and apply the same standards to those with whom you disagree.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • derp

      "That's something that came from the tribe of Maya!"

      The Mayans were not a tribe, they were a civilization. Xtians are so wonderfully ignorant.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • o.k.

      This just in....Derp has never made a mistake....EVER. Good for you old boy, I knew that had to be at least one perfect person on this blog, and it must be you. And, btw, thanks for applying a judgment upon all Christians about their intellect and/or education based upon Sara's one gaff–we all needed that good laugh.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
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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.